Yesterday news was smuggled out from behind The New Yorker's paywall that Trent Reznor's special project with Beats by Dre is a new streaming music service that will feature a "layer of intelligent curation" that has not previously existed. Reznor's actual comments suggest that he isn't aware of the history or landscape of music curation and discovery. Yet, given that he is Trent Reznor, it's also possible that they really are pushing such services to a new level.
The short version of the story is that Trent Reznor is very excited about this project and feels it's bringing something new into the world. But Reznor's comments also appear to lead to Wes Davenport's conclusion:
The Handful of Sentences That Everyone's Discussing
Alex Wilkinson interviewed Trent Reznor for The New Yorker and the interview itself is currently paywalled. Pitchfork appears to be the most prominent source of Trent Reznor's comments about a new streaming music service from Beats by Dre, currently referred to as "Daisy", that:
"uses mathematics to offer suggestions to the listener... [but also] would present choices based partly on suggestions made by connoisseurs, making it a platform in which the machine and the human would collide more intimately."
"That first wave of music presentation which felt magical, the one where the songs are chosen by algorithms that know who you listened to... has begun to feel synthetic."
Reznor describes how it would be different from Spotify:
"'Here's sixteen million licensed pieces of music,’ they’ve said, but you’re not stumbling into anything. What's missing is a service that adds a layer of intelligent curation."
That layer of "intelligent curation" will be:
"like having your own guy when you go into the record store, who knows what you like but can also point you down some paths you wouldn't necessarily have encountered."
An article in Rolling Stone adds the additional line:
"As great as it is to have all this information bombarding you, there's a real value in trusted filters."
We're Talking About Curation and Discovery
This focus was pointed out in October at a Beats press conference that included the news that Trent Reznor was working with Beats though it was unclear on what he was actually working:
"The company has 'very big plans,' Wood said, for Mog, the streaming service it purchased earlier this year, hinting that it relates to how people consume and discover music...Iovine picked up the thread, saying that most streaming services require consumers to program their music experience themselves -- and he said consumers can't be expected to do that, which would seem to suggest a greater emphasis on music discovery and recommendations, possibly including a radio function."
In addition, an unidentified "source who was not authorized to speak on behalf of Beats told Billboard.biz" that:
"For now, Beats is spending very little to recruit new customers for Mog -- that's because the company plans to eliminate the Mog brand, and competition will heat up in 2013. Beats is planning to roll out an entirely re-branded service that will be tightly integrated with its high-end audio gear sometime next year."
Does Trent Reznor Know What He's Talking About?
Music discovery is a huge topic to the point that we're all getting sick of the term. Human curated discovery on the web includes music bloggers and sites that leverage that curation such as Hype Machine.
Given that Reznor referenced Spotify, the service most noted for weak discovery elements, it raises two possibilities:
Reznor isn't really familiar with the landscape of music streaming services; or,
What Reznor's involved with developing at Beats is really something new and special and it's not his job to pitch it accurately, at least at this stage.
If we assume the worst, then Reznor has gotten sucked into the hubris and bullshit that leads people like Jimmy Iovine to state:
"I'm proud that Beats was able to turn an entire generation onto sound...we are the beginning of fixing sound for an entire generation that was lost to it."
But Reznor seems genuinely taken with the work they're doing. In another interview with Ned Raggett for The Quietus that came out yesterday, Reznor stated:
"the thing with [Dr.] Dre will reveal itself pretty soon, it's not a physical product, it's a platform...it was a real challenge to come up with that. Will it work? It may, it may not. But it's something that's a puzzle for me to solve, in and of itself challenging, and it's utilising some skills I have in an unfamiliar and unsafe half of my safety zone kind of way, and it's been interesting."
What Will the New Service Look Like?
I'm not yet willing to accept that Trent Reznor has become a know-nothing corporate hack. Given that assumption, here's what we might expect from Beats by Dre's music streaming service:
Daisy will appear in 2013 as a music streaming service that is tightly integrated with Beats' headphones and related offerings.
Daisy will be called something else since it's probably a developer's term for the current build of the service and has nothing to do with the actual naming process of the final product.
Daisy will be a rebuild of the software foundations of MOG that includes a much more creative approach to discovery than we've seen to date.
Daisy will offer a higher quality of streaming music in keeping with the brand direction of Beats by Dre and Reznor's own history of offering high quality downloads.
Daisy will be marketed with a celebrity angle and the celebs will provide some of the "intelligent curation."
That's what I think. What do you think?
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.