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Curated music helps Dr. Dre’s new mobile Beats Music streaming service stand out from tough competition

 

music_evolutionBeats Music is the latest entrant to an already crowded field of streaming audio services that offer unlimited tunes to music fans.

Like other on-demand premium services, Beats Music allows users to stream roughly 20 million individual songs, albums and playlists  on Android and other mobile devices for $10 a month.

But the fact that luminaries from the rap world including Eminem, Nas and Busta Rhymes attended the launch party late last month in Santa Monica tells you that this service may be different.

It is different because behind the latest player is venerated record producer and rapper Dr. Dre whose company Beat Electronics also produced the iconic but pricy premium Beats headphones.

Beats Music also  stands out because former the NWA rapper has created a service that includes playlists and recommendations that are put together by experts in the music industry, such as critics with Rolling Stone and DJMag.

HOW IT WORKS

The service is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone on and offline and on the web.

understand_youAfter providing your email, the setup process is kind of fun as you select your favorite genres and artists that bounce around within bubble-like discs that float and bob around the page.

Based on the the preferences you have selected, frequently updated lists of recommended and playlists and albums appear on your homepage.

Beats Music offers numerous other ways for its subscribers to receive their recommendations.

Those features include, The Sentence, where you fill in blanks in a sentence to match how you’re feeling or what you’re doing at the time and Find It, which are expert created playlists that can be searched based on genre, activity or curator. You can also share favorite tracks, albums and playlists with friends on Beats Music, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Many of the playlists certainly appear to be put together by people who know their music.

And at least in my experience after a few days of trying out the service, the initial album and artists recommendations feel as close as you are going to get with commercial streaming to hot tips from the music geek at your local independent record store.

While not every suggestion is a thrilling new find, many are and they are always updating the list to bring you back for more.

The offerings are also certainly worlds ahead of the computer generated recommendations from say, Spotify which appear so generic that, for me at least, they are almost always off-base. To get the most from Spotify, you really need to harness the power of sharing music with your pals on Facebook and Twitter.

Beats Music may appeal mostly to music fans who are eager to discover new music, but are reluctant to share music on social media and don’t have the time to mine endless catalogs of mediocre music in the hope of finding an occasional gem.

It should be noted that Beats Music is not the first to offer music curated by music experts. Both Google Music All Access and Rhapsody offer this service, to rave reviews from many of their customers.

WHERE THE SERVICE FALLS SHORT

On the downside Beats Music does not offer a desktop application, which means when you listen to music on your computer you will have to use the rather basic browser-based web player. Other services provide extensive library management, and Google Music All Access even handles music you’ve already purchased.

Also because of controversy over the on-demand revenue model, the owners of music rights of certain colossus bands and artists like Led Zeppelin – if your a Zepp fan you can now get your fix from Spotify — the Beatles, AC/DC, Garth Brooks and Bob Seger are still holding out on pay-by-view streaming.

WHAT IT COSTS

The subscription-only service costs $9.99 a month for unlimited ad-free streaming after a seven day free trial – 30 day free trial for AT&T subscribers. A family plan for up to five people and 10 devices is offered to AT&T subscribers for $15.

Beats Music minimum requirements are iOS 6 – iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4th generation, iPad 3rd generation — Android 4.03, and Windows Phone 8, Sonos devices version 4.0, and smart TVs with Webkit 2-based browser support.

THE COMPETITION

spotifygoogle_music_logoRdio-Logo_320

rararhapsody-logo

There are plenty of on demand competitors out there including Spotifiy, Rdio, Rhapsody, Google Music All Access, and rara, not to mention less costly radio-based services such as Pandora and iTunes Radio.

All of them have their strengths and weaknesses and offer initial discounts to lure new listeners.

But anyway you slice it you will ultimately have to pay $10 excluding tax to get the premium services with access to an unlimited catalog of roughly 20 million songs and to play your songs offline on both desktop and mobile devices .

The biggest beast in the pack is undeniably Spotify, which stands out as the only ad-supported service that allows unlimited music on both desktop and mobile devices.

Spotify recently upped its game to provide on-demand music to tablets and smart phones. Although with your smart phone you still can’t listen to individual songs and can only listen to albums and playlists on shuffle play. There’s a maximum of six skips per hour.

