Beats Music is entering a crowded field of competitors who have been hard at work building a customer base. So far Beats Music doesn't sound that different than what's on offer. Human-curated playlists, additional help from computers, 20 million songs, Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor. Note that the only clear difference that pops out from that list is the celebrity aspect. That's just one reminder that the power of marketing will be Beats Music's biggest differentiator in attracting customers. And with Beats set to launch January 21, that means it's time for a massive marketing campaign.
Despite Jimmy Iovine's barnstorming media tour last year in which he claimed over and over again to a mostly credulous press that Beats Music would be the first streaming music service to add human curation to the mix, Beats Music hasn't said anything to make anybody that knows anything about these services think it's really going to be all that different.
[Update: Prior to this point I was unconvinced that Beats Music was noticably different than other music services based on what Beats Music had said to the public. I heard no convincing arguments to counter that perception. Ian Rogers just shared a tweet with me by someone who's actually used the new product. The guy really liked those playlists. I'm sure lots of people will say it's amazing after they use it. I've heard such things said about other services as well. Lots of tweets to that effect. We'll see.]
Something More Is Needed To Reach The Mainstream
Beats Music is faced with the fact that they can't succeed by taking customers from other services. They can only succeed if they bring in customers who are new to music streaming services without losing them to other services. They have to reach the masses.
Behind the scenes Beats Music has been preparing for the general public though we've only gotten occasional glimpses. For example, music curators are told to avoid elitist maneuvers. When Beats launches it will be available on iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices rather than launching, for example, with an iOS app and building from there.
Saturday's official announcement that Beats Music is launching January 21 indicates that they may well have some great playlists and some interesting ways to personalize music choices.
For the sake of discussion, let's assume it will be a great product drawing from the best examples we've seen to date. But the best product doesn't always win in the mass market and good enough is often just that for most consumers. Something more is needed.
Beats says they will be:
"paying the same royalty rate to all content owners major and indie alike, while simultaneously providing a platform for fan interaction."
This may address much of the negativity being expressed by some artists regarding streaming music inasmuch as it will be addressed. But despite positive responses to Spotify's artist services, it's not like musicians have suddenly become unofficial brand sponsors. And they won't. Musicians will take multiple stances many of which will be unreasonable, just like all humans. Something more is needed.
That something more is a major marketing campaign.
Marketing Spotify Like A Major Label Artist
Beats Music is run by people from the hits business. When major label artists are marketed with the full support of their label, their presence is felt widely and one gets the feeling that they are everywhere at once.
Beats Music has begun such a campaign in preparation for their launch. Here are some of the details to date:
Internal Celebrity Appeal: Iovine, Dre, Reznor
Beats Music has a huge amount of star power on which to draw within their own organization including Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor. However other celebrities are deployed, we'll be seeing a wide range of articles based on access to these figures.
The NY Times piece, "Algorithm for Your Personal Rhythm," appearing both online and in print, is just the beginning. Expect much more access and heart warming photos of the Beats Music crew.
External Celebrity Appeal: Bono, #Claimyourname
The Times piece also includes a supportive email from Bono. There are a lot of favors to be called in and new debts to be created. We'll see a lot of supportive comments in the media as well as paid endorsements in coming days.
The claim your name on Beats Music campaign that began in December is also featuring celebrities, primarily musicians, in a series of YouTube videos.
Beats Hardware Tie-ins: Beats By Dre
Beats Electronics, building on Beats by Dre, has become a successful consumer brand beyond just the headphones. This brand will obviously be leveraged in a variety of ways.
Crosspromotions: AT&T and Target
Target, which already carries Beats hardware, will be the "exclusive retail partner to curate playlists" and the "only place to purchase prepaid Beats Music gift cards."
TV Advertising: Ellen DeGeneres, Super Bowl, Grammys?
Ben Sisario reports in The NY Times, aka "not a rumor," that the:
"marketing campaign will include...regular plugs on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' and even a Super Bowl ad — a blitz not seen in digital music since the days of Apple's dancing-silhouette iTunes commercials."
Peter Kafka reports that the Ellen promotions will begin "later this spring."
Additional details are still at the level of sources and rumors. According to the New York Post, the Super Bowl ads will feature new artists and there will be other major ad buys as well.
Some web discussion suggests that since Beats is launching January 21 and the Grammys follow on January 26 that there may well be a tie-in. However there's no such reports to date and, who knows, they might pull some guerilla moves on this one.
I saw my first Beats Music Facebook ad over the weekend. These may have already been running given that it focuses on the grab your name on Beats campaign that began back in December. But it is the first straight up Beats advertisement I've seen to date.
Technically this current phase of advertising Beats began at least as far back as December when the #Claimyourname campaign began. In addition to YouTube videos like that shown above, the campaign was extended across social media with the #Claimyourname hashtag.
This is what I have so far but it clearly indicates that a major label artist-style marketing campaign is underway with a seemingly endless array of promotional efforts.
Growing The Pie
In the process of all this promotion, Beats Music will be doing a lot of education regarding streaming music services. While this process should create an advantage in that many will associate Beats Music with streaming music, it will also create an awareness that may then lead to interest in other services.
The pie will grow but how big a piece will Beats Music get?
- Beats Music Freelancers Reveal Secrets of Playlist Curation
- How Can Jimmy Iovine Misrepresent Music Curation Without Undermining Music By Beats?
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is building a writing hub at Flux Research. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.