Beats Music launches today, offering a new twist on the digital music subscription. Part of the idea behind Beats Music, as originally envisioned by Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor, Dr. Dre, Ian Rogers, and Luke Wood, is to offer a combination of handmade playlists and recommendation algorithms to make it easier for music fans to just start some music playing already, and have it be good — sort of like the FM radio days, but with the added flexibility and personalization of an on-demand music service.
Beats Music launched on Tuesday in the United States with a one-week free trial (this increases to a month if you buy something at Target, or 90 days if you subscribe to AT&T Wireless), after which it costs $10 per month, with no free ongoing option. So, should you take the plunge?
First, meet the folks who will be picking the music for these playlists, out of the 20-million-or-so songs that are available to on-demand services. Here they are, in order of announcement:
The editor-in-chief of the influential music reviews site Pitchfork from 2004 until 2011, Plagenhoef joined Beats Music about a year and a half ago.
Plagenhoef is the global or U.S. head of programming and editorial, which we take to mean that he (along with 20-year Clear Channel veteran Julie Pilat) oversees Beats Music’ team of playlist makers, and the process of grabbing playlists from Beats Music’s partners.
Having joined Beats Music in October 2012, former BET Digital executive editor and Harris Publications digital content director (at XXL) Carl Chery heads up the Hip-Hop and R&B playlists at Beats Music.
He’s not the only person whose playlists appear there as being from Beats Hip-Hop; Adam Fleischer mentions that he also built some of the hip-hop playlists in advance of the launch, and Fuzzy Fantabulous (below) is also involved.
“Veteran Detroit radio music director” Suzy Cole is the head of Rock and Alternative programming at Beats Music.
She joined Beats Music in November 2012, having previously been involved with choosing music for five FM stations in the Detroit area.
(Like some of the others mentioned here, she appears to have two foci, Rock and Alternative — or does she? Rock kind of is an alternative now.)
Heading up the Pop and Dance programming is Arjan Timmermans (a.k.a. “Arjan Writes”), a community blogger for the Recording Academy (the ones who put on the Grammy Awards), who also posts pop and dance reviews on his own blog.
Timmermans joined Beats Music in December 2012.
For 12 years, Williams (no photo) was the director of A&R (the people who find the bands to sign) for Rhino Records, a division of Warner Music Group. He joined Beats Music in November 2012; although his official title does not include a genre, we’ve seen him listed as “the head of catalog programming” (i.e. oldies, on which Rhino mostly focuses).
We’re thinking he’ll also have some input on the metal/hard rock playlists though:
“Metal fans, and I include myself in that, are one of the last groups of collectors,” Williams told TG Daily a few years ago, discussing the vinyl resurgence. “I grew up in the ’80s and was a huge Metallica fan. I was always looking for things like the Jump in the Fire picture disc. I think that’s what got me into the whole collectible aspect of it… Metallica helped keep metal a collectible format.”
Helping out Chery, we assume, will be Fuzzy Fantabulous (a.k.a. “Fuzzy West”), the awesomely-named “Los Angeles hip-hop radio personality” of Power 106.
So far as we can tell, Beats Music doesn’t include interstitial audio announcements the way FM radio does, so Fuzzy will likely be working on programming the hop-hop music he specialized in on the air.
Last year, Chuck D appeared on Fuzzy’s last day at Power 106, in March 2013, to talk about Beats Electronics and his then-new venture, Beats Music, which had apparently already been in the works for “a couple of years.”
Beats Music’s expert on Country and Christian music is Ken Tucker, the country music writer. Tucker joined Beats approximately two years ago, according to LinkedIn.
He’s also an adjunct processor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennesee, and used to edit Country Weekly and Billboard Country Update, following a long stint with Warner Bros. as director of promotions.
Former programmer of Latino 96.3 in Los Angeles and voiceover professional Jerry Pullés is building the Latin playlists on Beats Music.
We’re not seeing much more about him online, but he does have a Tumblr.
Finally, Beats Music is pulling in playlists from third parties. Spotify has done this with its apps for a while now, and Rdio has some high-profile third-party users, but from what we can tell so far, Beats Music integrates the third-party stuff more tightly into its apps. Appearing alongside playlists from the above music experts are playlists from its exclusive retail partner Target (the exclusive retailer for Beats Music gift cards), as well as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, DJ Mag, Country Weekly, Hot97/Power 106, and others.
Overall, the people on this list have plenty of traditional music business experience — particularly as FM personalities and/or programmers — and they’ve been building playlists for Beats Music’s launch for 1-2 years each.
That’s plenty of runway, but, of course, the world of music never stops changing. In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, these folks will have the (enviable) job of trying to stay on top of all of the new releases and shifts in popularity in a way that they did not when they were only playing one song at a time on the radio. Will anyone still listen to Lady Gaga in three years? If not, these folks will need to respond (Beats Music also employs music recommendation algorithms, so maybe that’s where those come in).
Beats Music launched today; you can try it yourself here.