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Apple plans to phase out Beats Music brand, report says

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An uncertain future for Apple's streaming-music service

Beats Music will eventually disappear as a brand, according to a new report. TechCrunch reports that Apple plans to eliminate the Beats Music streaming service, which it acquired in May, but doesn't say when. The report is less clear on what Apple plans to do with streaming music. One source tells TechCrunch that on-demand music could be integrated into iTunes; another source says Apple will make a "significant music announcement" in the first half of 2015.

Engineers from Beats Music have already been transferred to other divisions at Apple, including iTunes, according to the report. As TechCrunch notes, Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers was put in charge of Apple's ad-supported iTunes Radio product in August and has been splitting his time between the services since then.

"The first music subscription service done right"

When Apple bought the Beats brand for $3 billion, Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue called Beats Music "the first music subscription service done right." Though it mostly mimicked existing services from Spotify, Rdio, and others, Beats Music tried to differentiate itself through hand-curated playlists and the involvement of music-industry titans like Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor. But after three months it had only 250,000 subscribers, compared to over 10 million on Spotify. Still, Cue had positioned Beats as a key component of Apple's music strategy, saying that the company wanted to offer on-demand listening along with ad-supported radio and digital downloads.

All of which suggests that while the Beats Music brand may be going away, on-demand streaming from Apple could easily take another form. If iTunes is remade as a kind of celestial jukebox that combines your MP3s and on-demand streaming into a single place, the Beats Music brand going away might not be such a bad thing, after all.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update, 4:43 p.m.: An Apple spokesman tells Recode that TechCrunch's report is "not true," though he won't elaborate. Recode says Apple plans to continue to offer on-demand streaming but may "modify" the Beats Music brand over time, suggesting it may fold the service into iTunes.