Why this music junkie won’t be subscribing to Beats

Word cloud from Apple's press release on Beats acquisition. Larger words are more frequent.

Word cloud from Apple’s press release on Beats acquisition. Larger words are more frequent.

I’m a streaming music junkie. I’ve subscribed to Rdio, Spotify and Slacker to rein in my tendency to hoard (and then not back up) music.  Putting a tenner on monthly subscriptions for an all-you-can-listen auditory buffet model appealed to me more than an album-binging approach, too.

Still, the Apple and Beats acquisition rumors (now fact) struck me as tone deaf – what does Beats bring that the other services don’t? So I decided to take the Beats app on my iPhone for good long spin.

Just to find a list of Radiohead albums takes too many taps.

Just to find a list of Radiohead albums takes too many taps.

After a week or so with the app, I’m still puzzled. For starters, the interface looks like a jumbled display at a used record store. Rdio was easy to figure out from the get go, and Spotify only took a little re-learning to find what I wanted. Beats Music, for me, takes more effort to find stuff than the other services.

There’s nothing here at first glance that the other services don’t already either do better – or at least as well. Let’s hope Apple isn’t banking on paying off the $3 billion acquisition price with the Beats Music subscription service alone. As we’ve seen time after time, walking into a crowded space to take over isn’t easy.

Celebrate, Cook, or Break up with Beats awesome curated playlists.

Celebrate, Cook, or Break up with Beats awesome curated playlists.

Beats Music does have one killer feature: human curation. The playlists are just sick good, created by people who know what they’re doing. There are playlists build around genres like Alternative, Americana, Classic Country, Opera, Hip-Hop, Family, Indie and many more, each one digging down farther into the genre than you’d guess. Better yet, there are a ton of activity-based playlists, so you can get your groove on while you BBQ, Chill Out, Get It On or Break Up.

For pure random discovery, there’s also The Sentence, a pre-built set of statements that you can roll together. Hear this: there’s nothing like “I’m fashionably late and feel like making bad choices with your mom to Hip-Hop” to generate a bunch of songs you probably haven’t heard before.

Despite these solid music discovery features, though, Beats has a tough climb ahead. Why Apple shelled out the weight of the entire continent in jukebox quarters for this purchase is still beyond me.

Beats headphones have had a huge cultural impact, regardless of their audio quality,  Iovine and Dr. Dre are both intelligent dudes with serious music business cred.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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