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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.

That's fine, but it's not personalized to me. Beats Music needs to learn the subtleties of my tastes as I use the service, and react to them with increasing accuracy. It will need to serve up, with reasonable consistency, just the right music for whatever I'm doing and how I might be feeling, as well as suggest new music and new artists that fit right in.

CEO Jimmy Iovine says tech company nerds have no idea how to do this, and that music industry people like him and Reznor can do it far better. "I was shocked at how culturally inept most consumer electronics companies are," Iovine said in a 2013 interview with AllThingsD. "Subscription needs a programmer. It needs culture. And tech guys can't do that. They don't even know who to hire. They're utilities."

2. Integrate the service with Beats hardware
There's no question that Beats Electronics has been a very successful seller of headphones and other audio equipment. You see the headphones everywhere, and they sound, well, OK. Beats will need to somehow tie its new music service in with its hardware so that people will see the two things as part of same system.

Aside from Dr. Dre's star power, the Beats headphones began selling well in part because Iovine and company were able to make the point that people with deep music industry roots are better at designing music listening gadgets. If Iovine and company can connect up the hardware and the new music service, music consumers might believe that music industry people can make music streaming services better, too.

3. Nail mobile music
The Beats people weren't kidding when they said the new Beats Audio service would be heavily geared toward mobile use. The service reportedly requires you to download its app for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone devices before you can even start using it. GigaOm's Roettgers reports that the only way you can tell Beats Music what kinds of music you like up front is through the mobile app. 

What we don't know yet is how sensibly, elegantly, and economically the mobile app user interface is designed. Spotify mobile app users have complained that getting to the music you want to hear in the Spotify iOS and Android apps requires a lot of screen touches. Beats could easily differentiate itself with a UI that reflects a deeper understanding of how people search for music on mobile devices in real life.

4. Sound better
Beats bought the music subscription service MOG last year, and lots of people are wondering how the MOG technology will be used in the new Beats Music service, if at all. Audiophiles loved MOG because it streamed music at a higher quality (320 kbps).


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