Beats Solved a Headphones Problem. Is Daisy Searching for a Subscription Problem?

The companies that changed the music industry have something in common.  They tend to be those that identify major consumer problems, and solve those problems in dramatically excellent ways.  Like Napster, Apple, Spotify, Tunecore, and most recently, Beats by Dr. Dre.  Sometimes, these solvers are actually inventing new things, but most of the time, they are merely improving on a problematic product that is mediocre and/or underperforming.

Apple, ironically, invented a strategy that involves not inventing products.  The iTunes Store wasn’t the first download store, but it was the first download store the world cared about.  The iPod wasn’t the first portable MP3 player, but it was the first portable MP3 player that people actually wanted to use.

Even more extreme, Beats came to the headphones party a few decades late.  Yet they guided the music fan beyond the white earbud, and created a densely crowded, hyper-competitive, high-priced headphone space that didn’t really exist before.  Add the art of celebrity marketing and cool, and you get away with a murderously-expensive head ornament.

And oh yeah, the music sounds a lot better on the subway now.

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January 10th, 2013: “Beats Just Hired Ian Rogers to Head Its New Music Service…

All of which raises an important question: what is the problem that Daisy is hoping to solve, exactly?  Spotify is guilty of a million sins, but faulty product design and execution isn’t one of them.  This is one of the most elegant, post-analog, post-iTunes applications the world has seen, and its promise of ubiquity keeps getting better.  Sure, artists will be eating cake in this future, but people have fallen in love with Spotify.  And one big reason is that it isn’t buggy.

So does Daisy enter the space with something that is even less buggy and more ubiquitous?  What’s the problem that needs to be solved?  “Right now, these things are all utilities,” Jimmy Iovine assessed in a kick-off meeting last week.  “It’s give me your credit card, here’s 12 million songs, good luck.”   But could this be a gigantic misread of the situation, the construction of another problem that doesn’t really exist?

Indeed, there are curatorial challenges in the subscription space, but this statement doesn’t seem to describe market leaders like Spotify, Deezer, and Rhapsody at all.  Most subscribers seem happy with their relationships; this isn’t Time Warner Cable.

But this discussion goes far beyond Spotify and friends, and into the increasingly debated space of music recommendation.  In the same announcement, Ian Rogers said recommendation will be a big focus for Daisy, but is this a genuine problem that needs to be solved?  Kyle Bylin of Live Nation Labs is one person asking the right questions on this space, the biggest being whether recommendation is really an artist problem instead of a geniune consumer problem.  In other words, music fans might be absolutely satisfied with their current selection and access options; maybe they aren’t asking for a cool, app-based recommendation ‘solution’ at all.

Undoubtedly, Daisy will do something on this crowded stage when it launches.  There will be celebrities, hype, big billboards and a smooth presentation, just like Beats.  But unless Daisy can identify and exploit major problems with the current subscription space, this will be just another option.  Maybe that problem is sound quality, but if it is, most fans don’t know it yet.

16 Responses

    • Visitor

      Additionally, I dont think Beats solved any problems with Headphones. Beats headphones are good quality, but they are simply overpriced for what they offer. They seems to be trying to market the fact that celebrities use these headphones, so in the long run this will disappear as a competitive advantage.

      • @mattadownes

        I agree with this Steve. Beats had first-mover advantage and now it’s gonna suffer the short tail.

  1. Visitor

    Beats didn’t solve any problem other than how to get unnatural amounts of bass into your earhole and how to line Dre. and Iovine’s pockets.

    Beats Co Branded to create solid positioning in the market.

    They will do the same thing with Daisy Via Trent Reznor.

    But they’ll take their time and let Spotify dig themselves into the hole deeper via transparency and usability issues…

    • R.P.

      doubtful but we will keep watching.

      Beats didn’t solve any problems, they just gave the world something through design that they didn’t even realize they wanted. A very Steve Job-esque thing to do.

      Daisy will most likely zune out.

    • David Staver

      I agree 100%.

      “…and created a densely crowded, hyper-competitive, high-priced headphone space that didn’t really exist before.”

      Yeah, what?

  2. Jing

    Amazing a whole article about something called “Daisy” and I have no idea what this sells or does. Context please.

    • paul

      I think there’s a saying about assumptions.

      Here’s the background:

      Beats Just Hired Ian Rogers to Head Its New Music Service…

  3. hippydog

    Quote ” and into the increasingly debated space of music recommendation. ”

    I think it is a valid problem..

    How they “solve it” will be something to watch for.. As mentioned they didnt invent anything new with the headphones, but they did wake some people up to the quality of the headphones they were using.. (The beats head cans are NOT the best headphones out there, but a year ago the avg consumer was NOT plopping down $200 on a set of Denons, Koss, or Sony’s, even though they have always been on the market)

    Having access to 12 million songs is cool.. but useless to the avg person.. Whats important is quality not quantity and (lets be honest) knowing what your friends are in to.. There has ALWAYS been a group of first finders of new music (from fans to DJ’s) that funneled the music to the masses.. As terrestrial radio & ‘MTV’ is bypassed in the digital age that “funnel effect” has been somewhat lost.. (mostly replaced by youtube oddly enough)

    Who ever can becomes the new “recommender” of whats hot (a digital “Billboard” that includes direct access and sharing of the tunes) could become the one in control..


    hearing HOW they will attempt this will be the interesting part..

    • Jeff Robinson

      Sennheiser HD580 headphones are award winning in High Fidelity audiophile circles. I’m sure Jimmy and Dre have never owned a pair or compared their headphones to greatness.

      • Visitor

        I would bet that dre has used good phones….in the studio.

        I would also be willing to bet that he doesn’t use Beats phones in the studio

        • Jeff Robinson

          Having encountered Jimmy on a few sessions in Los Angeles, he’s only concerned about what kids think are ‘cool’.

  4. jw

    There’s a lot that can be done in this space, & I think it involves constructing a web of metadata (i.e. search by producer), implementing some degree of crowdsourced recommendations, smart playlist searching, & editorial curation (i.e. genre-driven “channels”). To me, this is the most exciting sector of the music industry, & the one with the most potential for transforming the landscape. I would’ve left Topspin at the drop of a hat to work on something like this.

    However, I think that licensing, network integrity/response, marketing, & advertising are, on their own, a lot to handle, & adding this layer of discovery spreads a company even thinner. I would love to see a third (or third parties) party tackle the discovery & plug into service providers’ API.

  5. Visitor

    some of the posters would do well to realise that there is life outside the usa. spotify is a serious player with a good business model and large and growing market share outside america. we heart them here in europe, and we seem to be hearting them more with every passing month, unlike some of the american streaming services who seem to have missed the boat.