If you’re anything like me, you might associate the Beats brand with big gaudy headphones that you’re probably too old or too plain to not look like a bit of a twit in wearing. But it would be dangerous to overlook Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s empire as a tweeny fly-by-night operator: reports suggest the Beats Electronics company generated between $1.4 and $1.5bn last year.
In a strong example of Beats’ unwavering popularity, Beats Music had to temporarily halt new registrations such was the overwhelming demand to sign up in the first few days of launch. And why so popular? Big names in Dr Dre and chief creative officer Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor likely played a part.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Ek the founder of rival music streaming service Spotify slapped down Beats Music, saying: “Our way of doing [streaming] is not just slapping some celebrity brand on it and hoping it will be good. We are a social service; we are a product company. People have tried to put a brand on it and thought that’s enough, and they have failed: Microsoft, Nokia, many big companies.”
There are countless examples of awkward brand endorsements, but Beats Music doesn’t immediately feel like it will join the list. Beats Music is the aspirational option, offering real human curation as well as robotic algorithms. It’s not just telling me what my friends are listening to, but what people cooler than my friends are listening to: the uninterrupted playlists are informed by the likes of Pitchfork, LA hip hop radio star Fuzzy Fantabulous and former Rhino Records A&R director Mason Williams.
Reviewers have already complimented the service for its aesthetically pleasing magenta and black user experience and bespoke playlists. Mixcloud, another online music streaming service that offers professional DJs and bedroom enthusiasts a platform to share their playlists, has already grown to 10 million monthly users. With Beats’ US launchpad and the company’s marketing firepower, it is likely its user numbers could eclipse this – rivalling Spotify’s 24 million (6 million paying subscribers) and perhaps, given time, Pandora’s 76 million (70 per cent of the US streaming listening hours are generated by Pandora, according to NPD Group).
With a likely potential audience of tens of millions, there is a clear incentive for brands to get involved with Beats Music. US retailer Target is a launch partner and has curated playlists accessible on the Highlights section, which all users can access. But brands with authentic associations to musical genres could also feature in the colourful Just For You tab, which presents curated playlists and albums based on the preferences users choose when they first use the app.
Another feature that separates Beats Music from the pack is called The Sentence. It allows people to enter in their location, mood, the people they are with and a musical genre of their choice to create a suitable playlist. For a limited period, Beats Music is making The Sentence free for iPhone users – albeit with a five-track-skipping limit- encouraging trial.
It’s easy to see how this kind of feature could also be leveraged by brands: “I’m getting ready to go out, with my BFFs, feeling excited and drinking Smirnoff Vodka” could create a Madonna-inspired party playlist, for example.
Even if your brand is not quite ready for Beats yet, a new entrant will only help grow competition in the music streaming market – meaning marketers not already exploring the space should think about composing their entrances now.