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7 things Beats Music must do to beat Spotify

Mark Sullivan | Jan. 20, 2014
Beats Electronics's new music subscription service, Beats Music, will launch next Tuesday, January 21, entering an increasingly crowded music streaming market where nobody has really come up with a great way to suggest new music to listeners.

Beats Electronics' new music subscription service, Beats Music, will launch next Tuesday, January 21, entering an increasingly crowded music streaming market where nobody has really come up with a great way to suggest new music to listeners. 

While the company has proven very adept at selling headphones, many existing and potential Spotify users may wonder what, if anything, the new Beats service will offer that Spotify doesn't already. Beats better have a good answer to that question, or it will end up as just another streaming-music service.

Beats may indeed have some culture, resources, people, and partnerships to draw on that would help it launch a superior service. Based on what we know about the Beats brand and the streaming music market, here are seven ways Beats could deliver a service that beats Spotify. 

1. Give us better music curation (and lose the arrogance)
God knows the music industry people who run Beats have done a lot of talking about music curation. Anybody who's used a music subscription service knows that "whiteout" moment when you've burned through your playlists and have no idea which of the 20 million available tracks to go to next.

Beats CEO Jimmy Iovine (and chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records) has been saying his new service will come up with better answers to the question, "what should I listen to next?"

Iovine and Beats "chief creative officer" Trent Reznor said that the new service will use a combination of science and art to guide users to the music they like and the music they are likely to like. 

Here's Reznor talking to The New Yorker:

Well, the mathematics part is easy. The suggestions you see in Amazon and Netflix operate on the principle of "people who bought Artist A also bought Artist B." But the algorithms can only go so far. People who buy the same records I do probably also like some things I hate. 

Beats needs to find a way to get music curation right. We've seen other services use that curation term (to the point where we're sick of it), but it ends up sounding like lip service when all they're really talking about is publishing lists of picks from "music experts" or having record reviewers to pick the "hot tracks" off some new release. 

And we will see a lot of that one-size-fits-all "expert" music curation in Beats' new service. We know that Beats Music curators have been working up playlists for specific situations, tasks (working, studying), and moods or events (parties, wakes). Hundreds and hundreds of them. Janko Roettgers over at GigaOm managed to get an early look at the Beats Music site (by slipping in a back door — props!), and reports seeing hundreds of prefab playlists tuned to the most specific and obscure situations, like music for "college and indie rock BBQ."

 

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