Over the past year, i've been focusing a lot of my personal time into learning about the many different online streaming services. Working in the music industry, and specifically working for musicians, it's important to understand that "record sales" have become less than a priority in 2014. Although sales are still important, most listeners are getting their music from streaming services rather than paying to download copies, or buy an album. Streaming services are not going to become the new bread & butter for artists (I'll do another blog post in the future breaking down payment structures for musicians from each different service), but today's post focuses on usability for the consumer, which in my opinion is the deciding factor in which service most users prefer.
As the clock struck midnight pacific time on January 20th, the worlds newest music streaming service took its first daring steps into the world. The love child of Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor, and Dr. Dre, BeatsMusic is just another in the exponentially growing field of online music streaming services. It's been a few months since it's release, giving the team time to knock all the little bugs out, but despite their efforts, I'm still not a huge fan of Beats Music, and here's why.
Beats Music seems much more focused around the idea of "social listening" in comparison to most of the other streaming services. Although Spotify, Rdio, and last.fm all have the ability to interface and connect with other users both in the app itself as well as through Facebook and Twitter, Beats Music focuses the user experience around the user's own personal "profile" within the app. Loading directly to recommended releases, playlists, etc. page, the app seems to cater more to those who spend time giving the app the most information possible.
Each user has the ability to "follow" friends and artists alike, however after using both the web UI and the mobile UI, I can't seem to find how a user is able to track or interact with their list of "friends". The app features a "just for you" page at the front of the home screens, but it looks like it's populated by the artists and genres you liked only during the introductory "set up" screens, rather than any of the bands or friends you've "followed". This may update as more activity begins to happen, but for now I am sorely missing the Spotify feature that tells me what my friends are currently listening to. On Beats Music, you can only find friend's playlists they've created, not even a "recently played" list.
I can't quite wrap my head around what exactly happens when you follow an artist or friend, and I'm not sure I see the benefit of "liking" songs or artists, since it doesn't populate any kind of playlist of "liked albums/songs" - the data doesn't seem to publish anywhere. The website says that the liking feature helps it's "music curators" better dictate what it recommends to you, but I haven't seen any real "recommendations" anywhere on my account. The closest thing I've seen was my "just for you" featuring specific playlists rather than introducing any new music to me, my "just for you" page has been offering up "best of" playlists from bands I've already liked. This feels pointlessly cyclic: if Ive already taken the time to recognize that I like a band, the chances of me already being familiar with their discography is higher than average.
I'm curious what the public consensus will be over the course of the next few months as this epic battle of streaming services continues, but in terms of sensibility and UI, I think I'll be staying a faithful Spotify user.
Have you tried any of these streaming services? What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!