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TheStreet Open House

Why Beats Music Has Failed and Will Continue to Fail

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Where has all the self-indulging, self-generated buzz over Beats Music gone? 

Consider two excerpts from two articles -- one an opinion piece, the other a news story -- that came out over the last couple of days.

First, Paul Resnikoff writing over at Digital Music News:

But most consumers dont care if Spotify has tens millions of songs, according to the latest research. And they aren't fanatics trying to discover new music or research obscure bands. Instead, the real money may be in -- lean-back listening -- a less interested group ...
This is why Beats Music is so interesting, and why Pandora (P) is crushing the competition. It also explains why traditional radio is playing fewer songs than ever before.

Writing from an interesting research report, Resnikoff nails it there.

And then there's this from MusicRow with the report that Beats Music would purchase TopSpin, a platform that helps connect artists to fans:

Over the next several months youll see our platform reveal many exciting new features, providing new ways to discover music and engage with your friends and the artists that create it.

Right. Exactly the opposite of what people want.

Beats claims it does the work for you, curating playlists that play the right song next. But, anybody who has used Beats realizes that A) the user interface is too busy and B) there's too much work to do to get things started and keep them going.

By contrast, at Pandora, you push a button and The Music Genome Project does the rest, playing what you consider the hits and pushing you from time to time with opportunities for discovery.

But the brilliance in the simplicity of what Pandora does -- and does so well -- is lost on the trash-talking know it alls at Beats. Pandora took the basic function of what people love about broadcast radio and, over time, personalized and perfected it. That's one reason why they're crushing Beats and will continue to crush Beats.

That said, it's admirable that Beats appears to be attempting to follow through on its mission to connect artists and fans. However, it's not going to have much of an impact if nobody's listening.

That's why it's so frustrating to see Pandora continue to leave massive opportunity on the table. It has the ideal platform for a partnership with record labels, bands and brands because of its huge, scaled-out user base ... a user base that provides valuable preference information on its terms. The relatively casual and intermittent interaction Pandora listeners have with the platform is real and powerful -- thumbing up a great song, thumbing down a dud or feeling compelled to create a personalized station. Here and there interaction that's genuine, not manufactured or intended to make the listener do the work the smart platform should be doing. 

Pandora doesn't force its users to make what amount to meaningless and pointless decisions. For goodness sake, when you initially log onto Beats, you have to drag these circles around to pick artists. On subsequent visits, you're prompted to play this stupid sentence construction game.

If Trent Reznor is a such a good curator DJ -- self-proclaimed to be better than Pandora's Music Genome Project -- he should be able to get you going from a button push and a quick seed, not this dog and pony show most people simply do not have the time or inclination for. But he can't.

Beats needs to ditch the cocky, feel-good attitude that "machines" don't know what they're doing, but Reznor and his friends do. While it might come off as toxic sacrilege to a rocker like Reznor, streaming radio is a tech- and data-driven proposition. If Beats doesn't drop the purist machismo it will fail and spend loads of money in the name of stubborn denial in the process.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks. Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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