beats Music
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Getting people to pay for something they already get for free elsewhere is a nonstarter

How long until it’s free?

I haven’t tried the new Beats Music service. I’d be stunned if it’s not well-designed and utilitarian. I applaud its focus on mobile, but isn’t this really just Pressplay 10 years later?

I know we want people to pay for music. The only problem is they are not. And we can either eradicate music on YouTube or rethink where we’re going.

We tried stamping out trading; that didn’t work so well. We’re already getting advertising monies from YouTube. The appropriate cliche here is, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” which is what the music industry has done with YouTube, to its credit and benefit.

However, if Warner Music had only authorized Spotify in the U.S. earlier, we might not be in this pickle. Timing is everything online. The Palm phone employing WebOS was a technical marvel, it was just too late. Is Beats Music too late?

We do live in the information age, and the more the better, to a point. But what we’ve learned in the past few years is that it’s all about social. It’s less important that a track be best than that everybody be listening to it. You excoriate the Top Ten on a regular basis, but the point is those are the acts that attract people to the show. We want to know what stars are listening to, tastemakers are listening to, and we want to know that everybody else is listening, too — at least a modicum of like-minded people.

And it’s not an issue of exclusivity: From
Slacker to Pandora to iTunes Radio to Songza, all these streaming services have essentially the same music.

That’s why iTunes Radio is a nonstarter. Turns out we did not need another Internet radio service. One was enough. That’s how it always is with tech. There will be only one streaming giant. Because that’s where everybody will be! If you’re investing in a me-too streaming service, why don’t you just save your money and go to Vegas and play roulette.

As for getting people to pay for Beats, let me see … I don’t pay for Facebook; I don’t pay for Instagram; I don’t pay for Snapchat; I don’t pay for Twitter. Each of these services may be fads, their essence incorporated into a new bundled entity the way standalone spellcheckers were incorporated into word processors, but one thing we know is they’re free. Hell, the word processor and spreadsheet and presentation software are now free with all new Mac and iOS devices!

So to believe that Beats is going to rewrite the history of payment … I don’t think so.
But they do have an amazing publicity campaign. And never underestimate the power of stars. But I hate to tell the service’s co-founder, Jimmy Iovine, that the music of his partners Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor is passe; their fans are not gonna pony up. You need younger stars, like Miley Cyrus and Pitbull. Beats might employ them, but really, you want me to pay for what I already get for free?

What we’ve learned here is the music business was caught flat-footed. It didn’t see the power of YouTube rearing its huge head. It’s not the first time the industry’s been left out, and not the last. But YouTube isn’t forever. Nothing is, otherwise we’d all be listening to 78s.

It’s a battle between Spotify and YouTube. Spotify’s in multiple countries, and now even has a free service on mobile handsets. Furthermore, most people still don’t know how Spotify works. Are they gonna understands Beats?

Maybe. Jimmy’s a master marketer.

But no one was asleep in the streaming sphere; this is not like getting a foothold in the headphones market, run by ancient, nearly moribund companies, no matter how good their products were.

Marketing only goes so far. And in the modern era, it doesn’t last.

So today’s story is Beats Music. Will it be tomorrow’s?

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