Music has always been a major element of the MySpace experience, but the social networking site's revamped MySpace Music makes finding and listening to music easier than ever before. Thanks to a partnership with EMI Music, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, music fans can listen to an unlimited supply of ad-supported streaming music, and have the option of purchasing a digital copy from Amazon MP3. The combination is admirable, but ultimately it's a half-baked music experience that won't appeal to anyone other than MySpace diehards.
Account Setup and Design
While anyone can visit the MySpace Music site, creating playlists and buying music requires signing up for a traditional MySpace account. We were prompted to add a photo and friends (by importing contacts from our webmail's address book), but were able to skip those steps. After completing the setup, we arrived on our profile page and clicked the MySpace Music banner on the right side.
The core of the new MySpace Music is the My Music Page, where you can create and edit playlists. It's a surprisingly clean layout--a big improvement over MySpace's cluttered user-profile pages--that contained several sections including Featured Playlist, Featured Videos, and Exclusives (a mix of interviews and multimedia content). You can create a main Profile Playlist that is featured on your page (which can consist of up to ten tracks) and an unlimited number of others that you can use personally. As of this writing, there was no way to share playlists, an odd omission for a social networking site. MySpace, however, says the site is an "iterative process, and will be rolling out new products and services over the next months."
Finding songs to add to playlists is as simple as typing in an artist name, album, or song title. Once you find the song, you can even click the play button to listen to it before adding it to your mix.
The Featured Playlist feature let us listen to a number of celebrity playlists from the likes of Ludacris, Jessica Simpson, Queen, and others, but unless you're a celeb chaser it's a frivolous feature. Featured Videos let us check out video clips (we watched Beck's "Gamma Ray") and e-mail the video link or embed it into a Web site. And the Exclusive Content feature allowed us to read an exclusive interview with Ben Folds Five and check out the band's tour photos.
All in all, MySpace Music doesn't offer much in term of music discovery, as there isn't a way to find related artists or in-depth reviews. Clicking on artists' names takes you to their MySpace pages, which aren't nearly as streamlined as the default MySpace Music page.
Pop-Out Media Player and Audio Quality
The revamped media player pops out from the site, so you can enjoy tunes while browsing other pages or working on a project. Unfortunately, we couldn't search for artists or songs from this window; it was only possible through the actual MySpace site. Audio quality was good: When we streamed The Dirtbombs' "Ever Lovin' Man," it was loud and crisp, and on a par with music streamed from Slacker. Occasionally, a track wouldn't begin when we pressed play, but that didn't happen very often.
Although one expects visual ads when using a free service, the ones that we were subjected to didn't mesh well with the site and, frankly, were a bit obnoxious. The ads on the MySpace Music page itself were for dating sites, car insurance companies, and other miscellaneous promotions, which also appeared within the pop-out media player. If the ads were strictly for music-related products, we wouldn't have minded their presence as much.
The Amazon Connection
MySpace has partnered with Amazon MP3 to let users purchase DRM-free tracks, which typically cost 89 or 99 cents (prices vary). In the music player, we clicked the Buy button located next to the song (which could only be done from the pop-out player or profile playlist, but not with songs returned via the search engine), and we were prompted to log into our Amazon.com account. Take note that downloading tracks from Amazon MP3 requires users to install downloader software (compatible with Mac OS X and Windows). You can also purchase full albums by clicking the Buy Album button when applicable, and a partnership with Jamster also lets you buy ringtones for $2.99 each.
MySpace Music does a respectable job of integrating an unlimited supply of free tunes and giving you the option to purchase them, but other than allowing you to post playlists on your page, it doesn't offer anything over Internet radio stations such as Slacker; in fact, it offers less. With Slacker, you get a far broader music-discovery experience through album reviews, artist bios, and links to related artists. One of the most head-scratching omissions in MySpace Music is the lack of playlist sharing, which should be a staple of any social networking site. If you're a MySpace addict, this is a decent offering; otherwise, you can find a superior experience with Slacker.