Unplugging: MySpace and the music universe

Posted by Nick Vadala, MXDWN

Space shuttle Atlantis achieved orbit in its final mission today, perhaps reminding you that your mom might not have been telling the truth when she said that you could be anything you want, even an astronaut.

You probably won’t see space in your lifetime, but with the help of your friendly Captain MXDWN, you can still explore the outer reaches of the music universe. And you won’t even have to pee in a bag.

Making headlines this past week was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.—and not only for tapping phones. The media giant finally sold off the seemingly ill-fated social network service MySpace to Specific Media for a cool $35 million.

Unplugging: MySpace and the music universeSo how does that connect to the music universe? Well, for some reason, Justin Timberlake is involved as a partner in the deal. And what a deal it was.

 
News Corp. purchased MySpace back in 2005 for about $580 million, just about the time that it began to fall from grace in the wake of the rise of Facebook to the current world surveillance-level popularity that the site enjoys today.
 
It is currently unclear as to whether or not News Corp. made any money off the deal, but with MySpace going up for sale last winter and only being sold this week for such a diminished amount, it isn’t hard to guess. It isn’t as if the site is broke, though, as MySpace is projected to earn some $200 million this year.
 
Not bad, but considering that the site’s earning peak was just over $600 million in the mid-2000s, it ain’t too great, either. JT doesn’t seem to mind.
 
"Fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect," said Timberlake of his involvement with the site.
 
Reports indicate the multi-talented pop star will play a significant role in MySpace’s reimplementation and serve as its co-owner.
 
MySpace isn’t the only troubled social media service this week, with newcomer Turntable.fm currently dealing with substantial legal troubles.
 
For those of us not in the know, Turntable.fm, launched this past January and already weighs in at around 140,000 users, allows members to join or create chat rooms, spin and rate tracks, and discuss the music playing in the room. Each room can have up to five DJs selecting and playing tracks at one song per turn, after which other users will rate the track as "awesome" or "lame."

turntable

The gaming element comes in during the rating, with ratings of "awesome" giving the DJ a number of "DJ points" and the "lame" rating having your next song skipped.
 
However, trouble began this past week with intermittent site shutdowns, ultimately culminating in Turntable.fm admins blocking traffic from users visiting the site outside the U.S. as a result of licensing constraints.
 
"To all our international friends, we're sorry you can't use turntable right now due to licensing constraints. Trying to get you back in ASAP," read a tweet from the site addressing the issue.
 
U.S. users are currently able to access the site as a result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, at least according to TFM chief executive Billy Chasen, which allows websites to use songs without permission from record labels in the same way as traditional radio stations.
 
However, the trouble is growing due to the site’s heavy reliance on user interaction, but is being combated by certain rules implemented by admins, such as a limit on number of songs played, number of times a song is played and a requirement for chat rooms to have multiple users in them for full tracks to play.
 
Despite these measures, legal troubles will presumably persist until TFM begins paying monthly fees to the associated record labels in order to remain fully within current copyright laws.
 
Former Smiths frontman Morrissey is also experiencing some issues as a result of the Internet, at least in his estimation. The singer is currently facing the problem of finding a record company to release his next album, but is refusing to follow in the footsteps of bands like Radiohead and release it himself.

"I don’t have any need to be innovative in that way, I am still stuck in the dream of an album that sells well not because of marketing, but because people like the songs. Once it becomes public that you aren’t signed, you assume that anyone who wants you will come and get you," said the singer in a recent interview with Pitchfork.
 
The album is currently fully recorded and ready to go, with the singer debuting three tracks from the album last month at the BBC. However, the singer’s followup to 2009’s Years of Refusal might not see the light of day for quite a while, and not for the reasons you might think.
 
Morrissey says it’s the Internet.
 
"The Internet has obviously wiped music off the human map – killed the record shop, and killed the patience of labels who consider debut sales of 300,000 to not be good enough," he explained.
 
That shift in the dynamics of the music industry has, in Morrissey’s estimation, has driven record labels to constantly seek the newest and most exciting in order to be forever associated with new success. But given the constant stream of remakes, reiterations and covers that Hollywood and the music industry turn out yearly, it would seem that the singer’s attitude is mostly sour grapes.
 
Really, how hard is it to zip up 12 tracks, upload them to your site and quit bitching? Morrissey may never know. But if he did, that debut number of 300,000 would lose its meaning real fast.
 
Also on the return with a new album this past week is the much loved - and yet underappreciated - 90s grunge outfit Screaming Trees.

Entitled Last Words: The Final Recordings, Screaming Trees final-final album will see an August 2 release via drummer Brett Martin’s Sunyata Music. The album was recorded in 1998-9 at Pearl Jam member Stone Gossard’s studio and remained untouched until recently when Marin rediscovered the work.
 
Subsequently enlisting the help of R.E.M’s Peter Buck and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme (who played guitar with Screaming Trees during the album’s recording), Martin mixed the album and packaged it for release.
 
Unfortunately, however, the new album is not indicative of the group’s return, as there are no current plans for a reunion.
 
That’s all for this week, space cadets. We hope you’ve enjoyed your time drifting among the cosmos of DMCA claims, outdated social media services and bitter aging rock stars. Until next time, folks!
 
Unplugging in Brief:
 
News Corp. Sells MySpace to Specific Media and…Justin Timberlake - JT will serve as a major player in the overhaul of the aging social media site. 
 
Turntable.fm Encounters Legal Trouble - Newcomer to the social media/music game Turntable.fm is going through some growing pains and claiming safety being the DMCA.
 
Morrissey Refuses to Self-Release New Album - Former Smiths frontman Morrissey doesn’t have a label for his new record, but he won’t be releasing it himself anytime soon.
 
Screaming Trees to Release New Album - Beloved 90s grunge outfit Screaming Trees will release Last Words: The Final Records on August 2.

Nick Vadala, MXDWN