Google launches free music service in China


CHINESE INTERNET users will be able to download over one million music tracks for free after Google launched a new web service with the world’s four largest music labels.

Having launched in trial mode a year ago, the downloads service marks an aggressive move by Google to take on Chinese search site, which has more than twice the market share.

Users looking for artists and song titles on Google’s site in China will be able to browse an extensive catalogue of artists on Warner Music, EMI, Universal Music and Sony BMG. Tracks can also be searched by mood, tempo and genre.

The site is a partnership with the popular Chinese music site, cofounded by Chinese basketball star Yoa Ming, and music labels will share related advertising revenue with Google.

Google China’s president Lee Kai-Fu admits the launch was a “huge leap of faith”. “We are offering free, high-quality and legal downloads,” he said. “We were missing one piece . . . we didn’t have music.”

Google accounted for 16.6 per cent of China’s search market in 2008, according to the Chinese Internet Network Information Centre, while Baidu has a 76.9 per cent share. But illegal music accounts for a significant amount of traffic to Baidu and, until now, Google could not compete.

Lee said there were no plans to extend the service beyond China, which has an acute piracy problem with an estimated 99 per cent of all music files circulated illegally.

China accounted for less than 1 per cent of the world’s legal music download market last year at just $76 million, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Western web firms have been keen to increase their audience in China, which overtook the US last year as having the world’s largest population of internet users.

The federation’s chief executive, John Kennedy, welcomed the launch, saying the service should be a “landmark day in the development of the legal Chinese music industry.” – ( Guardianservice)