Will Google Music change the record for online entertainment?

17 Nov 2011

Google last night opened its much-anticipated Google Music store for the cloud, with 13m tracks from major labels EMI, Sony and Universal, and 1,000 independent labels. With mobility at its core and a promise to sync your record collection across all Android devices, Google had joined the cloud music battle.

Now Google Music will compete directly with Apple’s iCloud and Amazon’s rival cloud locker service, which incidentally uses Android at its core.

In addition to the Google Music library, which allows you to share what you’re listening to with your circles on Google+, Google has added a new music store in Android Market which it says is fully integrated with Google Music.

The store offers more than 13m tracks from artists on EMI, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and the global independent rights agency Merlin, as well as more than 1,000 prominent independent labels, including Naxos, Merge Records, Warp Records, Matador Records and XL Recordings. It has also partnered with the world’s largest digital distributors of independent music including IODA, INgrooves, The Orchard and Believe Digital.

Users can purchase entire albums from their computers, Android smartphones or tablets, and their music is accessible anywhere via the Google Music library.

Google has chosen to celebrate its launch with some exclusive content, including a never-before released live concert album from the Rolling Stones Brussels Affair (Live, 1973), which includes a free single, Dancing with Mr D.

The Google Music service also includes exclusive tunes from Tiesto, Coldplay, Shakira, Busta Rhymes, Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band.

Google has also created an artist hub to enable new artists and aspiring bands with rights over their own music to distribute the music on the platform, with the ability to build their own pages, set prices and sell content directly to fans.

“Good Music makes you want to turn up the volume, but great music makes you want to roll down the windows and blast it for everyone. We captured this sentiment by giving you the ability to share a free full play of a purchased song with your friends on Google+,” said Andy Rubin, senior vice-president, Mobile, at Google.

Availability of Google Music

Due to the inevitable rights slog that has to take place with any digital entertainment offering, Google will only offer Google Music in large markets first, beginning with the US, where it can cover copyright agreements in one fell swoop.

The Google Music store is open in the US at market.android.com, and over the next few days, the internet giant will roll out the music store to Android Market on devices running Android 2.2 and above.

Smaller countries, like Ireland, will typically have to wait in line until various rights agreements are in place and it could well be 2012 before the service is available to internet and Android users in Ireland.

Will Google Music fly?

The US, in just one year, has become seriously spoilt in terms of digital music choices. Spotify launched in the US during the summer and, of course, Facebook exploded the market for digital music by integrating Spotify, Rdio and many others onto its social graph, not to mention Amazon’s cloud locker service and Apple’s iTunes match.

So far, many of the reviews and reports are quite lacklustre, all echoing the sentiment that there’s no new technology here, that Google Music isn’t doing anything particularly different from the others.

I beg to differ. From what I can see, the key word here is simplicity.

My heart lurches at all the steps you have to take to ensure your music library will be properly backed up across devices on the various services that have launched in recent months and, because I’m in a market that Spotify hasn’t bothered to address yet, I’m not particularly convinced I can’t live without it. I look forward to having my perception changed.

What Google is doing cleverly right now is integrating all its constituent services, from Gmail to Google+ and YouTube, to simply switching on a brand new Android device and many more services in such a way that you have one big umbrella and all you need is your email address and password. It’s the cloud personified.

With Google Music, Google has laid out a simple pallet of options. Cloud music promises many things, but simplicity and the ability not to miss a beat will chime with many internet users.