Just a day before a scheduled event to unveil its improved music service, Google was frantically trying to secure deals with the major record labels. Fortunately, Sony, Universal and EMI, as well as several “independent music labels,” have all hopped aboard Google’s digital music store, The Wall Street Journal reports. That leaves only Warner as the lone holdout to not sign with Google.
Up until now, Google has been offering consumers a service called “music beta,” which has actually been a glorified music storage locker in the cloud.
People have been able to upload 20,000 songs to Google’s servers with the ability to play back their music collection anywhere they could access music beta.
The free service has certainly been useful to people with large music collections who don’t care for streaming services like Pandora. Amazon only offers the ability to upload about 1,000 songs for free. Apple didn’t have any cloud services until two days ago when it finally rolled out its cloud iTunes Match ability. With Match, Apple is essentially putting iTunes online.
For $25 per year, Apple promises to scan a user’s music collection and grant them access to those songs on any of the company’s mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch). Songs not already in Apple’s datacenters will be uploaded. Easy enough.
Google already had the cloud storage aspect, and now they are adding the sale of music through its Android Marketplace, which has previously been selling books, movies and apps. Prices, according to the WSJ, will be in the same ballpark as Apple and Amazon, with individual songs costing $1 and albums ranging from $7-$10.
Google is also incorporating a few features into its Google+ service by allowing people to share tracks with friends and offering users the occasional free song. For those with an Android phone the addition of music sales might be enough to get people to start using Google’s music service. After all, iTunes isn’t available for those without an Apple mobile device.
Having used both services extensively, the Apple approach of scanning a user’s music library and uploading songs not in the database seems like a nice perk. It took about two or three weeks to upload nearly 20,000 songs to Google’s servers, which is a long enough time to be a hindrance.
Not only that, but for unorganized music collections, Google’s service could use a bit more polish. There’s no excuse for having an album be treated as two different albums just because the data tags are slightly different for some of the songs.
The stakes for selling, storing and essentially locking in music lovers couldn’t be higher for Amazon, Apple and Google. The sale of digital music and the storage of that music in the cloud is the future in most regards. Those three companies are fighting for future customer loyalty.