SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Sitting side by side in a conference room at Beats Audio headquarters, Jimmy Iovine and Trent Reznor encounter as flip sides of the exact same music-obsessed coin.
Reznor is pensive and quiet where Iovine, 60, is declarative and voluble. But the exact same message is delivered by both: They’ve joined forces because what’s on the market today doesn’t meet their demands to make Beats Music’s streaming support.
“Is this personal? Sure it is,” says Iovine, Beats Music’s founder and chairman, who announced Saturday that his support opens to consumers around Jan. 21. “I have always felt that subscription was the solution. But access to songs alone isn’t sufficient, no matter what they choose to call it. We believe whether a service is great enough, it can be much more rewarding than owning (audio). I would like to be part of the solution for the artist and the small business.”
Reznor, the company’s chief creative officer, says he excitedly dove into a few present streaming music services prior to realizing that his “behavior didn’t change, I was not seduced to it. So we are taking the concept of access and adding to it taste, humankind and context. I look forward to getting stuck in the car so I can discover music. I have not felt that in quite a while.”
Over the course of one hour’s conversation, the two industry veterans hammer out their key convictions: curation is the key to winning the battle for a developing pie of streaming subscribers; Beats is taking a very Apple-like strategy for its business by producing a lifestyle around its brand; and as music guys, they’re bent on making certain Beats Music caters up to artists as its does fans.
Of these three, curation has their juices moving the most. Paid streaming solutions enjoyed a boost seeing a jump that was 32 percent to 118 billion streams, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s yearlong report. However, while providers flood one will be ultimately chosen by consumers, and Beats Music is banking on a touch winning out.
“Sirius XM (satellite radio) has done nicely with curated songs, but Beats Music is a lot deeper for the easy reason that we are on demand, and when we know anything about consumers today, they want things on demand,” says Iovine, who is chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records. “Curation is everything. Accessibility is typical.”
Reznor, no stranger to technology, says that while he respects the electronic wizardry in signs on sites such as Spotify, “to brag about being agnostic and only providing access to audio seems to me, as a civilization individual, as a fail. It is just providing a usefulness breathing life into something”
Much like Reznor, Iovine is a born-and-bred music man; his first big job of note was supporting engineer Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 breakthrough smash, Born to Run. But he’s always kept an ear out for the next new thing, and his encounters with Apple’s Steve Jobs, especially through the launch of iTunes in 2001, had a deep impact on the Beats Audio empire.
“I secured with Steve right away on Bob Dylan and John Lennon, but I saw a man who really knew engineering,” says Iovine. “We were able to watch Apple and get from them what they were really doing, which wasn’t only making a phone, but providing it an emotion, a feel, a lifestyle and also a service. So we said, our cans will do this. And now, so will our audio support.”
While Iovine highlights Beats’ curation feature — which finds dozens of music experts the side has not been left by him to chance. For starters, the headquarters of Beats Music is in San Francisco that is tech-centric. There, CEO Ian Rogers (who formerly led artist-to-fan firm Topspin Media and has been general manager of Yahoo Music) hunkers down using all the two-thirds of the agency’s 140 staffers charged with keeping a seamless user interface.
Reznor’s own involvement with Beats Music is due in no small part to his frustrations with the music business. He vows this new thing will comprise an increasingly dynamic interactivity between musicians and people who follow their work.
“We’re going to offer artists metrics with respect to where their music has been consumed in the ceremony, we will allow musicians to curate their own webpages, and in general provide a favorable place where musicians can make fans aware of T-shirts or concert tickets, and customers can find out more about music and culture,” says Reznor, who in particular is enthusiastic about being able to exhibit his true face to fans.
” to throw stone at Spotify, because I know those men, but on their website, I sit behind an impenetrable wall,” he states. “I’ve got an old bio, old photographs and a discography with some bootlegs. I feel like I’m walking into a mall record shop and my little area has the wrong picture of me along with the catalog stinks”
Iovine adds: “And we are going to be good to artists”
“Yes,” says Reznor, “we’re going to offer transparency in terms of all royalties.”
A general more artist-friendly service may pay dividends for Beats Music, says James McDavid, that focuses on media and video markets in the international analytics company Forrester Research.
“The issue is who possesses the (user) data. Because until today, while artists believed it was good to be listened to, they couldn’t use that advice. Beats could distinguish itself if it lets musicians get closer to fans,” he states. “The larger problem is: Where’s streaming moving? Is it access to editorializing music or songs? Is it for men and women who just want sonic background, or for people for whom music is the life?”
That answer remains elusive and retains Beats Music’s fate.
“Between YouTube and Pandora and each of these services, I do not believe the space can accommodate these players,” says Steve Knopper, author of Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Dramatic Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. “But I wouldn’t rely Jimmy out. If you had told me an old-school label guy would begin Beats headphones and dominate, I would have said ‘no way.’ “
The New guy inside Iovine likes a struggle, and busting into the china shop that is streaming-music to provide his stamp is his style. CEO Rogers recalls a livid telephone call one Saturday from his boss, complaining that “a particular tune on a barbecue-themed playlist had no business being there.”
True enough? Iovine smiles a bit sheepishly.
“Well, it made no sense,” he states. “When there is something I want to concentrate on, I am like a dog with a bone. And with Beats Music, I am on it.”
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