“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Ian Rogers, CEO of Beats Music. Photo courtesy of Beats Music.
Ian Rogers, in his black hoodie and skate shoes, looks more like a college grad student than the chief executive officer of Beats Music, a position he assumed almost exactly a year ago.
Despite his youthful appearance, Rogers is a veteran traveler of the intersection between music and technology. In 1993, Beastie Boys manager John Silva hired Rogers to build websites for his artists for $8.50 an hour. The next year, Rogers was invited to give a demonstration of the Internet to the Beastie Boys themselves. They were so impresssed, the band asked Rogers to tour with them.
Rogers went on to head up Yahoo’s $140 million music service as its vice president and general manager between 2003 and 2008. This gave him a taste of the challenges of building a subscription music service, one that ultimately folded because of high costs, a dearth of compatible playback devices and high bandwidth costs.
Today, data costs are much lower and smart phones have become universal platforms, giving music services access to hundreds of millions of potential listeners. Though licensing is still not cheap, they have become easier to obtain and the terms have become more flexible, giving Beats Music a chance of success that never was possible just a few short years ago with Yahoo Music.
We caught up with Rogers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week to discuss the music service he built with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, and Julie Pilat, the former head of content at Clear Channel Communications.
Billboard: Give us one example of how Beats Music is different.
Ian Rogers: The first thing you’ll notice when you’re in the service is catalog cleanliness. We don’t present music as a database list. We treat it as discographies, as artists’ careers and as ways to tell the story of the artist. We’re presenting their work several different ways — in chronological order so you can see the progression of their work, we have selected tracks for our Essentials lists and we’ve disambiguated versions of the same song, so that the listener isn’t given 10 versions of the same recording. It’s also a mobile-first app, not a Web app that’s been crammed into a mobile interface.
There’s been a lot of emphasis lately on having people, rather than mathematical algorithms, serve up recommendations for what people should listen to next. How’s your approach any different?
We think humans know better than robots about what should come next. Broadcast radio programmers have been doing this for years. Their programming is excellent, but narrow. We wanted to bring that sensibility to our service, but open it up more broadly. Behind every single one of our recommendations is someone who truly loves the album that’s being recommended. They are like the endcaps at Amoeba Records with the staff picks. We also have handpicked playlists, and a staff of about 30 curators who are each adding between three and five new playlists a week.
Initial estimates had Beats Music launching in the summer of 2013, then fall of 2013. Now, it’s Jan. 21. What accounted for the delays?
I started on Jan. 5 of last year. That’s almost exactly a year ago. It’s been 12 months of non-stop product design and building. Yes, much of the thinking about the design had been done then. We also had the technology we had purchased from Mog [in July 2012]. But the actual building and assembly of the product didn’t begin until a year
Beats Music has many parents, it seems. Who’s been doing what? What has Trent’s role been?
Trent is a Renaissance man. Most people know him as an artist. But he’s also a very talented designer. He led the product design and the user interface. Jimmy [Iovine] and Julie [Pilat] worked on the curation aspects. Jimmy’s very hands on. He once called me to point out that there was something wrong with our summer barbeque playlist. Both he and Julie have keen ears and impeccable tastes, which you’ll see reflected in the service.
U2 and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes took home the music awards at the 71st annual Golden Globes Sunday night, while HBO’s film on Liberace continued to add trophies to its mantle.
U2′s “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” received the Best Original Song trophy, besting recordings from Coldplay, Taylor Swift and others. The band had won once before, in 2003 for “The Hands That Built America,” from Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs Of New York.
U2 guitarist The Edge said the band started working for Nelson Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement when they were teenagers in the late 1970s. “It has taken 35 years to write this song,” he said.
“This really is personal, very very personal,” Bono added during the acceptance speech. “This man turned our life upside down, right side up. A man who refused to hate but he thought love would do a better job. We wrote a love song because its kind of what’s extraordinary about the film. It’s a dysfunctional love story.”
The group also gave shout-outs to Coldplay’s Chris Martin and new manager Guy Oseary. In Novembernews broke that Guy Oseary and longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness had made $30 million deal to merge their management companies under Live Nation.
A report in November had U2 readying a new album for tentative release in Apil and was reportedly shopping for brand partners to announce the new project via a Super Bowl commercial. Producer Danger Mouse has been helming the set.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ Ebert was honored with Best Original Score Globe for his work on J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost,” the one-man film starring Robert Redford. Caught off-guard when his name was called – he had a little bit of goofy banter with presenter Sean Combs – and eventually thanked the director.
“J.C.,” he said, ” thank you for having the faith to see what I had done before and thought that I could do this. Even the most deft pen is a clumsy tool and yet we still try for magic. Thanks for letting me try all over your movie.”
Like U2, he also singled out his manager, Brian Ling.
HBO’s ” Behind the Candelabra,” which won 11 Emmys, was named best TV Movie or Mini-series and its star, Michael Douglas, was named Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie.
Other winners from the music world included Jared Leto, who concentrated on his band 30 Seconds From Mars and took a six year break from acting, won the supporting actor award for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Spike Jonze, famous for shooting videos for Bjork, Beastie Boys, R.E.M. and others, won the screenplay award for “Her.”
The two-door sport utility coupe is powered by their e-tron quattro technology that helps the car achieve a very efficient 123 mpg while keeping its sportier performance characteristics. The plug-in hybrid system combines a 2.0 TFSI and two electric motors that delivers 408 total horsepower and can get it from 0-62 in 4.6 seconds and will hit a top speed of 155 mph.
The latest version of the American sports car features new aero bits such as a deeply vented hood and large rear spoiler as well as additional cooling vents, resulting in an overall aggressive look. Though no official info is available at this time, it is rumored that that car will be powered by well over 600 horsepower. The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will officially debut at the Detroit Auto Show next week.
Robin Williams recently lent his voice to a new spot for the Apple iPad Air, well sort of. To promote the new iPad as a means to a creative end, the commercial borrows William’s speech from his role in Peter Weir’s 1989 film Dead Poet’s Society. William’s plays a teacher who inspires rigid academy students with his unorthodox teaching methods and passion for poetry. Williams ends the commercial with his oft-quoted line from the film: ”The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.