How do you treat music less like data and more like art, and make a business out of it? That’s the question Beats Music, a spin-off of Beats Electronics risen from the acquisition of MOG, wants to answer with their new music streaming and recommendation service.
I first got wind of Beats Music in December, and, when I heard the news last week that Beats Music was launching to the public, I thought I wouldn’t care. As MacStories readers and The Prompt listeners know, I’ve been happily using Rdio for the past three years: Rdio gives me all the music I want, it lets me check out New Releases and subscribe to playlists created by other users, and it’s got a Stations feature that automatically recommends music I may like based on my history and listening data collected about me. There are many reasons why I prefer Rdio over Spotify, which I’ve shared on several occasions in the past. Rdio works: you type stuff in, you get music back. If you don’t want to search, the service gives music to you with recommendations that go from “good” to “great”.
As coverage of Beats Music started coming in and cynics quickly derided the service for being part of a company that makes headphones audiophiles don’t like, I got curious. Beats Music’s CEO Ian Rogers, for instance, has a quite amazing story of being a pioneer of Internet-based music delivery and marketing, working (and touring) alognside Beastie Boys at a very young age, eventually going to work for Nullsoft, Yahoo Music, TopSpin Media, and now Beats Music.
The creation of Beats Music itself was spearheaded by Jimmy Iovine (historic music producer and co-founder of Beats Electronics with Dr. Dre), who ended up hiring Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor as Chief Creative Officer of the new service because Reznor himself had been looking for a new take on music streaming services.
On a product level, Beats Music offers no free tier as it is a paid-only service that delivers 320kbps MP3 streams and promises to pay artists higher royalties thanks to the lack of cheaper, ad-supported streams. When I went to check out Beats Music’s website, I found an honest, well-written FAQ that explained the company’s vision and motivations for launching a paid service just after Spotify and Rdio extended their free tiers to tablets and desktops.
I could go on with a list of factors that contributed to piquing my interest in Beats Music. Such as the way Rogers worded his explanation of the service’s paid-only model, or how he explained their strategy to The Verge and then offered a simple screenshot as proof that ads in music may not always be the best option. Or how Reznor – for context, the guy who left his label to try “alternative” marketing campaigns that included leaving free copies of NIN songs in USB flash drives in bathroom stalls – said that “to brag about being agnostic and just providing access to music seems to me, as a culture person, as a fail” when asked about Spotify’s search and algorithm-based music platform.
As a music lover and iOS geek, it seemed silly to dismiss Beats Music just because of others’ opinions about headphones, and I’m glad I didn’t. I can’t stop using Beats Music. (more…)