@ MidemNet: MySpace Music’s Holt On Challenges, Going Global In Q2

Just 11 days in to the job and new MySpace Music president Courtney Holt was thrown in at the deep end, at MidemNet in Cannes, to talk about the venture heralded as another music-biz savior. Asked on stage how he felt about Facebook’s faltering music store efforts, Holt joked “It’s killing me”…

As for MySpace’s own efforts, it got a milion plays in the first couple of days and has seen 95 million playlists created so far. The change from platform to retailer is significant, Holt suggested: “MySpace Music was (originally) built as a promotional platform… to ingest catalog and to turn it from what it was in to an active business has been somewhat complicated … That’s not trivial when you’re dealing with a site that reaches 125 million global viewers. A lot of people that are solving the problem of music in the digital landscape are starting from a product idea building from the ground up; we’re starting with a huge audience and trying to turn it a little bit – that’s complicated.

What’s the big idea?: “We’ve got some core business models and we’re going to expand in to some others. (Aside from just retail), we’re migrating towards what I call integrated marketing and looking at ways to sell that as a business model to advertisers.” “It’s not a traditional music store. Our main competition is free, because we’re trying to be additive in the landscape.” Holt sees MySpace Music’s strengths as content-centric, eg. its programmed “Secret Shows: “We’re going to expand in to more of those. They’ll be sponsored – it produces content that can be streamed, sold and packaged; there’s not a lot of places where people can have these recurrent music programs to tap in to. Brands want to be in the music space.”

What about the indies?: With the four majors on board as JV partners, is negotiating to woo indies hard? Holt said the venture had to be “inclusive” and announced five new indies’ addition on Friday: “However it was formed, it was formed before I joined the company. I’m looking at this from this day forward. We’re doing deals with lots of indies to get them on board – we need them on board. We want to work with everybody. We’re meeting with a bunch of key indies (at Midem).”

Behind the scenes: “A lot of the heavy lifting has been done; if you look at where MySpace Music is today versus when it launched, it looks like there hasn’t been a lot of evolution on the consumer-facing side, but there’s been a ton of work to fix metadata, make content more findable. ”

On retail: “I want to make a business where artists get paid for their art. We’re finally at a point where the digital format finally has an opportunity to be a real business. I don’t think we’ve done as good a job yet on figuring out how to make that as seamless as possible, but we are seeing an increase on the intent to buy, people clicking on buy links.”

Internationalizing? UK rollout had reportedly been due for January or February but: “We would like to be in market in calendar Q2 this year. We’re working with the collecting societies to get our deals done and as soon as we can get that teed up, we’ll roll out. There are meetings that are taking place. We know there’s high interesting from brands and advertisers in the markets that are important to us.”

The relationship with MySpace: “We’re wholly tempered but we do have some operational distance. It gives us some independence to talk to consumers and media brands a little differently. We are the music engine of MySpace proper.”

Courtney Holt will make his first U.S. appearance as the keynote Q&A at our EconMusic event on February 5 in Los Angeles. Book now.