It took a while, but MySpace finally got its Music man – Courtney Holt, who's been in the job for ten days. Has he solved all the problems? “Every single one is solved, we're on a great track,” he grins. Hurrah!Yes, he's here for his first public appearance since takin the role of CEO at MySpace Music. What got him the job? “My entire career has been in the digital media space,” he explains, having started building new media services at Atlantic and then Universal. “I've always been looking at ways to take music into the new money, and connect the dots between music passion and the music business.”He says there wasn't that long between starting talking to MySpace about the role, and actually taking it. So who did he meet with during the process? Most of his meetings were with Chris DeWolfe and Amit Kapur, before meeting their “other partners” (i.e. News Corp).He already knew MySpace from his work at UMG, helping his transition, he says. “MySpace Music is a venture, but we are majority controlled by MySpace. The Music business is wholly tethered, but we do have some operational distance. We are the music engine of MySpace proper.”What are their biggest assets and opportunities, and biggest challenges? The existing platform is a big asset he says, with all the bands using it. “Turning this to becoming an active business has been somewhat complicated,” he says. “It's not trivial. A lot of people are starting from the ground up with a product and then building an audience, but we're starting with this massive audience…”It's all migrating towards “integrated marketing and ways to package and sell that to brands and advertisers”, as well as the other business models. “I wouldn't call it a traditional music store. Our main competition really is free. We're trying to be additive in the landscape of other partners. But what's unique is the discovery, and the chance for advertisers and brands to come on board in an amazing way.”How so? The MySpace Secret Shows are one example, he says, where bands play smaller gigs for their fans. “Those types of programmes are really relevant, we're going to expand into more of those,” he says.My laptop battery just went, requiring a change. Bugger. Anyway, Holt batted back a question on Facebook's problems launching a music service – “It's killing me!” – and said MySpace intends to go “way beyond friends and plays” in terms of the data artists are able to pull out from the service.Unsurprisingly, he says that MySpace Music is keen to get more indies on board. “We announced yesterday that we'd closed Nettwerk and INgrooves and IRIS and Wind-up and RoyaltyShare. “We want artists from unsigned to indies to the major to participate,” he says.Amazon is proving a good partner, although “we need to make the intent to buy and the purchase a little bit easier”, although MySpace is seeing “increasing intent to buy”.What's that? “People are clicking on buy links,” he says. “It's gonna take some time, we know that's challenging, but it's also important to all of our partners.”Is MySpace getting an open road in terms of reasonable deals from the labels? “The terms that we're cutting with everybody are fair deals for us to be able to run this business. The labels do want to see other people survive as digital music offerings [than iTunes], they want to diversify their revenues.”"Everybody has a cost-operated business, and some of the negativity around how deals are done historically, some of it's overblown, some of it's realistic. If 5% of the music online is being monetised, we have a problem.”Holt says that one thing that's unique about MidemNet is that content and technology is coming together in “a way that's collaborative”, without the suspicion that characterised early encounters between the two sectors.”The format that is digital has an opportunity to be a business, and that's really, really exciting,” he says.So what about international rollout? How's that going, and who will they pick as the ecommerce partner? Holt won't say. “We would like to be in market in calendar Q2 this year, and we're working with the collecting societis to get our deals done, and as soon as we do, we're teed up to go.”Are those deals complex? “There are meetings that are taking place and we're focusing on getting those deals done,” he says. “We know it's important… our goal is to roll out as quickly as we can. We know there's high interest from advertisers and brands in the markets that are important to us.”How will revenues shape up in years to come, for music – advertising or transactions? “I think it'll be a spread,” says Holt, hedging his bets. “I see new devices that are amazing for music consumption…”Like what? “More applications like Pandora on the iPhone, or things like Kyte for lifecasting. But for me the thing I'm most interested in is that we're going to be at the centre of the diverse suite of music opportunities.”"If you look at our product roadmap, which I can't speak to today, it's going to allow us to try some really unique and amazing things,” he says. “We have an open landscape to work with partners who wanna help us monetise this content.”Got any numbers? Nope.Questions from the audience now. Is MySpace at a disadvantage negotiating with the indies, as they're not part of the JV. Would he have done it differently if he'd been there? Holt bats that one straight back – he wants fair deals for the indies and to get them on board.Now someone from artist management asks a question – fans no longer accept band requests, so what plans does MySpace Music have to promote bands to people? “It's complicated – you have to figure out an effective way to message the fans you want to reach. We don't want to get into a situation where we're sending out unnecessary spam,” says Holt.”We're looking at do it yourself type toolkits, but it's hard to say we can activate a programme to create feed overload… We want artists to be engaged in the platform, because it's a great way to promote yourselves.”MySpace Music is apparently working on a bunch of tools to help this kind of marketing.Next question: what about mobile? Oh, and also how could MySpace Music be promoted through other News Corp properties, if at all? On mobile first – “obviously very important to us, it's on the roadmap, and in certain territories you have to circumvent the web and go mobile from the start”. MySpace Music is working with the team behind the MySpace mobile application already, figuring out how to take the service mobile.On the second point, he says there's bags of opportunities, with MySpace already offering a chart show on MTV in one country. “Certainly, to me it's a great brand, so we will look at diversifying it in different ways,” he says. “We've got a lot of rich data, so we're going to figure out ways of maximising that.”
MidemNet 2009: MySpace Music CEO Courtney Holt talks!
January 17th, 2009 by Music Ally