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First look: Beats Music is off to a promising start

Christopher Breen | Jan. 22, 2014
Beats Music, the subscription music service from Beats Electronics, is finally live. Like Spotify, Rhapsody, and Rdio before it, Beats Music is an on-demand streaming service that provides subscribers access to a library of millions of tracks, covering just about any musical genre you can imagine. These are my first impressions after spending a little time with the mobile app and site.

And then there's that social aspect. It's been tried with other services and Beats is having a shot at it as well. The theory is that your friends are another avenue for exposing you to great music. Follow the right people, look at what they're listening to and recommending, and you'll discover music that you like just as much. If you put in the time to find the right people to follow and create playlists of your own that best expose your impeccable taste (and therefore help you attract more followers), new musical landscapes could be opened to you.

Liner notes
Beats is playable via iOS and Android devices, web browsers on your computer, and within Sonos systems. My explorations of its library showed that it seems to have the same kind of selection as Spotify and Rhapsody, though it doesn't have The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or AC/DC. Unlike other music subscription services I've used, there's no radio feature where you can create channels around a particular artist or track. The sound quality — through headphones on my iPhone as well as channeled through a Sonos system — is good.

You're welcome to try it for seven days free, but after that you must subscribe for $10 a month for a single account or $120 for the year. If you're an AT&T wireless subscriber you may qualify for up to three months of Beats Music for free. After that you pay $15 a month for a family plan, which makes the service available to up to five users on your AT&T account. I signed up for such a trial and it was a breeze. Just enter your wireless number, click a Check My Availability button, you're approved, and a verification number is sent to your mobile phone. Enter that PIN and you're in.

Unfortunately, there's no free tier, no ad-supported version. Once your trial is up, you have to pay. Beats is taking a gamble by making its service open only to paid subscribers, but if it can convince the world to pay $200 for headphones that sound like they should cost $100, they may have the brand clout to pull it off.

On its first day, Beats Music looks very promising. The interface is polished, the curation seems solid, social networking is well thought-out, and the library nicely stocked. It's entirely worth your while to give the seven day trial a spin.

 

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