Nikhil Sonnad at Quartz:
Beats 1 has something that is rare in the world of digital music: scarcity. Listeners can’t choose a song and play it over and over. (They can do that elsewhere on Apple Music.) But curation doesn’t mean songs aren’t repeated. We counted 12,445 tracks but only 3,371 unique songs, meaning each track was played an average of 3.7 times. Eighteen of the 20 songs in the table above were played over 50 times.
That’s a lot of repeats, and it’s something Beats 1 has been criticized for. An initial marketing push for Pharrell’s new single Freedom led to a Reddit thread called “Beats 1 Needs to Stop Playing Freedom.” Still, over a quarter of the songs in the dataset were played only once, so there is a reasonable amount of diversity.
The song data also challenge Apple’s insistence that Beats 1 is “a truly global listening experience.” Nearly every song is in English and produced by artists from the US, UK, or Canada.
Beats 1 is only bound by the guidelines of radio insomuch as there is a DJ in a booth playing tunes. Other than that, it should be boundless. There are certain expectations, of course — songs need to be universally palatable, so don’t expect to hear Black Flag or some of DMX’s deeper cuts on Beats 1 anytime soon — but I can imagine future Beats stations taking this so much further. I’d love to hear more international music and vastly more variety from lesser-known artists. I’d also like to hear deeper cuts from popular artists: if we’ve all heard the latest single multiple times, maybe throw in something from the same album that isn’t as widely-known. Lots of opportunity here.