Insiders Say Beats Music Is ‘Pretty Damn Good’…

  • Save

Get ready: Beats Music is not only on-track for an early-2014 release, but there’s a decent chance this won’t be a spectacular dud.  According to several industry executives who have been treated to early previews of the service, Beats is preparing a well-curated, human-driven service, one that challenges the cookie-cutter, pervasive, robot-driven recommendations that permeate the current streaming space (and are typically powered by one company, The Echo Nest).

“There’s a sea of music, there’s an ocean of music out there, and there’s absolutely no curation for it.”

Jimmy Iovine, February, 2013.

Which is exactly how Beats and its progenitor, Jimmy Iovine, have been envisioning this thing from the beginning.  Indeed, Beats will be a highly-curated, celebrity-driven, marketing-heavy approach could create serious problems for Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, and YouTube Music.  “It’s really good, actually, it’s damn good” one executive with a preview shared with Digital Music News.  “These are good recommendations that sort of say, ‘there’s someone home’.  I think it’ll do well.”

Design and layout on the new service is also reportedly strong.  “It’s better than Spotify,” another exec simply stated.

“I think it’s easier to use, and more fun.”

But timing isn’t on Beats’ side.  Beats famously created the high-priced headphone space by getting in front of the market, and pushing their high-fidelity concept with endless celebrity and marketing blasts.  But when it comes to the streaming companion, Beats CEO Ian Rogers has been cooking this bird forever: originally, Beats called for a summer 2013 release, which slid to the fall, and then to 2014.  In that time, Spotify has been stretching its lead, iTunes has unveiled Radio, and Deezer has coordinated its troops for a US invasion.

There’s also the issue of Topspin, the once hyped-to-hell company that Beats CEO Ian Topspin abruptly ditched for the flashier company of Iovine, Dr. Dre, and Trent Reznor.  Beats Music will apparently have a Topspin integration for artists, despite a major profile drop post-Rogers, the departure of SVP Bob Moczydlowsky, restlessness among Topspin investors, and a dramatically better performance and traction by rival Bandcamp.

Then, there’s the giant elephant that is about to enter the room (and that everyone is talking about): YouTube Music.  Earlier intelligence suggested a pre-Christmas release for YouTube Music (which obviously didn’t happen), though the biggest music service in the world is likely to drop its latest bomb in Q1 of next year.  Which means, Beats will be elbowing for room alongside a space that not only includes Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, and YouTube Music, but Rhapsody, Muve Music, Rdio, Google Play Music All Access, Xbox Music, and a growing class of artist-specific services (whether deadmau5 or Beyonce).

(Digital Music News has not been shown pre-release versions, possibly because of a fairly rocky relationship with Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers. But let’s see…)

Written while listening to CHVRCHES on Rdio.

38 Responses

  1. curiousgeorge

    Umm….Spotify already has a Topspin integration for artists.

    • vistor

      Curation, and good curation at that is why my money goes to Sirius XM and not Pandora or Spotify. There’s for more value in really good curation.

  2. Casey

    Many services claim to have content curation, yet every single one I have ever tried fails to offer curation for independent music and even lesser-known major artists. I don’t see this service being any different.

  3. TuneHunter

    Not impressed, don’t see the avenue to money!
    Curious if YouTubeMusic will show any money – Shazam style commotion to total convenience is most likely.

  4. FarePlay

    I’m about to fall out of my chair……..

    I’m rooting for these guys. Now I may change my mind, but discovery is what radio has always been about. Discovery that sells recorded music that is. And yes Iovine is a music guy. A music guy with history. A music guy who understands old school. A music guy who understands how to sell RECORDS.

    A guy who understands the creative process and the value of music. . . . . maybe, just maybe, they will not cut off their nose to spite their face.

    Anybody, who spent a year in the studio with Springsteen recording the handful of songs that was Born to Run knows how the creative process works. A record that would have never gotten made today. Mortgage your house to help cover recording costs? Are you f…ing crazy? Nobody sells music anymore.

    The guy spent a year in a recording studio witnessing the recording of arguably one the most iconic records ever made. Damn I bought 20 tickets for all my friends to see an artist most had never heard of before. October 31, 1975 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Last US show before Springsteen went to the UK and blew those blokes away.

    All I can say is Jimmy, do music right and music will take care of you.

    • Anonymous

      I’m about to fall out of my chair……..

      For moments like these, you need LifeAlert(tm).

        • Boring trademark attorney

          It’s actually “Life Alert ®.”
          It is a registered trademark.

        • Anonymous

          The ridiculous levels of Springsteen fanboyism you inseminate implies that it is virtually impossible that you are under 70. Therefore, a Life Alert would be a good investment.

          • FarePlay

            And you may want to go back and get your GED. Obviously, math is not part of your world. Now that we’re getting personal, what’s your age?

          • FarePlay

            Oh, and thanks for your concern about my well being. I’m touched.

          • FarePlay

            Also, Fanboyism is a tech word applied to Apple fans. Show a little respect for someone whose seen greatness. Sorry you missed out sonny.

          • Anonymous

            Fanboys are also people who venerate mediocre musicians. A condition often seen in baby boomers (who thankfully are on their way to exiting the realm of existence thus ending a dark chapter in human history). I personally the principal blame on excessive hard drug use.

          • FarePlay

            Anonymous…Assassin. Kind of interested to play this out with you and find out how meaningless, but nasty you really are. For over a decade Anonymous posters, like you, have personally attacked artists, primarily through mischaracterizations and personal attacks to silence the creative community. Using my age to discredit the validity of my opinion is a perfect example. As is not volunteering any information about your self. Kind of cowardly really. You’re like a road rage instigator, when confronted, quickly leaves the scene to avoid any real confrontation.

