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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 makes a big deal about sound quality in the design and marketing of its headphones and other hardware, so it should do the same for its music service. Using a higher streaming bit rate across its entire music library would create a big differentiator for Beats. Spotify already offers higher-quality streams as part of its Premium service. If Beats makes high-quality the default for everyone, it could win over some converts.

5. Give us access to music that Spotify doesn't have
Spotify has a lot of music — 20 million songs — but it doesn't have everything. The Spotify people have had to negotiate deals with record industry rights holders (like Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers, and others) to offer all those songs on a subscription basis. These negotiations were difficult, and led to numerous delays in Spotify's U.S. launch. 

The guys who run Beats are from the other camp, the rightholders' camp. People like Iovine and Reznor play golf and barbeque with other record industry people, including the very people who control the rights to thick catalogs of music recordings.

So Beats is in a unique position to gain access to highly desirable music that isn't yet available at Spotify — like Tool, King Crimson, the Beatles, Rammstein, AC/DC, and Ty Segall's latest (Sleeper). This would give people a very good reason to choose Beats over Spotify.

Iovine and company, it seems, could also make deals with labels — certainly Interscope artists like Eminem — to offer certain high-profile new releases exclusively through Beats.

6. Foot the bill for wireless data charges
Since it's clear that Beats wants us to experience its new service on our mobile devices, it should also be clear that users can end up using a lot of cellular bandwidth in the process. AT&T must like that idea. Maybe that's why it has already agreed to sell Beats Music to its subscribers at special rates. AT&T subscribers with some kind of multiline plan can buy a $15 subscription that allows five users to stream music on 10 devices. AT&T customers also get the privilege of longer subscription trial periods: single users get 30 days and families get 90 days. 

For everyone not on AT&T, the service will cost $10 a month per user, with a shorter trial period.

At CES earlier this  month, AT&T announced a big new program called "Sponsored Data" in which services can pay in advance for any cellular data used by mobile customers to access it. The program seems like a perfect fit for Beats. Knowing that it won't cost me any of my cellular data allowance, I might revisit the idea of switching from Spotify to Beats. 


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