I am pretty excited to experience Beats1 radio, but I’m also interested to see how this launch impacts the media landscape. As somebody that loves radio, I’m excited about the on-air product and as a media observer, I think Beats1 could provide a platform for reshaping the existing radio paradigm.
At first glance, this may seem like just another internet radio station, the likes of which we have seen Pandora, Live365, and Spotify among a litany of others…however based on the marketing thus far it looks like Beats1 will be an entirely different beast. Being positioned as a global live broadcaster, Beats1 is in the unique position to provide radio with a rebirth and offer listeners a unique experience akin to the early days of FM radio.
In the decades since the rise of the FM dial, radio has become overly programmed, music selected weeks in advance or by computer, and the human element has either been entirely lost, or minimized to simple time and temperature updates. Yet, Apple’s radio offering is the antithesis of this and instead harkens back to the early days of terrestrial radio – allowing the DJ’s to play what they want and what fits the moment – albeit in this case a much larger global moment. Hosted by talented and experienced jocks, Beats1 is promising to be more then just a computer driven playlist, and can prove to be a valuable channel for artists while providing listeners with a compelling experience.
Secondly, it’s that unique experience that will draw listeners in, and in the long-run may spell trouble for both traditional radio outlets, as well as satellite radio. The irony is that Apple will look to beat Satellite radio at their own game: when FM became homogenized due to consolidation in the ‘90s, satellite radio set out to reinvent radio. Without the confines of traditional radio, satellite geared up to offer programming that focused on particular musical niches, or even focused on certain artists. However, as technology and thus options for consumers grew – the economics of business forced XM and Sirius to seek a merger. In that struggle to survive Sirius/XM also had to return to what “worked” for radio and in some sense became simply a modern jukebox without much personality (at least on the music side.)
Further, Apple’s thinking broadly about reaching a global audience and has already announced that they’ll make Apple Music/Beats1 available not only on iOS but on Android as well. Take together, Apple will be armed with a massive global distribution platform of smartphones (that are increasingly easy to connect in the car, which is satellite radio’s sweet spot.) While at launch the focus is on Beats1, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple pick-up where satellite left off and add any number of targeted radio stations in the near future.
The bottom line is this would be a huge win for artists, consumers, and advertisers as all would have an outlet that matched their specific tastes on a global scale. This could truly be a game changer allowing Apple to disrupt yet another industry.