Google finally addresses the gaping hole in its connected lifestyle strategy and launches its music service. But does it address the needs of its core audience? Guy Daniels reports.
Google first announced its music service last May at its developer conference, and yesterday Music Beta became Google Music with the formal launch of the locker service, albeit restricted so far to the US. Music Beta was a streaming only service, whereas Google Music has evolved into a music download service.
The service is free to use, just requiring a Google account, and enables you to upload and store up to 20,000 songs in Google’s cloud. That’s 5,000 fewer than iTunes Match, but then again the Apple service costs $25 per year. Another important distinction is that Google doesn’t provide a ‘match’ facility – you have to physically upload your songs to its servers, whereas iTunes Match cans your collection against versions already present on the iTunes servers, so that you only upload any that are missing. Uploading your entire collection could take anything from several hours to a couple of days, depending on your broadband uplink speed (which is invariable rubbish).
There’s yet another difference between the two; so far, Google hasn’t got the backing of Warner Music Group, one of the big four music companies. However, this admission is bound to be rectified soon, once the lawyers agree terms…
Like Apple and the iTunes Store, Google has responded (rather late in the day, admittedly) with a music store of its own. The new store in Android Market contains over 8 million tracks from Universal Music, Sony Music, EMI and the major independent labels.
This number is expected to rise to 13 million within a few weeks, which is still some 7 million short of what iTunes offers. But still, early days.
Songs or albums purchased from the store, whether from your desktop computer or Android 2.2 mobile, will be added to your Google Music library and be accessible anywhere. Those purchased tracks can also be shared – once only – with friends via Google+. Tracks will be available in the store for between $0.69 and $1.29.
But do the comparisons between iTunes matter? After all, if you have an Android phone you can’t use iTunes Match, so Google Music is the perfect fit. Likewise, those with iPhones will find it so much simpler to stick with iTunes. Not that a music store is essential to the success of Android – it’s done amazingly well without one. Perhaps a bigger objective is to create more stickiness within Google’s online empire and encourage more take-up of Google+.
To mark the launch, Google has teamed up with a selection of major artists to offer previously unreleased concert albums and remixes. These include The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and Shakira. But one of the most interesting aspects of the new service is the support for unsigned and independent musicians. Called the Artist Hub, it is built into Google Music, as Andy Rubin, SVP of Mobile at Google, explains:
“With the Google Music artist hub, any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans – essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store. This goes for new artists as well as established independent artists.”
Those artists signing up for the hub will be given 70 per cent of all sales proceeds, after payment of a one-time registration fee of $25. Google promises no additional costs after that.
One final interesting aspect of the announcement concerns T-Mobile USA. As the only US operator not to sell the Apple iPhone, it is a prime telco partner for Google. And so any T-Mobile USA customer who uses the new Google Music service on their Android phone will be able to pay for downloaded songs on their monthly phone bills.
please sign in to rate this article