updated 12:00 am EDT, Thu September 25, 2008
MySpace tonight kicked off the formal appearance of MySpace Music, its first commercial music service. The feature takes advantage of existing hooks for streaming music to offer on-demand, ad-subsidized playback of full tracks from the website but also lets members purchase unprotected MP3s of songs through an Amazon MP3-supported system with similar prices; the normal MySpace Flash player now includes links to buy songs or add them to a playlist.
Ringtones are also an option and supplied through Jamster. All four major labels are offering their content through MySpace and are also joined by independent backer The Orchard.
Amazon's Downloader utility is tied to the service and gives both Mac and Windows PC owners a quick means of loading purchased songs into iTunes or Windows Media Player.
The company also relies on its social networking component to encourage the use of music: users can create streaming playlists of as many as 100 songs each that can be shared as well as automatically ranked. Visitors can see both MySpace-wide charts as well as those specific to those on their existing friends list. Friend updates related to music give the option of either immediately playing the track or adding the track to the user's streaming collection.
MySpace's effort is one of the first from a major social network to directly parlay its site into commercial music and has been helped chiefly by support from the major labels, which have a minority stake in the venture and so more directly earn revenue from each web-only stream in addition to profit from downloads. Facebook to date has no direct moneymaking system and is home mainly to web apps such as iLike, which get much of their revenue from affliate links to stores such as iTunes.