News Corp's MySpace launches a new online music service on Thursday, aiming to loosen Apple's grip on the US music industry and challenge all other online rivals. The service, MySpace Music, also aims to come to the aid of a music industry reeling from the continued slide in CD sales. MySpace Music is viewed by the music industry as an alternative to prior partnerships, most notably, its pact with Apple's Steve Jobs. Label chiefs have long grumbled that Apple's iTunes service is primarily designed to funnel profits back to Apple's iPod and iPhone devices at the expense of the music industry. But so far, no contenders have managed to dent iTunes.
The big three labels – Vivendi's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group – together own about 40 per cent of MySpace Music joint venture. "Ultimately, it gives us some skin in the game," says Rio Caraeff, Universal Music Group's executive vice president of digital. "It gives us a voice in the ongoing development of the business."
EMI had been the lone holdout, but joined the group at the last minute. Sony ATV and independent music group The Orchard are also participating. Chris DeWolfe, MySpace chief executive, says he wants MySpace Music "to be the biggest music catalogue in the world". Some 5m artists already own profile pages on MySpace.
The company believes it can better connect to its 120m global visitors, 65 per cent of whom already stream music on their profile pages, with a more integrated and flashier interface that gives members access to the catalogues of these artists rather than the handful of songs they can currently upload.