Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Google Music enters the fray

We have a new player on the digital music pitch. Google Music unveiled its wares yesterday as it crossed its fingers and hoped to win over users from the plethora of other download and streaming services already making merry – …

Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 09:07

   

We have a new player on the digital music pitch. Google Music unveiled its wares yesterday as it crossed its fingers and hoped to win over users from the plethora of other download and streaming services already making merry – and money – in the market.

Currently only available in the United States (it will probably reach Ireland at the end of the decade if the previous long delays encountered with the iTunes store and Spotify are any guide), Google Music offers streaming, a music store and – natch – social media. Users can upload up to 20,000 tunes to the Google Music cloud and stream them to all their devices from there. The Google Music store, which has been incorporated into the Android app market, already has a couple of million tracks thanks to deals with Universal, Sony and EMI, the Merlin indie network and a number of independent distributors. There’s also couple of exclusive live EPs and albums from The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Dave Mathews Band and Coldplay to mark the launch if you’re into that sort of thing.

For acts, there’s the opportunity to set up bespoke pages using the Google Music Artist Hub (there is an one-off $25 registration fee) and upload, stream, sell direct to fans and set the price while they’re at it, with 70 per cent of each sale going to the artist. And if you’re on Google+ (hands up if you are please, because it doesn’t currently seem to have much traction from where I’m sitting), you can share purchased songs with friends who are also on that social network.

Google Music is entering a crowded, diverse market. While they have the big advantage of name recognition from the gargantuan Google machine, they are playing catch-up from the start not just against the big guns like Apple and Amazon but also other services like Spotify, Pandora, (the slightly maverick) Grooveshark and hundreds of others. But just as there were once hundreds and thousands of High Street record shops, it’s inevitable that we’ll have more online outlets too.

It means another channel for artists to exploit and try to make some cash from, so it will be telling to see if it becomes a big revenue source for acts, especially those disgruntled with what’s on offer from other services. Given the disquiet many are showing about the cash they’re getting from Spotify, for instance, (over 200 techno, dubstep, grime and electronic music labels distributed by STHoldings quit the streaming service yesterday citing “poor revenues” and a “detrimental affect on sales”), Google Music gives them the chance to set their own prices.

However, it also means that the consumer will now have the chance to choose between players like the market leader iTunes, the upstart with the big mo Spotify and the new kid on the block. While labels might feel that they’re not getting enough cash from Spotify compared to what they get from paid-for downloads or used to from physical sales, this is now the way of the walk and, as we know, there’s no going back to how things were. Now, it’s the customer who is king and who has an a la carte menu of music services to choose from. Expect surveys in about six months’ time about why punters are going with one service over the other and keep a look out for whether price or ease-of-use is the bigger consideration.

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