Here’s an interesting rumor I recently heard about Beats Music, the yet-to-be-launched Spotify competitor that’s spearheaded by music industry veteran Jimmy Iovine: Beats Music’s apps will supposedly allow users to tap into their mobile device’s camera rolls to access personal media.
It’s unclear what exactly Beats wants to do with your snapshots, but the apps supposedly also have a full-screen mode, which suggests that this isn’t just about uploading a photo for your avatar. Instead, Beats may be looking to let users play photo slideshows while listening to music. Add AirPlay to the mix, and things are starting to get interesting.
The right mix for the big screen
Music services are increasingly looking to the living room TV set as the next big opportunity after mobile, in part because consumers often have the best speakers in their homes hooked up to their TVs. Spotify is already available on Roku, Boxee and WD players. Pandora recently launched a new HTML UI specifically for connected devices, and also was one of the first apps on Google’s Chromecast. Amazon, Google Play Music and others have started to embrace connected devices as well, and almost everyone does AirPlay.
But even with modern HTML user interfaces, the experience on the big screen can be a bit underwhelming. After all, you can only stare at really big album art for so long. Attempts to make things more lively by letting cover art bounce all over the screen, reminiscent of a 1990s screensaver, are even less appealing (I’m looking at you, Google Play Music).
So what if you could instead select an album of photos stored on your mobile device, or in the cloud for that matter, to display while an album or a playlist blasts through the TV’s speakers? Or, even better: What if music fans could not just compile their own playlists, but combine them with their own photos to create multimedia slideshows, ready to share with a special someone — kind of like the mix tapes of the 21st century?
Learning from Instagram
There may be some legal issues if music services were to take this too far. Creating new audiovisual forms of work with music requires special sync licenses, which could be more expensive and significantly more complicated than the already pricey music streaming licenses. But there are ways around this, and recent news that Google may be launching a music service based on YouTube suggests that labels are starting to show more flexibility when it comes to the way these kinds of services are structured.
And again, I don’t know for sure whether Beats Music will actually launch any of this. But I think it may be about time music services are looking at the success of Instagram and Co. — as well as Instagram’s own attempts to make its service more interactive — and try to figure out how they can incorporate some of the magic of personal media into their own products. After all, Instagram is showing