Although the rumors have been flying for months, it’s now official: last week Beats bought the music streaming service MOG, paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. If you’ve completely swallowed the Apple-flavored Kool-Aid and have taken up residence in Cupertino, allow me to alert you to the fact that Beats is the company behind a headphone revolution; their "B"-branded products — carrying a cool factor perhaps even higher than devices bearing the fruit silhouette — have become the favored replacement for the little white earbuds. While Apple may dictate which phones, tablets and players people use to listen to music, Beats has more or less made the headphone industry.
But as the company's site points out, Beats doesn't "sell headphones, we offer Dr. Dre's genius and Jimmy Iovine's vision." The company was founded on the belief that music needs to be heard on high-quality equipment to move the listener closer to what the musicians and producers intended the music to sound like. The result has been a line of headphones that — say what you will about their signature sound, which some love and some have taken issue with — have caught on like wildfire. Recently, Beats has cut ties with Monster (the company that built their line of breakthrough headphones, and who are undoubtedly bummed about the 5-year limit on that contract), and the company was itself acquired by mobile phone giant HTC. A few new speaker and headphone models have since been rolled out, but the company clearly has bigger fish to fry, with Beats Audio-branded systems appearing in everything from Chrysler cars to HTC phones to HP computers.
Now, how does MOG fit into the Beats play? And will the company maintain its Midas touch?
From a press release by Beats Electronics LLC:
Beats By Dre was born out of a need to restore the emotional connection with music that was lost by the degradation of sound from the digital music revolution, starting with the weakest link in the experience at the time—headphones," said Beats President and COO, Luke Wood. "But it was never about just headphones. We've since expanded the Beats mission to every other link in the music experience chain – speakers, mobile phones, personal computers and automobile sound systems. With MOG, we are adding the best music service to the Beats portfolio for the first truly end-to-end music experience. With their talent and technology, the possibilities around future innovation are endless.
Obviously streaming is poised to take a big chunk of the digital music market. Beats is aiming for a slice of the content pie by throwing its lot in with the streaming services that are challenging iTunes' music purchase model with a music subscription (free with ads) model. A purchased iTunes library is awesome, but if everything is in the cloud and everyone is connected, why own a song when you can listen to any one of 15 million songs, especially if it’s at a higher bit rate than your purchased tunes?
Since Beats stresses high-quality listening, MOG is the service that makes sense. MOG is the only music streaming service that offers their entire library of over 15 million songs at 320 kbps. The catalog is available via iPhone, iPad and Android apps, on computer desktops, the Roku set-top box, LG and Samsung internet-connected TVs, and it’s even part of the Ford Sync system.
We're thrilled to be joining forces with Beats, a company that's committed at the highest level to the experience surrounding music delivery; the fit feels perfectly natural," said MOG CEO, David Hyman. "MOG subscribers can expect continued excellence from the best music service in the market, and we look forward to putting premium music experiences in the hands of millions of music lovers everywhere.
With high-quality headphones, an integral part of devices in the listening chain from computers to phones to car stereos, and high-resolution steaming music, could this possibly be a sign of a return to high fidelity audio? One can only hope…
Leslie Shapiro has been an audio engineer for 25 years, with experience in television, film, and the music industry. She is also a member of NARAS, which gives her the coveted privilege of voting for the Grammy Awards.
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