Beats Music isn't interested in freeloading listeners, CEO says

The new subscription-music service lacks an ad-backed, free version. Its chief executive says he fundamentally disagrees with anyone who wants the option.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Ian C. Rogers/Beats/fistfulayen.com

Beats Music, the streaming-music service launched earlier Tuesday, doesn't have a free ad-based option, and the company isn't interested in the kind of listener who wants it.

Beats Music CEO Ian C. Rogers said in a blog post that anyone who is willing to pay about $1,000 a year on a cable subscription but balks at paying $100 a year on "a great music service" is somebody whose view of the world differs fundamentally from his own.

Rogers wrote:

If music, and a service that brings you great music experiences and playlists from everyone from Pitchfork to Downbeat to Mojo to Thrasher isn't worth $100/year to you I'm afraid we don't have much in common. Or put more specifically, if you are OK with the playlist below being interrupted by a loud insurance ad, music doesn't define the moments of your life the same way it does mine.

The comment was followed by a screenshot of a Beats Music playlist.

Beats Music is available for free for anybody with 7-day trial but afterward requires a $9.99-a-month subscription after that. It also offers a yearly subscription for about $120.

He said the lack of a free, ad-backed version was a "thoughtful and conscious decision," and he acknowledged its omission has been the biggest criticism the fledgling service has received in recent weeks leading up to its rollout.

AT&T customers can access unlimited song streaming and downloads for individuals across three devices for $10 a month, too, or for up to five family members across 10 devices for $15 a month. AT&T Family customers will receive a 90-day free trial, while individual AT&T wireless customers can get the first 30 days free. It will be part of an AT&T customer's regular bill.

Striking a deal with AT&T, the country's second-biggest wireless carrier, gives Beats a huge pool of potential customers and a mega marketing machine at its very outset, but its entering a field already crowded with competitors. Not only is Beats going up against relative newcomers like Spotify, it will also face entrenched Internet radio service Pandora and offerings from huge tech companies such as Apple's iTunes Radio and Google's All Access.

Beats is seeking to set itself apart by marrying algorithms with curated programming from taste-makers. Rogers calls it the difference between being a service and a server.

Jimmy Iovine founded Beats with musician and producer Dr. Dre and bought MOG, an on-demand subscription service. The intent was to combine that technology and the Beats brand to create Beats Music, also known by its codename Daisy.