Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Beats Music Launching January 21

Yet another streaming music service is about to launch. If you live in the US, you’ll be able to listen to a giant catalogue of music for $10 a month. With such an enormous breadth of music, how do you find stuff to listen to? It sounds like that’s what makes Beats Music different. Ben Sisario, reporting for the New York Times:

Ian Rogers, the chief executive of Beats Music, argued that these systems inevitably fail because they rely too heavily on computer algorithms and because the people behind them just misunderstand music. He cited one typical, so-obvious-it’s-wrong recommendation as proof of the problem: Paul Simon fan? Check out Art Garfunkel! […]

The difference, Beats executives say, is that their service makes greater use of its editors and guest programmers like Rolling Stone, Rap Radar and Pitchfork, and only recommends the good stuff.

So you can listen to what the critics are digging. Neat, but not enormously innovative. It gets better:

“My phone knows where I’m at, what I’m up to, what temperature it is,” [Trent] Reznor said. “It might even start to recognize locations I visit, patterns of motion. What if music could be collected in little parcels and served up to me effortlessly?”

A byproduct of that concept is Right Now, which in prototype was tantalizingly called “the sentence.” In it, a user generates an ad hoc playlist by completing a musical status update with four variables: a place, an activity, a person and a genre of music. “I’m at the beach & feel like pre-partying with my friends to dance-pop,” for example, yields the Chemical Brothers, Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. Not bad.

It doesn’t sound radically innovative, but I think it’s a change that will significantly change the way Beats users listen to music. Too bad it’s yet another US-only product.