Beats Music: Initial Thoughts


I started a trial with Beats Music today.

I have a subscription with Spotify Premium that I find very satisfying. It isn’t perfect: Sometimes the search box doesn’t function correctly, the mobile app doesn’t distinguish between edited and explicit album versions on an artist’s page, the radio function doesn’t always pick relevant songs, and there are some gaps in the library. However, for the most part, Spotify has been a welcome addition in my life.

I spent the morning with Beats Music checking out some of its features, and trying to recreate my experiences with Spotify. The first thing I did was look for the Sentence function, because that seems to be everybody’s favorite thing. I entered the following sentence: “I’m in bed & feel like dreaming with my pets to electronic.” The playlist started with “A Cherry on Top,” by The Knife, which I found very relevant. It was a good mix overall. However, later, I did a sentence that involved “partying poolside,” and it played “I Am a Pilgrim,” by The Byrds. Weird!

I looked for Lux, by Brian Eno, because Spotify doesn’t have it. Beats Music doesn’t have it, either. That’s okay. They had the other Brian Eno stuff. But when I looked for my favorite album of last year, Harold Budd’s Jane 1-11, an album that I listen to a lot on Spotify, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Beats Music didn’t have it in Harold Budd’s artist page, and they didn’t have it in the general search results when I typed in the album’s name. It’s important to look in both:  When I looked for Mogwai’s new album, Rave Tapes, I couldn’t find it on the artist’s page, but I was able find it in the general search results. Another odd thing about Mogwai’s page was that it listed Rock Action and The Hawk is Howling two times. Beats Music was also missing the albums from Orange Juice, but they had the Coals to Newcastle anthology. Spotify has that anthology, too, but the difference is that Spotify has it organized by discs, where Beats Music has it all lumped together as a big list of songs.

I love to listen to radio based on songs, albums, and artists on Spotify. One of my favorites is to make an album radio from Lindstrøm’s Smalhans. I was unable to find Smalhans on Beats Music. Not only that, but I was unable to find a radio function. That’s because there is no radio function on Beats Music for artists, albums, or songs. I guess I’m supposed to use the Sentence function, but that doesn’t allow as much specificity as I’d like: For example, I enjoy making stations from classical albums on Spotify, but I didn’t see a classical option when I was making sentences on Beats Music. That’s not even specific; that’s a very general genre.

Basically, I didn’t like how I was unable to find so many of my recent favorites on Beats Music. I know that Jane 1-11, Smalhans, and Orange Juice are obscure things, but Beats Music is supposed to be this cool music curator. It’s supposed to be this thing, where Spotify is some dude with a big library, but he isn’t there to help you pick things out; and Beats Music is some guy with a lot of music, who knows a lot about that music, and he will make you some cool mix tapes. But I was like, “Thanks for the mix with The Knife and James Blake, but where are your Orange Juice albums? Why do you have multiple copies of Mogwai’s Rock Action, and why is your copy of Rave Tapes not with the other albums? You need to rethink that pool party mix. Go get a copy of Smalhans.”