Here is a comparison of on demand music streaming services:

Beats Music

COST: Free version, no.

Paid Version, 7-day free trial (30 days for AT&T subscribers) $9.99/month for 1 user, 3 devices. Family plan for AT&T subscribers $14.99 for five users, 10 devices

WHAT YOU GET: Ad-free unlimited streaming access to 20 million plus songs.

FEATURES: Editorially curated content. Just For You tab, The Sentence, Highlights, Playlists, Sharing through Facebook Twitter. High quality.

PLATFORMS:Minimum Requirements iOS 6, iPhone 4, iPad 3+, iPod Touch 4th Gen+, Android 4.03, and Windows Phone 8. Browser players works on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer.

Spotify

COST:

Free Version, Yes

Paid Version, 30-day free trial, $9.99/month for 1 user, 3 devices

WHAT YOU GET:

Free Version: Unlimited online  streaming at 96-160 kbps of 20 million songs for desktop and tablet with ads. Shuffle mode only for smartphones. No offline listening.

Paid version: Unlimited high quality streaming of 320 kbps with  access to 20 million plus songs on desktop and mobile devices. Offline listening.

FEATURES: Playlists, Radio, and Discover. Library management. Fully integration with Facebook.

SUPPORT: Minimum Requirements: iPhone 3G, iPad 2, iPod Touch 4th Generation, Android 2.2, Windows 8, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Desktop.

Rhapsody

COST

Free version, No

Paid Version, 30-day free trial, $9.99/month.

WHAT YOU GET: Unlimited ad free 64 kbps – 192 kbps with access to 18-20 million songs on desktop and mobile devices.

FEATURES: Streaming of individual songs, albums and playlists on desktop, mobile deviceS, car. Buy and download individual MP3 songs and albums for offline listening. Editorially curated content. Playlists, Radio. and library management. Social media sharing.

SUPPORT: Minimum requirements, iOS 6. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Android depends on device. Blackberry Beta version, Windows 8, Windows Phone 7.5, Sonos, Ford Sync.

Rdio

COST:

Free version, Yes, limited.

Paid Versions $4.99/month, Premium $9.99/month. First family member $8/month and $5/month for additional members.

What you get: Buy DRM-free MP3 format downloads for offline listening. Free version, Unspecified increasingly limited streaming with access to 20 million full length songs, album and playlists on the web for limited number of months. After that you  pay for service or accept ads depending on location. Lower tier paid version: Unlimited web streaming at 192 kbps with no ads on browser or desktop. Premium version, Unlimited web and mobile streaming. Offline listening on mobile.

FEATURES: Playlists, Radio, Sharing with recommendations through Facebook and Twitter.

SUPPORT: Minimum Requirements, Mac OS 10.6, Windows XP, Vista, or 7, Firefox, Internet Explorer 8, Google Chrome, Safari, iOS 5 — iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Android varies with device. Windows Phone 8. BlackBerry Curve 8500, Bold, Tour, Torch, Storm, or Style, and Sonos.

Rara

COST:

Free Version, no.

Paid Version, Basic $4.99/month with introductory offer of $.99/month for the first 3 months. Premium $9.99/month with $1.99/month for the first three months

WHAT YOU GET: Basic version unlimited ad-free music 256 kbit/s streaming access to 22 million songs, albums and playlists. Premium version, unlimited music streaming for web and mobile devices. Includes offline listening.

FEATURES: Radio, Charts, Just for You. Library Support. Playlists and full Library management. Integration with Facebook.

SUPPORT: Minimum requirements, Windows XP SP2, Mac OS 10.4, and HP WebOS. Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 3, Google Chrome 3, and Safari 4, Windows 8, iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets.

Google Music All Access

COSTS

Free Version, Kind of.

Paid Version. All Access $9.99/month with 30 day free trial.

WHAT YOU GET. Free Standard Version allows you to store up to 20,000 songs of personal music collection on Google’s Cloud, stream them on any device and save songs for offline play back and buy music on Google Play. No free access to Google content.

With the All Access version unlimited ad-free listening to catalog of 18 million plus of songs.

FEATURES:
Recommendations, Share through Google Plus Radio by song, artist or album with unlimited skip. Playlists crafted by music experts. SD card support for offline music on KitKat.

SUPPORT: Minimum Requirements. Android depends on device. iOS 6.0 —  Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

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