Hands-On MySpace Music

A new iTunes competitor stepped into the ring last Friday promising DRM-free tunes and free, unlimited streaming. But does MySpace Music have what it takes to challenge Apple or did the site's new overhaul miss the mark? We spent the past three days with it to find out.

What is it: MySpace Music is a joint venture between MySpace (owned by News Corp.) and the big four record labels — Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and EMI. The ad-supported site lets members create personalized playlists and stream unlimited amounts of music via a small pop-up player. In addition, the site is affiliated with Amazon's MP3 Store, so if you hear a song you like, you can seamlessly purchase it via Amazon.

What we like: MySpace Music is a like a digital encyclopedia of music. Thanks in part to its contracts with the four major record labels, you can find just about any song on the site, and despite its massive catalog of music, searching for specific songs or artists is fast. Once you find a song you like, you can add it to your MySpace profile playlist (10 song limit) or to a separate, personalized playlist (no song limit) by clicking on the "+" symbol located next to the song title. You can then launch the MySpace Music pop-up player to stream your tunes.

To test the extent of MySpace Music's catalog, we searched for iTunes' current Top 10 list on the site and quickly found each song available for streaming. This part of MySpace Music we liked. It's a great way to listen to full-length CDs before you purchase them. To make the purchasing part easy, MySpace Music has teamed up with Amazon's MP3 Store, so when you find a song with a "Buy" button, clicking on it takes you directly to Amazon.com where you can purchase a DRM-free copy of that song. The transaction is seamless, although not all songs on MySpace Music offer this option. In addition to songs, members can also purchase tickets and merchandise directly from each artists' homepage, although again not many artists offered that option.

What we hate: Unfortunately, there are multiple things we hate about MySpace Music, starting with its launch page. Rather than bring you a clean, friendly homepage (like Hulu, which is another News Corp. venture), MySpace Music starts off with a mess of options including tabs for featured artists, artist playlists, and entertainment news. If you weren't a fan of MySpace proper's interface, then you won't like MySpace Music's homepage as it comes with the same baggage that makes MySpace impossible to deal with.

In theory, searching for music is simple — from the launch page hit the "MyMusic" tab, which then takes you to the site's search engine. There you can search by artist, song, or album and restrict your search to Major, Indie, or Unsigned artists. However, once you receive your search results everything goes downhill. For instance, if you search for a song, such as "Disturbia," you get dozens of results, and there's no way of telling when you're adding a snippet or full-length track to your playlist.

To make matters worst, creating a playlist with more than 10 songs is tedious as you must find the song, add it, select the playlist you want it in, and confirm the transaction. In addition, each time you add a new song to your playlist, you must relaunch the pop-up player to update it with the new songs you've added. Ironically, for a social networking site, the pop-up player has no options that let you share your playlist with other people. In fact, all it displays is your track list and ads, which is another thing we disliked about MySpace Music.

There are ads everywhere. On the artist homepages, in the pop-out player, and throughout the MySpace site. Granted, ads are a part of the business model, but we wish there were a way to make them easier on the eyes. Hulu's ads are not intrusive. MySpace Music's ads make us never want to visit the site again.

Overall, we liked having the ability to stream countless songs for free. However, MySpace Music ultimately fails to understand the meaning of the word "clean." Its UI is a nightmare, the sound quality of the streams could be better (we prefer Slacker), and the rampant ads and branding are irritating enough to keep your from ever coming back.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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