The crowded streaming music service market that includes Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, iTunes Radio and others can add Beats Music among the available options to consumers. After pre-launch marketing that included the 49ers Colin Kaepernick and the infamous Richard Sherman, timing could not have been better for the Tuesday launch of the new service. Beats Music hopes they can wedge themselves in between the other services by being different. For one, there is no ad-supported version of Beats Music. It’s a pay to play service, priced at $9.99, which is in line with the others. A partnership with AT&T lets their customers sign up for a discounted family plan, which costs $15 per month. AT&T customers can also take advantage of a rather lengthy 90-day free trial of the service, while others are left with 7 days to see if the service meets their needs. Beats Music doesn’t claim to have the library offered by other giants, instead pitching customers on being able to carefully curate and optmize their listening experience. I’ve been testing the service since earlier today and he are my first impressions.
Out of the gate, Beats Music has apps available on all major platforms and I include Sonos among them. iPhone, iPad, Android apps are available today from their respective stores and even Windows Phone will get some love later this week. Having apps developed and released at the start of a new service provides a bit of comfort that you’ll be able to enjoy your subscription on pretty much any device, save for a BlackBerry or Palm Pre.
The sign-up process seemed simple enough if you are an individual user. As an AT&T customer, I was offered a free 90-day family plan trial, with a reoccurring $15 charged thereafter. The plan can be cancelled at any time. Family plans offer support of up to 5 devices. If a family makes use of the service, the pricing seems fair, if not very good. The two companies have had months to prepare for the launch, so I found it disappointing that the sign-up process for their heavily promoted family plan was so convoluted. When a second family member signs up through Beats Music, the app is supposed to immediately recognize this person as a family member. That wasn’t my experience, leaving me to wonder if AT&T will charge me twice upon the expiration of my trial. The Beats app incorrectly shows both accounts as being on 7-day trials. For a service predacated on providing a better exprience, this wasn’t reflected during the intitial sign-up phase.
Finding The Right Stuff For You
The first time you login to Beats Music, you go through a short quiz, all part of building your ideal music service. “Tell us what music you’re into and we’ll find stuff that’s right for you.” A group of circular music genres showcase the available options. Tap twice to add a genre that you love. Tap and hold for those you hate, which is an interestly choice of words. Sounds easy enough, but as an old dude, I was unable to find 80’s Hair Metal among the choices. I settled for Metal and Jazz, the latter of which I enjoy while entertaining friends.
Next up, you have to choose artists. This too presented problems, with much of the metal choices being current bands. While I like jazz, I don’t many artist names. At any point, you can ask for new artists to be added and eventually I had Judas Priest, Queensryche and Dio as my favorites. These aren’t my absolute favorite bands, but good enough to the process started.
Beats immediately offered up the ‘Intro To Ronnie James Dio’ playlist, created by the Rock team. A quick check of the playlist and I certainly approved, including some excellent tracks from Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Dio’s solo effort. These ‘Intro To..” lists are available for all major artists and are basically the best of an artist. If you are looking for music beyond ‘greatest hits’, Beats Music offers ‘Deep Cuts’ playlists. As a fan of Motley Crüe, the deep cuts playlist seemed to be on point. Of course, your mileage may vary.
As you find lists, you can subscribe to a playlist. From the main menu, the app will show you playlists created by you and ‘My Subscriptions’. I found it easy to add lists, which were mostly artists. I see these as a great way to curate your own playlists, as they offer up the best from a particular artist. Need a great metal playist. You can easily make your way through the Intro to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dio lists.
You don’t need to be connected to listen to your music. There is an option to ‘Make Song Available Offline’. You can do this at a song level or by an entire playlist.
I’m an avid user of Songza and the ‘Sentence’ feature seems inspired by that service, although the choices seem a bit sparse. You can be ‘On a boat’, but not ‘At home’ and the choices are limited to seven genres. The addition of this feature seems like an afterthought and doesn’t come close to the vast array of well-themed options of Songza. Thankfully, the Activities section also ‘borrows’ from Songza and does a much better job than ‘The Sentence’.
Another feature is ‘Highlights’, which aims to provide music handpicked by experts in music. This section did little in the way of understanding my interest in music and providing me with some great options. Lordes and Talking Heads should not be part of any app that is offering me a personalized music experience.
One of the bigger issues I have with the app is the placement of music discovery features. When you select ‘Home’, the ‘Just for you’ selection was fantastic. Both ‘The Sentence’ and ‘Highlight’ were sandwiched between the other highly useful section aptly titled ‘Find It’. From here you can do just that, browse genres, lists based on activities (hello Songza) and curators.
Having used a number of services, I’m admittedly excited about Beats Music. As a completely new service, you can expect some bumps out of the gate. The sign up process is awful, especially for those taking advantage of the family plan with AT&T and the app has crashed on more than one occasion during my testing. Whether you find the available tracks to your liking is highly dependant upon your favorite artists. My personal experience has been good thus far. Over time, the service will mature and the app will likely improve.
Beats Music is certainly worth a trial and for those with AT&T, it’s a must-have considering the lengthy 90-day trial period. Once you get by the bumps, there’s plent of good to Beats.