A long-hinted rival to Spotify and other music streaming providers will launch next month. Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers announced the service's January 2014 U.S. start date in a blog post. Potential subscribers can reserve their usernames now over at BeatsMusic.com.
Beats Music comes to you through Beats Electronics, the headphones venture founded by Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine. In January, Beats named Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor as chief creative officer of its music-streaming service, code named Daisy. Reznor first confirmed working with the Beats crew in October 2012. In a New Yorker interview that December, he said the service would differ from existing streaming providers by adding "intelligent curation."
Beats Music bought another streaming service, Mog, in summer 2012, and named Rogers as its head when he joined in January. The story of how Rogers got into the music business is the stuff of record-geek dreams: A fansite he made for the Beastie Boys earned him a call from the group's manager in 1993 — and instead of getting a shutdown notice, Rogers eventually wound up as president of new media for Beasties imprint Grand Royal. (The now-Beats Music boss shared tracks from the Beasties and Reznor's How to Destroy Angels via a phone hotline this past February.)
As Beats has gradually pushed back its streaming service's launch, other rivals have made their way into the space. iTunes Radio from Apple, which at one point was reportedly in talks with Beats, rolled out in September. Google Play Music All Access arrived in May. Google's own YouTube could soon follow with a paid subscription service of its own.
And streaming music's old guard (relatively speaking, of course) is in the midst of a long and complicated debate over royalty payments. Spotify, after criticism, revealed earlier this week it pays rights holders between 0.6 cents and 0.84 cents per song stream. Pandora recently shifted gears in its efforts to lower its legally mandated royalty rates. How much Beats Music will pay out isn't yet clear.
Still, Beats has some heavy hitters in its corner — and not just Reznor, Dre, Iovine, and, at least implicitly, the Beastie Boys. In March, the company revealed it had received a $60 million investment for the streaming service. Leading the investors was Access Industries, owner of Warner Music Group. And the reserve-your-username idea faintly but distinctly brings to mind the excitement of Google's 2004 Gmail rollout, when the service was always in "beta" and invites were limited.
Rogers, explaining the delay in his blog post, included a 1979 video of Orson Welles. "It took Beethoven four years to write that symphony," the great actor and director says. "Some things can't be rushed." Might not want to waste too much time thinking up your username, though.