GOSHEN — Ian Rogers remembers a photo taken 30-odd years ago.
The picture shows Rogers, age 10 or 11 at the time. He’s sitting at an Apple II computer here in Goshen and wearing a pair of brown headphones, and there’s a component stereo behind him. In the view of the now-adult Rogers, the child is sporting a pretty ferocious mullet.
A more recent photo shows Ian Rogers, too. Taken to accompany a New York Times piece, the group pic also includes Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre.
If we can take Rod Stewart at his word that every picture tells a story, these two pictures offer strikingly different tales about Ian Rogers. In a way, they also tell the same story.
Music and technology first intersected for Rogers, a former Goshen resident, when he was a child. And they’ve been the theme of both his pastime interests and professional life.
“I’ve never done anything else,” Rogers said in a phone interview last week with The Goshen News. He didn’t sound disappointed.
Rogers is into music, and he’s a music business executive. He’s also working on a project targeting music consumers. He thinks they’ll like what they hear.
Beats Music is a music streaming service set to debut Tuesday, when it will join a field populated by the likes of Spotify and Pandora. It’s an offshoot of Beats Electronics, notable for its Beats by Dre headphones. Dre co-founded Beats Music alongside Jimmy Iovine, luminary music producer and chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M.
Trent Reznor is on board as Beats Music’s chief creative officer. Rogers? He’s been the chief executive for the past year.
“...For God knows what reason they put me in charge of it,” he said.
Rogers said Iovine has long believed in the subscription model, and Beats Music is a subscription service. It costs $10 a month, or $15 for a family plan available through AT&T.
“It’s not free,” Rogers said. “It’s not ad-supported. The notion is it’s a premium music service, it’s a premium music experience. We know people are willing to pay for premium services. You have 100 million people in the U.S. paying for cable and satellite at an average of $1,000 a year. Getting a great music service for $100 a year is not steep at all for a serious music fan.”
Rogers sees Beats Music as benefiting the music industry, too. He said more than half of every dollar Beats makes goes back to rights holders.
“That’s a lot compared with any other service of music,” he said.
Rogers also feels Beats Music sends a message that music is worth something, and the service is worth paying for.
“And we’re also saying to the industry, ‘If we win, you win,’” Rogers said. “‘If we make more money, you make more money. Period.’”
He added that Beats Music has received support from music labels and artists.
“Everybody really just wants to see us win, I think for two reasons,” Roger said. “A.) because it grows the whole industry if we do win, and everybody wants to see the industry grow. And secondarily, I think that they’re just happy to see a system that loves and respects music — bring music to people in a way that’s thoughtful and with integrity.”
Computer algorithms are part of the Beats Music model. However, the Beats crew is quick to highlight the human touch courtesy of input by flesh-and-blood curators. Put another way, people are key to the playlists.
“We really believe in human curation,” Rogers said. “We think robots don’t know what songs come next. People do.”
Music experts have been brought into the fold. Count among them Rogers’ own mother, Paulette VanAntwerp.
“My mom will school you on Americana,” he said. “My mom is actually going to be an Americana music curator for Beats Music. She knows so much and is such a music fan.”
Then and now
Prior to his involvement with Beats Music, Rogers’ resume included a stint as general manager of Yahoo Music, where he built Yahoo Music Unlimited.
“It was the first $5 a month subscription service,” he said. “In that way, the task and challenge, it’s really similar (to Beats Music). It’s a catalogue of music, with personalized recommendations and you pay a monthly fee and you get all you can access to music.”
The difference between getting the respective ventures off the ground is comparable to night and day, according to Rogers. The biggest difference is due to technology. Remember the 2000s? Now think circa 2014 and smartphones. Think people with portable Bluetooth speakers and access to increasingly fast wireless networks.
“And guess what? They know how to install an app from the app store,” Rogers said. “They know how to hit a play button. So they install an app like this, they hit play and they go, ‘Wow.’”
Of the Yahoo venture, Rogers said, “It was the right idea, but there wasn’t critical mass on the audience side yet.”
In between Yahoo and Beats Music, Rogers spent five years with the TopSpin company, working with artists including Reznor, Paul McCartney, Eminem and Linkin Park to do direct consumer marketing. Closeness to artists, and their input, is key to Beats Music, Rogers indicated. It’s also a carry-over of sorts from TopSpin.
“Over that time we kind of learned how artists should be folded into this, in a way,” he said. “What is it that helps an artist? How valuable is that direct connection between artist and fan?”
Count Rogers as a fan who made a connection, time and again.
Back in Goshen
Growing up in the Maple City, Rogers was a skateboard kid. His parents — dad Keith and mom Paulette, she the future Beats Music curator — were music enthusiasts.
Rogers was a kid who went to South Bend to buy records, and mail-ordered albums from Maximum RocknRoll magazine. At age 13, he stood in line for six hours to see Blue Oyster Cult’s 1986 concert at The Goshen Theater downtown. He also played in the long-defunct local punk band Albino K-Mart Shoppers.
Rogers went to the Elkhart Area Career Center for radio broadcasting, and worked at the WVPE radio station.
“Working in music was the only thing I could imagine doing,” he said.
Rogers credits his former stepfather, Mike Gill, with putting him on a path to computers and music when he was a child. Gill had a sizable record collection, and an Apple II computer.
“My stepdad had been a computer guy, so I knew computer programming from when I was like 10 years old,” Rogers said in a previous interview with The Goshen News.
Rogers was later in the computer program at Indiana University, and wound up in an internship at the School of Music. He graduated in 1994 and began doing websites — “this brand new thing,” Rogers recalled — for fun.
His Beastie Boys site drew the attention of no less than the Beastie Boys’ management. In short, Rogers picked up work. He moved to California and went on tour with the Beasties in the spring of 1995. Then he got into Web design.
Then came Yahoo, and TopSpin, and now Beats Music. Rogers still sounds a bit awed at the course his life has taken, and to be working on this latest project and with the people involved.
“I can’t believe that even happened,” he said.