In short, Beats Music has done in about a week what all of the other streaming music services have failed to do over the years: it’s made listening to and discovering new music fun for me. I’ve discovered all sorts of new artists, I’ve actually gotten excited about finding and trying new playlists, and I’m listening to new music that I love on a daily and even an hourly basis.
What I can say about the music recommendations in Beats Music: A+. This gave me more good me music in one day than Pandora Radio ever has and is better than iTunes Radio. I spent time tagging the songs as they were played based on like and dislike, and I received a lot of music I didn't know or was vaguely familiar with that I really dug. It really honed in my tastes and instinctively knew what to offer me.
Jimmy Iovine hit on one of the reasons why this is happening in an interview over the past week. He was saying that Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and the rest are primarily driven by programming code and software engineers creating the product, ideas and experience. Beats Music is driven first by music experience and listening experience, then by finding a way to code up how to make that happen. Musicians and people who have worked in the music industry were at the top of the food chain, and created a culture of music first, code second. Other services were more Silicon Valley and software-oriented in their aesthetic and approached their task as such.
My favorite go to area in the Beats Music app is called The Sentence. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a fill in the blank sentence that reads “I’m _______ & feel like _______ with _______ to _______. You can select from 21 choices under each blank part of the sentence. Although some of the choices are always present (I’m at work, at home, at the gym, with friends) some get rotated in and out based on current topics and trends, like the Grammys, the Superbowl or the freezing weather.
What ends up happening is that The Sentence provides enough variation for an open-ended playlist that you can go to on the fly based on your location, mood,company and genre preference at any given time that it always fits your context. What’s more, the recommendations are fantastic. Lots of music you already love, lots of music you’ve never heard or have heard in passing by name, but haven’t found time to dig into.
It’s seems simplistic on paper (or ones and zeroes) but in use it’s the kind of spontaneity that’s been missing from streaming music services so far. Sure, you can also listen to albums and individual songs on the fly, but the curation approach is setting Beats Music apart from the others.
Another great part of Beats Music is the curated playlists. Some are bland but there’s enough good ones to make me go back for more. Some don’t even fit my personal liking, but there’s enough curated playlists based on genre, activity or curators that there’s always something new to try. The humanistic approach to Beats Music is its secret sauce -- it works better than Spotify and Rdio as a user experience and a listener experience. And iTunes and iTunes Radio, for as long as they’ve had to work on it, still feels like a piece of software. Beats Music feels like a music companion, a group of people looking out for new music for me to listen to.
I’ve tried all of the streaming music services and it’s funny that Beats Music as the last one to enter the game turns out to be the best one so far.
UPDATE: They lay out the Beats Music proposition in their video below, and for what it's worth, is a second opinion: