MySpace Music vs Apple iTunes - round 2...

MySpace Music's long-awaited overhaul went live today, granting users access to thousands of streaming songs and new features such as customizable playlists, updated aesthetics, and a direct connection to Amazon.com's MP3 library.

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The new homepage resembles the Apple iTunes music store and has a cleaner, more streamlined feel than many MySpace pages. It features quick links to your personalized music page, videos, featured playlists, top artists, shows, classifieds and discussion forums.

MySpace inked a deal with three major record labels to allow access to free copies of songs, so there is no shortage of good tunes.

The best new feature is the personalized music page. From there, users can generate playlists of up to 100 tracks. A pop-out player keeps music playing in the background and is handy for cranking tunes at work (as long as the site isn't blocked, as it is from many workplaces). Some but not all tracks have an Amazon.com MP3 Store link next to them, which sends you directly to Amazon's site for purchase. The greatest aspect of MySpace's collaboration with Amazon is the DRM-free tracks playable on all MP3 devices.

On the playlist I created, I added Bob Dylan's "Black Crow Blues." When I played it separately, a link to the Amazon MP3 Store appeared, giving me a quick, seamless way to buy the song. When the song was added to my playlist, the Amazon link inexplicably disappeared. I ran across this confusion on several pages of music, scoping a variety of artists, but it's probably just the growing pains of an ambitious site.

Playlists can be public or private, so if you want to show off your awesome taste in music to friends, you can slap it on your MySpace profile homepage. And if you're not into exhibition, you can keep it to yourself


MySpace has always been known for its jumbled appearance, unlike the more popular Facebook, which prohibits users from hacking the HTML. I noticed this disparate chaos on most of the artist pages I checked, including a big discrepancy on Robin Thicke's page. He was a featured artist, appearing at the top of the MySpace Music homepage, and the ad touted exclusive content. At the top of his personal page, however, was an ad to pre-order his newest album . . . from iTunes. You'd think they would have ironed that out.

The feature I was most excited for was direct links to merchandise and concert tickets. But again, because of the nature of MySpace, I only found a few artists (like Bob Dylan) who had streamlined, easy-to-follow direction.

A launch date for MySpace Music in the UK is yet to be announced, but is expected soon.

OUR VERDICT

MySpace Music's overhaul has potential to engage users in a more socially oriented environment than other music purchasing services, but with so much competition out there, it won't be an easy journey.

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