Meet Scott Vener, the music man making Myspace cool again (or trying to)

From Wired:

Not long ago, it seemed fallen social networking giant Myspace might never make a comeback. News Corp sold the company for pennies on the dollar more than a year ago and little had been heard about the new owners’ plans for a revamp.

That all changed last week when actor/pop star/Myspace investor Justin Timberlake tweeted a link to a MySpace promo video, giving the world a two-minute glimpse at the massive facelift coming to the site. The catchy video, set to the infectious groove of “Heartbeat” by JJAMZ, came seemingly out of the blue — and actually made the new Myspace seem like a lot of fun.

The video’s bouncy backing track was chosen by Scott Vener. Even if you don’t know Vener’s name, you might know his work — he’s the guy who picked the music for Entourage, How to Make It in America and 90210. Now, he’s the man picking the music for Myspace. As lead music editor and curator of the social networking site, he’s charged with bringing music and musicians back into the fold of what was once the world’s dominant social networking site.

“We all know this is expected to fail,” Vener said in an e-mail to Wired, in which he discussed Myspace’s latest makeover. “With those low expectations comes a lot of freedom. Cool is what happens when you get creative and have nothing to lose.”

While some weighed in positively on Myspace’s promo video (Gizmodo said it looks “kind of neat” and The Next Web called it “beautiful“), others offered critiques of the “makes me want to hurl” variety. Not to mention that in recent years, music fans have moved on to places like Rdio, Tumblr, Bandcamp and Spotify as Myspace’s user base has steadily declined.

Wired talked with Vener to find out what Myspace, which was bought by Specific Media for $35 million last summer, is cooking up in its private beta (request an invite here).

Wired: What’s your actual job at Myspace?

Scott Vener: Officially, lead music editor and curator. But this is new territory for everyone; I think we made that up. I get paid to wake up at noon, go to bed at 4 a.m. and listen to music all day. As long as I can do that they can call me whatever they want.

Wired: Man, how’d you land that gig?

Vener: I got a text from Justin [Editor’s note: That would be Timberlake.]: “I’m putting together a creative team to help rebuild Myspace and I want you to be a part of it.” Hard to say no to that.

Wired: What can you tell us about the new Myspace? What kind of features can we expect?

Vener: A simple design with a persistent music player that allows you to create, discover and consume playlists no matter what else you happen to be doing. Easier ways to find and create mixes. Plus, I had no idea how large the music and video catalogs were prior to coming over here. The new site will make it much easier to tap into them.

The analytics. There’s a lot of focus being directed to recommendations and insights. For example, there’s a metric (Affinity) that shows people to what degree they’ll like something, making it easier for people to discover the things they’ll actually enjoy. Top 8 is back.

Wired: Do you have a hand in the new look and feel of the forthcoming Myspace or on the features it has?

Vener: I was definitely the guinea pig for the music player and some of the site’s music-discovery functionalities. But, the real credit for the new Myspace deserves to go to the talented designers and engineers who built it from the ground up.

Continue reading the rest of the story on Wired