Can Google Music Compete?

Brittney Barrett  |

Wireless music appears to be the latest frontier being tackled by tech's big names. Over the past several months Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) have each launched their contribution to the field and Google (GOOG) is the latest company to throw its hat in the ring. The company unveiled Google Music during the middle of November, offering uploads of songs from three of the four top music companies. Sony Music Entertainment (SNE), Vivendi SA’s Universal Music (VIV) and EMI Music have all established deals with Google so that members of the new cloud platform will be able to upload and access songs anywhere.

The uploads, which cost $1, comparable to Apple’s iTunes song price of 99 cents, are integrated within Google’s social networking platform, allowing users to share the songs to friends for up to one free listen. The sales of the songs could help drum up greater interaction with the Google + platform and give the Android another feature to compete with Apple’s iPhone, but the fact remains that Google is coming a little bit late to the cloud computing field.

Apple may have only just launched its iTunes Match several weeks ago, but the original iTunes was a pioneer in digital music downloads. As a result Apple appears to have a better understanding of the “need it now” sentiment that people look for when they listen to music. NPR said Apple’s iTunes Match beat out Google Music only by a “wisp,” but with an interface many are familiar with and a long history in the business of selling music, Apple is simply more seasoned in creating projects in this realm that people are attracted to. Among the other benefits to Apple’s Match is a “scan and match,” feature that permits users to skip the process of uploading songs into the cloud by automatically transferring over songs it recognizes.

Google seems as though it’s perpetually trailing Apple in terms of its mobility updates. Even the Android smartphone, which has been well received, debuted well after the iPhone and seems to continually look to Apple for innovations. The same appears to be the case with Google Music, which seemed to use the iTunes structure as the measuring stick. In addition to the competition from Apple, Google also faces pressure from competitors like Amazon and Spotify. Spotify, which already has 10 million active users in 12 countries, is especially threatening in terms of snatching up market share, as it allows users to listen to a massive selection of songs, anywhere at any time, free of charge. The free of charge aspect is the major appeal that Google Music has over its key cloud competitors, Apple and Amazon, as both of those companies charge $15 to inhabit the cloud. Google on the other hand will allow users to store as many as 20,000 tracks for free and will instead gain revenue by taking a 30 percent share of each track sold.

Beyond attempting to convince customers to give into its plodding, bulky file uploads with the free cloud, Google has added several other features in an attempt to make it more appealing both to users and to artists. During its product launch, the company listed a number of well-known artists who would be launching their music exclusively with Google Music before it was available anywhere else. Google is also looking to attract independent artists to its platform through its Artists Hub, which allows unsigned musicians to create a profile for a one-time fee of $25. Through the payment, an artist will be entitled to download an unlimited number of songs, upload and control photos and set costs for their music. This element may help attract the  enthusiasts of underground music that Google fails to entice with the exclusive right to the new Pearl Jam record.

Whether people will embrace Google Music after the long years they have spent with iTunes, or the recently popularized Spotify, will remain to be seen. The fact that it is free to the user, however, may be Google’s greatest tool against those who came before it.


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