Mog users aren't feeling the love from Beats

By Adam L. Penenberg , written on January 23, 2014

From The News Desk

I'm going to miss MOG, my music streaming service of choice. It had developed a small but loyal band of cultish users, including many who fancied themselves audiophiles (and audiophile wannabes like me), and others disinterested in joining the mainstream (read: Spotify and Pandora). Alas, it never really caught on.

Oh, sure. I'll get over it, and it's not like I wasn't given ample warning. In July 2012, when Beats acquired MOG (which may or may not stand for "music on the go," depending who you ask) developers took two months to adapt the mobile app to the bigger iPhone 5 screen. Then Beats Music announced it was launching a new streaming service, and despite reassurances from the company that MOG would live on, it was evident it would not.

There were a lot of reasons to like MOG. It was the first mainstream music service to stream at 320kbps, providing superior audio quality until the others caught up, and I liked the intuitive interface, which worked well across mobile devices. Two features that made MOG especially appealing were "Just For You" -- every few days I would see a list of albums MOG's algorithm had decided I might want to check out -- and MOG Radio, which was particularly useful and ingenious. Say I'm listening to an album by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. MOG would select music in that vein to play after it was over. It was customizable, boasting a sliding scale so I could either stick with just Keith Jarrett songs or opt for other perhaps similar artists to populate this improvised play list.

MOG had serendipity going for it. Beats doesn't -- at least, not yet.

And that's just the beginning, according to some MOG users who have posted reviews on the Beats iPhone app in the iTunes store. (Overall, Beats averages 3 stars out of 5.) "MOG users will be disappointed," opined one reviewer. "Not worthy to succeed MOG... yet…" wrote another. A third says, "Notice how the only positive reviews are coming from people who are not currently using MOG. For anyone used to the elegance of MOG Beats is a huge let down."

Now, unlike some users I'm willing to forgive Beats for bugs that have plagued the service since it launched yesterday. The app freezes, crashes, sometimes you can't access the music. Meanwhile, the Beats app has asked me six times to tell it what kind of music I like, and there's no way to close the damned box so I have to do it over and over again. It's like having lunch with someone who's hard of hearing. "You said you like jam?" "No, jazz." "Are you calling me a spaz?" "I SAID JAZZ!"

Still, launch bugs are understandable, but poor planing and communication is another. I, like many people, reserved a user name last month, but when I tried to sign up for the the free trial, I was informed it was taken. Yeah, by me. Duh. So I couldn't register. In other words, those who took the trouble to reserve a username couldn't be part of the initial test group. I ended up ginning up another name. In an email the company distributed yesterday, Beats says it will be in touch with an invitation for those who reserved names before launch.

That's a minor complaint, though. What I truly don't understand is why Beats didn't take the best of MOG and incorporate it into its service -- the sliding scale in MOG Radio, for example; and the "Just For You" feature, which had led me to some truly sublime artists and music. It was a wonderful way to widen my musical horizons. That said, at least Beats has the same music library as MOG -- at least I think it does. I subscribe to both MOG and Spotify (the primo $9.99 a month plans) because some music I like is available on one service but not the other. For instance, I can find Triosence, a jazz trio from Germany, on Spotify (and iTunes) but not on MOG or Beats. On MOG and Beats, however, I can listen to a fairly obscure album by jazz-pop master Bob James, who released an acoustic jazz trio album titled Straight Up that features bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade and which is not available on Spotify.

My biggest concern, which is shared by other MOG users I know, is what will happen to all my "favorites." I have identified hundreds of albums that I particularly like, but there's no way to port them over to Beats. You'd think the company could work out a way for us loyal MOGGITES to do that.

Now, there's an awful lot to like about Beats, too. I enjoy being able to swipe from screen to screen and the curated playlists are good, although no better than Spotify's user-generated ones. The audio quality is excellent, too. Because Beats juices the bass in its headphones, something I detest, I thought the music service might, too, but it doesn't. Beats sounds positively MOG-like. Warm, rounded bass, full midrange, highs that are not hissy. Another boon: Beats appears to replicate MOG's music catalog.

While Beats has done little to reward loyal MOG subscribers who, despite troubled waters, kept the music streamer afloat all these months, I'll likely give the new service a chance.

If I don't like it, I'll cancel Beats. It's not like there aren't plenty of other alternatives.

Image by Hallie Bateman.