Are playlist recommendations the next battleground? Spotify and Beats Music bust out some moves

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Shots have been fired today as Beats Music launches in America – and Spotify look to sensors to provide the playlists of the future.

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Beats Music – yes, the same Beats as the stupid expensive headphones ‘invented’ by De Dre – is essentially Spotify – with some added bells and whistles. Setup in a similar way – with access to a large catalogue of music for a monthly subscription – the selling point and key differentiator from its more established rival is that it does recommendations better.

The service, which will presumably launch over here at some point, claims to give you music suitable for what you’re doing – so using your phone to figure out your location and mood, and then playing a suitable song. We just hope this isn’t as literal as going to a funeral and having to deal with “Angels” by Robbie Williams when you enter the church. Though it would be kinda funny if it figured out you were driving towards Amarillo…

The other boast is that the service also majors in human-created playlists, boasting the following line-up of talent overseen by Julie Pilat, who apparently is a veteran radio programming. Because let’s face it – if there’s one thing you associate with the commercial radio it’s, umm, interesting and novel choices of music.

Other people in the ‘curation team’ include:

  • Former Pitchfork Media editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoef
  • Former digital content director at XXL Carl Chery
  • Veteran Detroit radio music director Suzy Cole
  • Recording Academy music blogger Arjan Writes
  • Former Rhino Records A&R Director Mason Williams
  • Los Angeles hip-hop radio personality Fuzzy Fantabulous
  • Country music writer Ken Tucker
  • Former Programmer of L.A.’s hugely successful Latino 96.3, Jerry Pull├ęs

And if you can’t trust the tastes of a man called Fuzzy Fantabulous, who can you trust?

What’s particularly interesting about this is that it comes on the same day that it has been revealed that Spotify are looking at similar technology, to recommend tracks based on what you’re doing. The website Geek.com reckon this could mean using your phone to figure out when you’re going for a run to play fast music, and intriguingly using fitness sensors, like the Nike+ or Fitbit to pick a song with a beat that will match your heartrate.

Personally, I’m disappointed with neither company taking up the idea I sent them to have the apps randomly shout “BOO!” really loudly at random intervals, to try to scare anyone listening whilst doing something delicate, like tightrope walking or keyhole surgery.

So could this be the next battleground? Once all of the music services have an essentially similarly library – could ti be all about who has the best recommendations?

James O’Malley