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Beats Music is out & in the app store. We kick the tires

We had Rhapsody, Pandora, Rdio, Slacker, Songza and Spotify. Then last year Google Play All Access and iTunes Radio joined the scene. Today producers and headphones impresarios Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are bringing us Beats Music.

Like Spotify and similar platforms, Beats offers up on-demand music for unlimited listening. In part the service hopes to set itself apart by being subscription-only and commercial-free. More importantly Beats is turning to the power of celebrity, led by musician and Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznor, for custom playlists that will will give you “the right song at the right time.”

From these descriptions, it doesn’t sound like Beats is offering up anything radically new or innovative. Most streaming services have their own celebrity curated playlists and stations, while Songza, Slacker and iTunes Radio also try to match them to your mood. However, Beats does seem to have an excess of celebrity, due to its management team’s deep music industry connections. The strategy sure worked in getting folks to shell out for enormous $200 headphones, pretty much single-handedly resuscitating a consumer market that died with the 8-track.

It’s still a question if Beats’ short 7-day free trial will attract enough paid subscribers, especially without an ad-supported option to help get them hooked. The service costs $10 a month, though AT&T customers can get Beats for the whole family, for up to 5 people 10 devices, for $14.99. That latter option might be attractive for a family full of teenagers.

Kicking the Tires on Beats Music

Beats Music genre select screenI was able to download the iOS app and sign up a little after 2 AM Pacific Time today, the day of Beats’ big debut. The service emphasizes mobile, rather than desktop listening; at least this morning you have to use the app even just to sign up. So, that’s what I did.

After getting my account in order the Beats app began interrogating me about my music preferences. First, it presented me with floating bubbles labeled with genres. I was asked to double-tap genres I like and to press-and-hold the ones I don’t. I chose jazz, heavy metal, indie and alternative. I got rid of “Christian/gospel.”

Beats Music artist selection screenThen I was presented with another screen of bubbles, this time labeled with artist names. The selection leaned pretty heavily towards alternative and indie rock artists (genres with a pretty porous boundary to being with). After making my selections I got a screen instructing me to “Hit Play,” getting the Best of 90s Indie, Vol. 4 playlist, delivering music from the likes of Belle and Sebastian and Pavement. Scrolling down offered some similar stations that I might also choose, like Indie Hits: 1997 and Radiohead: Deep Cuts.

With sleepiness descending, that was all the time I had for kicking the tires on Beats Music. I’ll need to take a longer test drive before judging if it’s a Spotify-killer, never mind if it’s worth 10 bucks a month.

In the meantime, Wired made a longer examination of Beats, while the New York Times published a feature profile of the company, its management and strategy.

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One Response to Beats Music is out & in the app store. We kick the tires

  1. Jennifer Waits January 23, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Thanks for checking this out, Paul. I haven’t tried it out yet, but here’s another review from Eliot Van Buzkirk at I’m personally thrilled that he recognizes the legacy of other services that pioneered curated playlists–namely Uplister, where I worked 14 years ago! It’s fascinating to see new companies coming back around to human-powered music curation, something that we all appreciate at Radio Survivor, with our deep love for DJ-programmed radio.

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