Jokes about Myspace inevitably involve its age, but it’s only ancient in Internet years. Created in 2003, it was the dominant social network in the pre-Facebook universe, the only place where you could write dirty jokes on a friend’s wall and accost visitors to your page with Bullet for My Valentine singles. It gradually sank into oblivion even as it became a haven for musicians — Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, and Fall Out Boy all at least partially credit Myspace (the previous iteration with a capital S) with their rise to stardom.
Perhaps inspired by those stories and banking on leftover cultural cachet (and driven by Justin Timberlake’s financial stake and cultural-ambassador status), Myspace (myspace.com) just formally relaunched as a hybrid site that retains some of its social-networking capabilities but focuses primarily on music discovery. With a streaming library that boasts 53 million songs (much of what’s available on services like Spotify and Rdio, plus a constant influx of indie tunes uploaded by unsigned artists), it’s well equipped to challenge the many other subscription services — including the just-announced iTunes Radio that’s coming later this year, as well as reliable but limited ones such as Pandora and Last.fm — for a piece of an ever-growing consumer base.
Myspace has a leg up in one important respect: There’s no fee for streaming on its new site, and there’s no traditional advertising to deal with (though your thirst for Bud Light Platinum playlists will be quenched by plenty of corporate content sponsorship). The desktop experience is pretty impressive. The streaming player works well, and the video player is even better — it’s as smooth and unobtrusive as online video can be. Though the layout has been streamlined (the horizontal scrolling is especially cool), there are still some clutter issues, which is an unwelcome relic from the Myspace of yore. But it’s hard to beat that price.
Then again, paying a little extra for a lot of service goes a long way. The newly revamped Google Play All Access (play.google.com) currently charges $7.99 a month (after June 30, the price will jump to $9.99, the same as Spotify’s premium offering) and provides a massive streaming library that also fully integrates up to 20,000 of your own songs. So if you’ve already got criminally unavailable-on-streaming albums like De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and the entirety of the Led Zeppelin catalog on your hard drive, then you’ve got the most complete online music library available. All Access also scores with its radio function — songs can be dragged and dropped into new playlists and branched into entirely new stations, and there’s no limit to the number of skips.
Both companies are trying to transition to mobile, with mixed results: Myspace’s app doesn’t let you take your music with you, opting for artist-curated radio with limited skipping options instead. Meanwhile, Google’s app is only available on Android devices. Still, both Myspace and Google Play All Access have nailed the desktop experience, and they both do excellent jobs taking circuitous routes to the same point: more music and more discovery, (almost) everywhere all the time.
Google Play All Access: B+