When I wrote about Beats Music last month my biggest question was: How will Beats Music differentiate itself in the crowded streaming music space? With launch so close a few leaks were sure to slip out and with them, some semi-answers.
The New York Times wrote about Beats Music on Saturday and said:
The strategy for Beats Music is twofold: Be a smooth, entertaining and convincingly human guide to the cluttered universe of digital music, and exploit the power of its headphone brand through aggressive marketing.
Marketing is understandable enough (and I bet Iovine will work in a mention or two if he appears on American Idol this season), but what makes Beats Music smooth and convincingly human? The Times, again:
The idea is that bold visual appeal and the expertise of its programmers (or “curators,” in its preferred buzzspeak), in serving up just the right song or playlist, will create excitement among the millions of listeners who have been unseduced — or just confused — by streaming music.
Um, OK. Cutting through the marketing-speak, Beats Music will make recommendations based on both human curation and machine algorithms. Other services do this too.
Beats Goes farther with what they call Right Now. To use Right Now, you feed in a place, an activity, a person and a genre of music and Beats Music generates a play list for you. As the Times points out, this isn't all that different from what Songza does.
At this point I'm not convinced. Are you?
Then I saw this post over at GigaOm from Janko Roettgers. Roettgers somehow got access to a beta version of Beats Music and checked it out. He only had access to the web version but he talks a lot about playlists from Rolling Stone, Pitch Fork, Ellen DeGeneres (huh?) and, uh... Target.
DeGeneres is apparently going to promote Beats Music on her show, and Target is some kind of launch partner. Roettgers gives an example of a Target playlist: “Exfoliating: Songs to scrub out to.” Come on, really? Maybe this was just a joke playlist for the beta.
Anyway I guess we'll see next week. Beats Music is going to be $10 a month with no free tier (though there'll be a 7 day trial). The emphasis is on mobile rather than web and it sounds like you'll need to sign up via an app in order to get the free trial.
Seems like an odd way to go: I listen to a lot more music from my browser as I'm sitting in the office than I do on my phone, but then I'm an old fart I guess.
I've been bouncing between a few streaming music services lately and I am finding that recommendations are really important to me. With so much music available I get a bit over-whelmed and left to my own devices I'll just play the same stuff I've been listening to for the past 30 years. Personally I'm finding Google Music does the best job of offering me suggestions that I'll actually listen to (Microsoft's Xbox Music and Sony's Music Unlimited are the other two services I've been playing around with lately) and it'll be interesting to learn if Beats can do better.
Google Music costs me $8/month (I signed up early and locked in a discounted price; the usual price is $10/month). I got both Xbox Music and Music Unlimited for around $50-$60/year during special promotions. For me to spend $10/month and switch Beats Music is going to have to really wow me. But I'll head into it with an open mind. I can't wait to experience a good exfoliating play list.
[Update: Twitter user TK Major pointed out that Beats Music streams everything at 320 kbps, and says that's what sets it apart. He offered an article at USA Today as a source. Other streaming services also offer 320 kbps (Sony's Music Unlimited and Google Music are two that I know of off-hand) but for audiophiles this could be an important factor raising Beats over many other sources.]
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