A former marketing boss reveals the series of disasters that sank the once-great social network.
Silicon Valley veteran Sean Percival has spilled the beans on his brief tenure at MySpace, where he was the vice president of online marketing between 2009 and 2011, calling it a “spaghetti-ball mess”.
In a speech at the By:Larm conference in Oslo this week, Percival described how the “politics [and] greed” of parent company News Corporation put the site into irreversible decline, and revealed that MySpace once tried to acquire the nascent Spotify.
“Unknown thing: we tried to buy Spotify and they sure as hell were not selling to us. They didn’t need to,” he said, adding that MySpace “should have just gone all-in on music” once it realised it had lost out to Facebook as a social network.
He added: “At the time MySpace had a very, very unique deal with labels. They were the only site on the web that you could go and play any song from a major label for free. You can do that on Spotify now […] but that was so unique. It was a very special deal: we paid about $10m a year to get that deal, just to have the deal, and then we paid for all of the usage as well. That was something we had that nobody else had. We brokered that deal early on with the labels, and nobody else could get even close. We should have gone all-in on music and cut ship on everything else.”
One of MySpace’s main failings was bloat, explained Percival, with the site offering verticals covering topics like fashion, sport, celebrities and books, rather than sticking to its music specialism. “Lesson learned: do one thing great, not do many things good. Or in our case, we were doing many things kinda crappy.”
Percival estimates the company wasted “billions of dollars” as it expanded into “a massive spaghetti-ball mess.”
“You could do these tree flowcharts of your website […] and we did it, and it was like the fricking seven scrolls that you could see. It just went on forever and ever and ever. We were not nimble in any way, shape or form.”