Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The New Beats Music Service

I thought I would document my initial impressions with the new beatsmusic service.  As a big music fan and semi-audiophile, I've bounced between most of the major music services.  For instance, I love rdio.  It feels friendly and alive, but the sound quality is terrible compared to the others.  I usually drive my stereo systems from my laptop or iOS devices and sound quality really matters.

Mog was cool.  Never had a huge following, but had good sound quality and you could tell they cared about music.  Spotify is certainly the most famous.  They have upped their bitrates (mostly to 320kbps) and have some exclusives (Led Zeppelin) plus their own internal app store.

This year brings us some new music subscription services.  Pono should be coming soon.  They will balance high sound quality with a proprietary format.  We'll see how that goes.

That brings us to  This is the company that makes the headphones (disclaimer: I have never tried them myself) and the company who bought MOG.  I had pretty high hopes and maybe that is part of the problem.  While the service sports some great ideas, especially for someone who doesn't want to think about exactly which tracks to listen to at a given moment, overall the service feels very unfinished.  The web interface is clearly an afterthought.  It lacks functionality found in the mobile app (can't create a playlist?) and is sluggish.  I understand that a company might want to build mobile first, but that's no excuse for releasing an unfinished product on the web.  They should have waited until it was ready.  And, on the topic of mobile first, where is the iPad app.  Are you kidding?  It's 2014 and you want me to hit that freaking 2x button?

If you want to 'publish' a track to your social network, the interface is slick.  If you want to 'share' your music with a follower or specific friend?  You are out of luck they don't know what "share" means.  This is disappointing.  And for a service based so heavily on curation and a tuned, personalize listening experience there is a surprising lack of fine tuning options.  Other than a few bubbles indicating genres and artists during sign up, the user is limited in how to set a baseline for music selection.  Then, when tracks are playing, you can only 'love' or 'hate'.  Seems like love should be for your very favorite tracks while some kind of thumbs up/thumbs down, like/dislike would be useful.  Also, here's a tip: if I hit "hate" on a track, stop playing the track.  Sheesh.

Of course, for me, this is all moot as without the ability to scrobble my tracks to, the entire service is a non-starter.  I am not alone in this based upon a quick read of their discussion forum.

Bottom line: some great ideas with shoddy execution.  Despite all of the talk and waiting for this service, it seems half-baked.  From a technology standpoint, it is ready for beta at best.  It will be interesting to see where this service goes.  Most of the issues I've listed should be pretty quick fixes.  I will keep and eye on this one.  While I might sound pretty negative here, it's mostly disappointment based on my expectations for the service and the clunkiness of the initial experience.  I really believe they have a few good ideas.  If they can execute on them, it could be an interesting service.

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