What Are the Chances of Survival for Beats Music?

beats Music
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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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    1. ChrisS says:

      People don’t pay for music. iTunes sold 1.3 billion downloads last year. As far as Beats Music, am I willing to pay $9.99 a month to easily listen to anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want, commercial free? The answer is absolutely.

    2. Alex says:

      I wouldn’t use anything endorsed by Miley Cyrus, so you obviously don’t know what you’re saying.

    3. James says:

      Lol. Dre and Reznor are passé? Miley Cyrus is your alternative? I will try it for myself because you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

    4. Victor Webb says:

      How does one write a blog about a service with a no risk trial and not even try it?

    5. C heng says:

      Welp I give up already on Beats.. asked for genre- Dance, asked me to pick 3 artists from a very limited line-up and proceeded to play 12 songs by the same artist (none of the line-up picks) before I trashed it. Extremely bad impression right out of the gate… most won’t give it a second thought.

    6. Jacob says:

      The one problem I see in your logic is that yes youtube has free music, and yes it is getting increasingly simple to illegally download music. However, having all of your songs in one place, with high quality sound and with easy options to download them directly to your phone, like and share them and organize them as you please greatly outweighs the simple problem of having music on youtube. If you are really interested in music listening you would gladly pay the price for all of these features youtube and pirating does not deliver.

    7. Zach Gates says:

      “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.”

      Because you’re creating the content on those sites. You post your photos, your videos, your messages. It’s like saying because you don’t pay to watch home movies you shouldn’t have to pay to watch a movie. Did YouTube make Netflix die?

      What you’re not mentioning is that the free services are HEMORRHAGING money. They aren’t giving out free services out of the kindness of their hearts, they’re hoping to entice users to pay or that they’ll manage to earn it back via ads (and the limited skips + ads is part of the “if they like it they’ll pay to get rid of that” model). Plus the labels despise that Spotify et al don’t pay out equally to all labels. Their business model is in a LOT of trouble.

      Beats, currently, has a LOT of flaws. Its terrible web player, lack of radio, spotty catalogue, there are lots of issues. But its strengths are what could propel it above the others, more so the business heft of its headphones brand. They can use their muscle to bring in labels that have shied away in the past, and also spider their way in through the headphones (buy Beats Solo HD and get three months free! Buy the top-end model and get six months!).

      I use Spotify, and currently it’s the superior service. But there is plenty of room for a competitor because Spotify has a number of holes (chiefly in its ability to work with music outside of the “playlist” model). Beats has scads of potential.

      Or maybe you should actually use it first.

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