Hands on With Beats Music – Excellent UI, Music Discovery at Your Fingertips

I’m a gamer, I also love music. I hopped from Pandora to Rdio, to Google Play Music (before All Access), before I finally stuck with Spotify Premium for the past year or so. So when Beats rolled out its music streaming service, I had to check it out.

We all know about Beats Audio, their trendsetting audio peripherals whose commercials you simply cannot escape from. Having severed themselves from Monster Audio, Beats finds themselves finally entering the music streaming market, albeit fashionably late.

A year ago, Trent Reznor joined the Beats Music team to help curate its music collection, alongside ex-Pitchfork Editor of Music, Scott Plagenhoef. So, in case you don’t see where I’m going with this, Beats Music is being created from the ground up by music aficionados, and is being accurately marketed as a service that caters to your tastes.

For the purposes of this article, I will be comparing Beats Music to Spotify, as someone who is seriously considering jumping the green ship.

But what about Google Play Music All Access?

Well, I’m glad you asked. You know that feeling you get when you’re walking around with a nagging, miniscule rock in your shoe? Well, I get that same feeling when using Google’s streaming service. The nagging, miniscule rock? No crossfade. Let me preface by saying I have an unrooted HTC One Max, I use my device to stream music more than I place phone calls, check my texts, or look up pictures of Rashida Jones on the fly. My phone is constantly connected via Bluetooth to my car, home entertainment system, and speakers at work. Using Google Play Music was in my best interest. Especially when the sole reason I have Google Navigation on mute is because it abruptly stops my Spotify stream whenever my phone blurts out when to make the next turn, while Google Play Music works cohesively with Navigation to reduce the music volume. Yes, crossfading is a big deal for me. But I digress. Back to Beats Music vs Spotify (a baiting article title I aptly avoided).

beats-music-selection

Once you download the Beats Music app and log in, you’re guided through a pretty cool selection process where you sift through your favorite genres, and eventually favorite artists. Once that’s over your whisked off to a page of curated playlists in the Just For You tab. Just for me, a collection of Lupe Fiasco songs, as well as a curated list of Jay-Z songs produced by Neptunes were front and center…so I briskly hit play!

So within the first few minutes of use, Beats Music sets itself apart from the plethora of music streaming apps available, and if I were brutally honest with myself, it served up more accurate playlist than the Discover tab on Spotify, or even Pandora’s radio.

Music Discovery

[blockquote cite=”Luke Wood, President of Beats Electronics”]Beats was created so people could hear the music the way the artists intended, but speakers were just the first step[/blockquote]
Now this is a big thing for me, it’s main reason I shell out 10 bucks a month for Spotify, rather than loading up music on my smartphone which can hold twice the amount of songs as I have in my iTunes library.

With Beats Music, you have direct access to music curated by masterminds (similar to Songza); a library of over 20 million songs, akin to the number of songs in Spotify’s library.

On the mobile app, there are four “modes” of music discovery:

  • JUST FOR YOU: A personalized selection of albums and playlists delivered at  least 4 times a day to each user. Selections are delivered based on users’ musical preferences, time of day, activity, and additional cultural and  contextual clues.
  • THE SENTENCE: A continuous playlist compiled from users’ answers to four specific questions about their location, their activity, their surroundings, and  their musical preference at that moment.
  • HIGHLIGHTS: Beats Music editorial staff-recommend playlists or albums  compiled based on time of year, news, cultural milestones, and new releases  worth noting.
  • FIND IT: An enhanced browsing function that lets users seek out playlists [and individual songs] by genre, activity or curator.

All modes are cleverly designed, and allow you to voraciously expand your musical horizons, personally I played with The Sentence a lot, and wow, was it accurate…down to the tee. Apparently my moods matched my musical preferences…who would have thought?

Usage/UI

The user interface of Beats Music is where the service sets itself apart from every other music app, and possible regular app on the market today

beatsmusic_collage

A few things though are cumbersome, getting used to the new UI may be the biggest hurdle. Playlist creation in Beats Music is also harder, with no drag-and-drop and on-the-fly functionality similar to what’s found in Spotify.

One of my biggest problems with Spotify, being a graphic designer, is its gaudy UI which makes it look like a bastard child of Apple’s earlier version of iTunes. Beats Music tackles this quite well, with its seamless and gorgeous UI across phones, tablets, and desktops (no standalone app yet though). The desktop browser version is clearly optimized for landscape viewing, with a similar (and simplified) look to Spotify’s Discover tab.

Payment System/Revenue

Spotify Revenue BreakdownTake a look at the pie chart on the left, it breaks down the revenue stream of arguable the two biggest music streaming services in the US, Spotify and Pandora. Now, Beats Music has no ads, but it also has so free version. Non-ATT subscribers can only get a free 7 day trial, after which you can pay 10 bucks for the service. This is a pretty arrogant pricing model, especially seeing as how all its competitors have free versions; hopefully eventually we’d see a free model.

 

Now the question that begs to be answered, how will the Beats Music service play nice with Beats products? Also, if there was some sort of workaround to importing my Spotify playlists I’d worked tirelessly to create, Beats Music just may have one more subscriber, and Spotify, one less.

I’ll keep using the Beats Music service for the duration of my trial, and update with a full-on review.

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