As Beats Music prepares for its big day tomorrow, other services like Spotify and Rdio have been preparing with pre-emptive strikes expanding free listening, a feature Beats Music will not have. Pandora's already free but they've been running a creative commercial campaign, last week added recommendations to ease that awkward paralysis moment" and keep growing by multiple measures though there are some concerns about growth.
Last week both Spotify and Rdio dropped listening limits on their free options which strongly differentiate them from Beats Music. But Pandora has taken a different route.
Ad Campaign: With Oddball Commercials
Beats Music may be planning Superbowl ads but Pandora's already out there with weird ads that make you wonder what you just watched without encouraging new users. Beats is likely to go the celebrity route for that big Superbowl spend but Pandora's already putting out WTF tech ads that hearken back to Superbowl ads from the first internet boom.
They're getting a good response from the ad watcher crowd but honestly they just make me feel uncomfortable.
Pandora Adds Recommendations
Brad Hill describes the paralysis moment" when one suddenly has to decide what to listen to in the face of abundance and going blank. Pandora's finally responding with recommendations
Though he found Pandora's recommendations a bit lacking, it's a key element for any music service that wants to truly engage listeners.
But it will need to get a lot better. Beats Music's I want to hear blank while I'm blanking in the blankety blank" is a smart way to keep that moment of decision from becoming a moment of indecision by turning it into what can easily become a game. Making it feel personal, whether it is or not, is going to become an increasingly important differentiator for competing music services.
Though Pandora does have a premium tier, its focus is on free music and direct competition with radio. As a subscription choose-what-you-wish service, Beats Music is competing more directly with Spotify and Rdio in the minds of listeners who may be getting mixed messages about subscription-focused companies with free offerings.
A lot should play itself out in 2014 but it's hard to to have a sense of where things might actually go with so many players and so many publicly undiscussed psychological factors at work. I mean, what's really going in the minds of listeners?