            Until recently this has been an effective strategy, responsible for a music business that has been driven into the ground. One of the BIG questions people like you never address is why you never turn your attention to the online corporations that profit from artists.

            So what you got? Tell me what you’re really pissed at.

          • Anonymous

            No, I don’t willingly give away my personal information in the public comments section of a blog. Because… get this… I’m not a fucking moron.

            Your attempt at social engineering could use some work. 2/10 for effort.

          • FarePlay

            So you have nothing to add and nothing to say. So why are you here?

    • Danwriter

      Try listening to Born To Run over Beats headphones. All of a sudden it’s Gary Tallent and the E Street Band. Jimmy is a consumate music guy but he’s also all about following the money. Beats are not about quality but about celebrity and trendiness. (Still a neat trick but a trick nonetheless.) I’d give Iovine et al. plenty of benefit of the doubt as they roll the service out and see what happens. It has to be better at discovery than the other services. But at the end of the day, remember that music now has become a financial play. And yeah, Born To Run couldn’t get made today, for the same reason that Record Plant NY and Studio 914 aren’t here anymore, either.

      • Sky Corgan

        There is a difference in the newer Beats headphones versus the old ones. The old ones, made by Monster, were totally mud for sound. The new ones are very clear, and the do reduce the bass to increase fidelity.

        I recently bought a pair of Studio Wireless headphones and a Beats Pill, both are made by Beats Electronics and are not “Beats by Monster”, and they sound wonderful.

  5. Music Studio

    I’m so happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  6. Murr1968

    You seem to have forgotten Songza, I’ve tried all of these services and Songza remains the best although, woefully underfunded at this point…hope that changes. In spite of that, they deliver a high quality in stream ad free user experience at no cost.

    • Anonymous

      Without any way of monetising it (ads or subscriptions), its never going to get very far.

  7. TJ

    How many startup companies has Ian Rogers run? Beats has tried to put this together multiple times and gone nowhere. Now they try again with the horrible Mog engineering.

  8. Guest

    I can confirm that Beats Music will only work on Beats headphones. They are following the Apple ‘walled garden’ approach. Attempting to use say Bose, Grado or Sennheiser headsets will only play back white noise.

    • Anonymous

      “Sennheiser headsets will only play back white noise”


    • There's no way that is true.

      Not sensing sarcasm in your comment, and that would be virtually impossible.

  9. Anonymous

    “Then, there’s the giant elephant that is about to enter the room (and that everyone is talking about): YouTube Music.”

    Indeed. According to this guy, YouTube hasn’t found the right way to deal with user-generated content yet.

    The link was buried pretty deep in Google Search so he may be right.

    Anyway, YouTube is the only Google service that isn’t broke so it remains a mystery why they try to fix it.

  10. Pete

    With digital catalogues now around 25 million tracks the challenge of manual curation for mixes rather than algorithm by machines means
    1) you require a large number of people to curate – expensive & time-consuming
    2) you have a relatively few mixes and don’t change them often
    3) you only use a very small percentage of your catalogue in curated mixes

    Plenty of hype from investors, stakeholders & press – noise doesn’t equal quality!
    Time and consumers will show if Beats is successful.

  11. KS2 Problema

    The existing service that Beats will presumably build upon — MOG — is, without any reasonable question, the premier major streaming service in terms of sound quality — all ‘hi fi’ 320 kbps streams that make Spotify and Rdio’s poor mix of lower fidelity a bit of a shab.

    I don’t care two figs about celebrity ‘curation’ — a total and complete yawn for me — but I DO care about selection and fidelity and MOG has had that.

    Hopefully, Beats won’t drop the quality in a ‘downward competition’ with Spotify and Rdio. You Tube music sounds interesting but even HD YouTube videos sound pretty awful. I’ve compared a number of ‘Official HD’ releases by labels with the 320 kbps streams from soon-to-be MOG and MOG always sounds considerably better. And at sub-HD levels, YouTube is just plain no way to listen to music.

    • Anton66

      Beats may have bought Mog, but they killed the product as soon as they bought Mog. Dead. As in Beats is a from-scratch rewrite. A bunch of the senior Mog staff either left or were laid off in the transition. There’s very little Mog in this Beats product, despite their $14 million investment in it.

    • Anonymous

      As long as you use High (extreme on mobile) quality, Spotify uses a ~320kbit ogg stream.

      If you’re going to slate other services based on streaming bit rate, at least get your ‘facts’ correct.

  12. dave chappelle

    “company executive says his company is good” wow this is news?? what a joke.

  13. Capt. Colours

    Curation is effective when you pay Curators. Asking people to Curate without a budget in place is disrespectful

  14. Musician

    According to CD Baby: What sets Beats Music apart from other music streaming services?
    1. Beats Music is indie-friendly; they pay the same royalty rate to both major label and independent artists.
    2. Beats Music is integrated with Topspin, providing musicians with a platform which supports greater fan interaction.
    3. Beats Music has no free tier (though they do offer a free 7-day trial) — so all users will pay a monthly subscription rate of $9.99. Note: if you’re a member of an AT&T multiline plan, you and four other family members can get access to Beats Music (on up to 10 devices) for just $14.99 a month.
    4. Beats Music focuses on curation; their catalog of over 20 million songs will be “managed and maintained by a team of music experts with hundreds of years of curatorial expertise.”