Jimmy Iovine and Trent Reznor share their vision for the subscription service with USA TODAY.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Jimmy Iovine doesn't do small. The way the producer-turned-entrepreneur sees it, people didn't know they needed sleek $300 Beats by Dr. Dre headphones until they appeared, a point proven by the brand capturing 40% of the billion-dollar headphone market since its 2008 debut.

Iovine is similarly confident that his new streaming subscription music service — Beats Music, which on Saturday announced it will go live Jan. 21 — will awaken fans to what they've been missing with competitors such as Spotify, Rhapsody and iTunes Radio, services that in 2012 accounted for a still modest 8% of the $7 billion retail music market.

Iovine's not-so-secret weapon to grow that figure? Curation.

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"Access to music and algorithms aren't enough," Iovine tells USA TODAY. "Music can fuel your highs and lows, but music doesn't do that with 'Here's 16 million songs and give me your credit card and good luck.' Our service will be of service."

Beats Music subscribers will get access to an interactive site whose sonic content (streamed at a high-fidelity rate of 320 kbps MP3) is curated by a team of industry experts that include label executives, DJs and magazine editors. If a famous public figure or musician dies, the team cobbles together the ideal mixtape. If a user shows a predilection toward funk or jazz, they'll find playlists pushed their way from experts in the genre.

"We appreciate the importance of what music is, that it's not just a digital file," says Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails founder turned Oscar-winning film composer who serves as Beats Music's chief creative officer. "Everything that makes it into your line of sight has been blessed by someone deep into music. We're all about trying to be that new trusted source."

And not for free. "Free sucks, and we don't want to do anything that sucks,"laughs Iovine, whose no-nonsense persona informed his mentoring duties on American Idol for the last three seasons. "With free, you get what you pay for. It's the commercials, it's the wrong songs, and it's the wrong sequence. I don't listen to music that way."

Beats Music will cost $10 a month per subscription, but in a negotiated coup, AT&T customers will be offered a family plan for a flat $15. As telcom brand identities increasingly blur by virtue of carrying similar hardware, "I figured using music and the harnessing of our culture could be a great differentiator for them," says Iovine.

Beats Music's timing could be auspicious, says Ryan Aynes, co-founder of music advertising firm EDGE Collective. "It's a fascinating time for music in general, and a little ironic that streaming almost took the industry down (with Napster's arrival), and now streaming might re-build it," he says.

For music industry analyst Mark Mulligan, co-founder of Midia Consulting, human curation isn't as big a trump card as the overwhelming success of Beats headphones. "This is one of the great new brands of recent years, which they can leverage," he says. "While some services might struggle to sign people on at $10 a month, they have the option of, say, bundling a few months of free service with the purchase of new headphones."

Iovine just smiles when asked about that possibility. "Of course, we can do all those things," he says. "With the headphones, we hit an emotional chord with hardware. Now it's all about completing a circle and giving people the full experience of music."

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