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Beats Music bets on 'living, breathing' humans

Doug Gross, CNN
Beats Music aims to compete with other Web-streaming services with more human curation of its music lists.
Beats Music aims to compete with other Web-streaming services with more human curation of its music lists.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beats Music is the latest entry in Web music streaming
  • Service is backed by music-industry heavyweights like Iovine, Reznor
  • Service launched Tuesday, will cost $10 per month with no free option

(CNN) -- Is there room for one more music-streaming service on the Web? Some music-industry heavyweights are betting the answer is "yes."

Beats Music, an offshoot of the uber-successful headphone company Beats Electronics, launched on Tuesday with a focus on mobile. It's available for Apple's iPhone and iPods, Android devices and Windows phones. A specialized iPad version is in the works.

It enters a crowded landscape populated with the likes of Pandora and Spotify, Rhapsody and Rdio and numerous other competitors. The difference, according to its creators, will be Beats' human touch.

"No one was doing a music service; everyone was building a music server," Beats Music chief executive Ian Rogers told WIRED, a CNN content partner.

While other streaming platforms will have bigger music catalogues, Beats is banking on its more robust suggestion engine -- or, as a blog post Tuesday said, "bringing you the right song for right now."

Like other music services, Beats will use a computer algorithm to help suggest new music for you based on what you've already listened to. But that system factors in things like gender and age in addition to your current playlist.

It even considers which songs you crank up the volume on, compared to which ones you listen to quietly, and what you play during the work day compared to what you stream at home.

And there's a team of curators and behavioral scientists participating in the process as well. In their blog post, the company plays up their involvement, while taking a shot at competitors.

"In our experience, it's always been a living, breathing human who has brought us that song we fell in love with," the post reads. "We tried to remember a time a robot found us magic, but all we could find were the times the robot made us laugh: 'You like Pantera? Have you heard of Black Sabbath?' 'You like Mumford and Sons? Here's another song with banjos!' "

Beats Music definitely brings some music-industry clout to the Web-streaming wars.

Super-producer Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M who has worked with artists from Bruce Springsteen to Lady Gaga, is chairman of Beats Music and co-founded Beats Electronics with Dr. Dre in 2006.

Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, is the company's chief creative officer.

The company is trying something else that's different for the music-streaming business. Unlike competitors like Spotify and Pandora, Beats Music will not have any free options.

The service will cost $10 a month. (There's currently a special for AT&T customers offering service for up to five people for $15 per month).

Rogers says it's a model Beats is confident about.

"We know people will pay for something where there is value," he told WIRED. "Enough people pay for headphones, it's an exciting business. We think we can do the same thing here."

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