Tuesday 13 November 2012

Google Play Music

Today, Google launched its music store to the UK through its service: Google Play - where Android users already download their apps, and acts as the equivalent to Apple's iTunes. Considering the dramatic rise of Google since 1998 and its recent foray into the world of smart phones, there was a certain inevitability that it would provide us with a music service. Remembering that Apple had lost favour by the start of the century, its resurgence and return to profitability can almost certainly be pinned down to the introduction of the iPod and establishment of iTunes. Apple's new life of success began with music, so perhaps it is surprising that Google has taken so long to start its assault in this area.

The US have had the music service for a year now, but today is Europe's first chance. Is Google doing anything different, or special, to encourage users away from iTunes and Amazon's MP3 service? Personally, the most interesting aspect is the new cloud feature which lets you to store up to 20,000 songs online, allowing you to stream them to a device wherever you are. Significantly, this is a free service. I believe Apple grants a very small number of files (250?) before it requires you to start paying a subscription, or certainly limits you to songs that have been bought through iTunes. Admittedly, it is very rare that I think to myself, "I wish I could access all my music right now" since I do have an mp3 player with significant storage space. But I can see how Google's cloud service could be useful to many, particularly with the higher number of files allowed for free.

For many I suppose, the key question is how they compare price-wise. And there's not an awful lot in it, although it depends on how you like to buy your music. For instance, here's a couple of recent albums and a couple of 'classic' albums:

Take Me Home: Yearbook Edition
by One Direction
iTunes: £10.99 or 0.99/track
Google: £7.99 or 0.79/track

18 Months
by Calvin Harris
iTunes: £7.99 or 0.99/track
Google: £7.99 or 0.79/track

Off The Wall: Special Edition
by Michael Jackson
iTunes: £6.99 or 0.99/track
Google: £4.99 or 0.99/track

Pet Sounds (mono/stereo edition)
by The Beach Boys
iTunes: £6.99 or 0.99/track
Google: £4.99 or £1.29/track

For the most part, things are fairly equal. Sometimes Google wins over iTunes, and sometimes iTunes comes out on top. Occasionally, Google throws up some per-track prices that are questionable yet counters this with a cheaper album price - and it does seem that, generally, Google is trying to encourage a full album purchase rather than single tracks. However, if you were restricted to just using one service for your device, I don't think there would be much to sway your vote either way. Google has kept itself in line with the competitors, knowing that a price war would only end up damaging everyone, but perhaps the cloud service might be a deciding vote for some people.

"Music is the prayer the heart sings"


  1. Google supports independent musicians, writers and filmmakers, but Apple doesn't.

    Anyone can open a Google store and put their original content in GooglePlay. Unfortunately, at the moment you have to be physically in the United States to do this.

    Apple is still very old-school. You have to sign on with an aggregator... a distributor to put your music there. The same is true of Amazon MP3 and as far as I know the new Microsoft player.

    That's fine if you can get one to do it for you! There are companies charging all sorts of upfront fees to list things on Apple, Amazon MP3 and other sites. This should be completely free. Content creators should only pay when they actually sell something.

    People haven't realised the significance of what Google's doing yet. They're quietly making it easier and Very Simple for ANYONE to distribute original content globally, directly to the public, in a transparent, completely fair and accurate manner for the first time in history.

    They have software in their system to track and compensate original content creators, but the encoding needs to be changed on some other platforms so people like me can put our music, books and films anywhere and be paid what we're actually owed through digital tracking.

    Someday, all original content will be digitally trackable at point of sale, when it's broadcast on radio or TV, when it's streamed etc. anything at time of payment or when royalties are due will be automatica.

    Google is amazing and I hope they hurry up and finish what they've started. It's nothing short of a major disruption, a revolution. I've been chatting with a friend who works on a team that's looking into this issue. They really care about finding a simpler way to distribute original stuff fairly.

    1. Thanks for the comment, and for the link from your own blog. It's true, the likes of iTunes requires an artist to go through a recognised publisher in order to get their music distributed. The likes of BandCamp allow artists to sell and promote their music in a fairer way, but maybe Google will be the first "big name" to really push forward a route for independent musicians.