Apple’s Buyout of Beats for Billions: Is Music Still Alive?
Buyouts are nothing new to either company. Apple successfully parlayed their purchase of SoundJam into the beginnings of iTunes. Not as successful, they purchased Lala music and with the help of Lala’s brain trust, turned that into iTunes Match.
Beats has seen its share of corporate letterheads as well. Initially partnered with Monster until that contract expired (sorry, Monster) Beats then partnered with struggling phone manufacturer HTC. HTC purchased 50.1% shares in Beats for $300 million in 2011 which it sold back last year for a reported $500 million. A nice little profit, but I hate to think what those corporate beancounters are saying today. Most recently, Beats acquired MOG and turned it into Beats Music, a new subscription-based streaming music provider.
What goes on behind the scenes in corporate accounting offices is beyond me. What is apparent from this is that music is apparently alive and well. One could argue that Apple helped a failing music industry when it launched iTunes, but at the cost of fidelity. If the low bitrate of iTunes didn’t kill sound quality, the horrendous sound quality of the bundled earbuds supplied with iPods and iPhones put the nail in the coffin.
Now, no one is saying that the sound of Beats headphones is phenomenal. But, bombastic bass and all, they are significantly better than most earbuds. Their high-end headphones are surprisingly well-balanced. Some of the Beats portable speakers are better than others of similar size—again, not hi fi, but acceptable. Most important, however, is the new Beats Music service. It’s one of the best quality streaming services and it’s a rather interesting combination of the best features of Spotify and Pandora—you can pick what to listen to and then continue to hear suggested playlist options. At 320 kbps, it’s one of the highest bitrates around.
Apple has its hand in many different technologies. They could have bought a car company (Tesla?), a telecom service, a retailer, or pretty much anything they wanted—I’m sure there’s an app for that. To make their biggest purchase to date (they purchased Steve Jobs' Next for $400 million in 1996) a buyout of a music company means that there is hope, finally, for the future of the music industry. Boomy bass aside, what do you think about the news? Did Apple calculate this deal to lend some street cred to an aging iPhone generation? Or as a challenge to Google—instead of a computer in a pair of glasses, make wearable tech into a headphone? All I know is that Dr. Dre is going to be the richest rapper on the block. Do you think he has an iPhone 5?