Startups & Funding

Either Trent Reznor Is Clueless About Streaming Or Beats By Dre Is Taking A Radical Leap Forward

Beats-logoYesterday 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" 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.

MOG itself used human curation in such forms as artist-curated playlists and editorial picks of new albums. And Pandora is built on The Music Genome Project which relies on human analysis of music.

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:

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/ blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I think those are all great expectations, Clyde.
    HTC owns the Beats by Dre brand. It currently integrates Beats into its mobile products. By moving Mog/Daisy under the Beats umbrella, it would make sense to get HTC users hooked on the service. That falls into the “music as a feature” line of thinking.
    Since Samsung took their place as the largest smartphone vendor, HTC has indicated they’re going make more marketing noise. This move is a way of doing that. They’re placing a big emphasis on their smartphones’ features:
    As a Pandora and Spotify user, this announcement doesn’t excite me. And we don’t see any meaningful differentiation from other services beyond our own speculation. But perhaps it’s a part of a broader strategy relating to smartphone sales.

  2. I still don’t see how this is different from Slacker, which already has ‘curated’ music…

  3. This could be interesting. The tight integration with Beats headphones is a bit sketchy but it is true that none of the music services got the discovery right since Apple bought Lala. I remember we were using Lala all the time to stumble upon new stuff. Spotify’s new announcement promises that to change so fingers crossed.
    Looking at Trent’s comments, it seems his heart is at the right place. I’m a huge believer in curation and algorithms working together so this gets me excited. Looking forward to checking it out.
    Anything that introduces a new artist to me makes me smile…

  4. There is no need to start another streaming music service. Everything he claims is missing in the usual suspects are already available via YouTube and sites like You can find millions and millions of songs (and videos). fuhshnizzle already has something called shnizztv that serves recommended and related songs to whatever you are listening to and lets you have direct input in what you get to hear.
    Also, he will still run into the whole royalty issue that is killing Pandora and Spotify. YouTube already cut a great deal with the music industry and sites utilizing its API get the benefit – artists get paid, copyright infringers can get reported and the sites have a fighting chance to provide great product without need to push, push, push upsells.

  5. This sounds like the musical equivalent of grocery store self-checkout. If you want intelligent curation, tune into one of the many well-curated non-comm radio stations.

  6. Daisy was the name of Trent Reznor’s dog in the late 90’s that fell off the roof top of a building.

  7. Many well-curated non-comm radio stations??? Not where I live. Not even one.
    MOG’s biggest flaw was that it made recommendations based on everything you listened to, even if you hated it and only listened to it once. There was no way to vote against a band or genre, only for it. This results in endless crap recommendations for music you could care less about. That’s really all that needs to be fixed.
    The Beats brand is synonymous with low-grade goods sold at premium prices to an undereducated market by peer pressure marketing. I have a very bad feeling about this.

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