The emphasis for Beats Music is on the human curation of songs, building on the tools of automation. Introducing humans into the process isn't new to the music streaming sector. Pandora does that, employing hundreds of people both in its catalog building and in its analysis of user data.
But even with Pandora, the presentation of playlists has yet to be done in a way that recreates the intimate relationship with audiences that DJs once enjoyed and is still available to YouTube filesharers, friend to friend. Beats Music aims to do that and the company has engaged Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor as a hands-on chief creative officer, helping hone the user experience to a Beats-worthy level.
Dre (whose real name is Andre Young) and Iovine built Beats into a music electronics powerhouse, on track for $1.4 billion-plus in 2013, according to the Web site Fast Company. Some of its boutique product appeal comes from its proprietary technology. Beats headphones were designed to recreate a recording studio music mix, adding equalization and other features to a generally high-quality audio experience designed for the average consumer.
But the real secret to Beats' success -- and it's not much of a secret -- is marketing. Beats wasn't the first to make high-end headphones, but it was way ahead of the curve on capturing the casual listener's attention. And it has not suffered from the competition that has followed it into the space. Its over-ears headphones are stylish, branded and planted on heads of all ages, everywhere you look.
Even if it is a late entry into the streaming sector, Beats Music has a head start, supported by Beats' massive brand recognition, the artistic imprimatur of Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine and Trent Reznor and the proven jedi techniques of Beats marketing.
Personally, I expect a lot from Beats Music. I expect it to raise the bar for the entire streaming services space, placing a renewed focus on humanizing the growing sophistication of automated techniques. It could, and likely will, serve to give the space the kick in the rear that it desperately needs.
--Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park