MySpace Music Readies for Liftoff as Music Industry Holds Breath

The next great hope for the music business is about to come out of the gate. Though they still don't have a firm release date, the MySpace store has moved forward with their first big promotional push, debuting massive billboards in New York's Time Square that feature the Jonas Brothers and Lil Wayne and play up the service's myriad options.

The store will allow fans to stream millions of songs for free in an ad-supported framework, and sell digital downloads with help from the Amazon MP3 store. "The idea behind it was to sort of create the ultimate music experience," says Chris DeWolfe, the site's co-founder. "You'll be able to see the top songs your friends are listening to. Eventually you'll be able to buy tickets and merchandise and ringtones."

The new service is a partnership between top labels Universal, Sony BMG and Warner, and the smallest major label, EMI, is reportedly in discussions to join soon. But MySpace officials have yet to hire a chief executive officer for the service and won't give specifics about prices, what the website will look like or even when it will launch. Some in the music business wonder if a music store based on free, ad-supported streaming can make money to justify the partnership. "Kids are so used to getting music for free on MySpace because of streaming," says veteran major-label executive Robin Bechtel. "If someone is so used to streaming music, why is someone going to buy it?"

MySpace founders DeWolfe and Tom Anderson argue the service will succeed simply because it's the first to seamlessly combine social networking with a range of music sales. "When you look at things like iLike and Facebook, they don't have the full songs, in most cases, and they don't have official artist pages," Anderson says. "People aren't interested in music on Facebook in the way they are on MySpace, That's one of the big keys here."

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