On January 21, Beats Music launched as a new U.S. subscription based music-streaming platform, marking an ambitious move by Santa Monica-based Beats Electronics. Up against heavy competition from the likes of Rhapsody, Slacker, Xbox Music, Rdio, and Sony Music Unlimited – all companies seeking dominance in the U.S. streaming market – Beats Music is in for a serious challenge.
But there’s hope yet! Even with all the different players in the streaming space, ways to differentiate oneself emerge over time: the hands-off nature of a Pandora was revealed to appeal to some, while complete control at sites like Spotify proved to please others. Likewise, interface took on an important role, proving that much of a consumer’s streaming loyalty lies in how music streaming content, barely distinguishable from one platform to the next with digital distributors making it ever easier for artists’ music to appear on multiple outlets, ultimately reaches the ears – and eyes – of the listener. Competitors like Rdio have already caught on, and put design and usability at the forefront of what they offer, creating beautiful interfaces that are incredibly easy to navigate.
So, again, what is Beats Music offering that isn’t already available? When each outlet delivers essentially the same content, how does a service differentiate itself and win the trust of those willing to pay a monthly fee for unlimited music access?
It’s an unquantifiable, insanely valuable asset the folks at Beats Electronics have proven to possess in fortunate abundance. Remember Beats by Dre? They didn’t invent high-end headphones; they simply repositioned them in such a way that consumers who were even slightly in tune with hip-hop culture could no longer be seen in public without them. And remember: these are the same consumers who, at one time, would have never imagined paying a premium for hardware that still comes bundled with every portable media device.
Beats has succeeded with headphones, speakers
, car audio, and laptop audio; why shouldn’t they be able to leverage their proven connection to hip-hop and aspirational pop culture by unleashing a full-on music subscription service?
We say, go for it. Competition will keep the services on their toes and will ultimately benefit the listener, who plays the fateful role in deciding which platforms survive and which don’t.