Can music guys make music subscription work?

Producer Jimmy Iovine thinks that, unlike tech companies, music companies will be able to persuade people to subscribe to a music service - and he’s about to test his theory

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Jimmy Iovine thinks he can succeed where Steve Jobs' feared to tread

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Making a music subscription service work is a nut which has yet to really be cracked. While there have been many attempts over the last decade or so, none have really struck gold based on the model of getting people to pay a monthly fee for access to music. However, one of the big players in the music industry thinks he knows why music subscription services haven’t really worked yet: because they’ve all been done by people who don’t know music.

Jimmy Iovine, the famous music producer, label executive and co-founder of Beats Electronics (the headphone maker) thinks he has music subscription all figured out. Last year, Beats bought the music subscription service MOG, and is planning to rework and relaunch it later this year under a new name, Daisy. To help make it happen, Beats has hired Ian Rogers from Topspin Media as Daisy’s CEO and named Trent Reznor its chief creative officer.

[Cut the cord: 13 set-top media streamers and How to stream your music library anywhere]

Those are some big names, to be sure, but why should we think Daisy will succeed where so many others haven’t? Because, Iovine told AllThingsD last week at CES, previous attempts have been led by tech companies, not music companies. “Subscription needs a programmer. It needs culture. And tech guys can’t do that,” 

Iovine said that in order to make music subscription work, curation is the key, and to do that properly takes knowledge of music and the culture around it - knowledge which tech guys don’t have but people like him do. As he said to AllThingsD:

Right now, somebody’s giving you 12 million songs, and you give them your credit card, and they tell you “good luck.” You need to have some kind of help. I’m going to offer you a guide. You don’t have to use it, but it’s going to be there, and it’s going to be a trusted voice, and it’s going to be really good.

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