After a weeks, or so it seemed, of rumors, speculation and innuendo, Google unleashed its online music store.
OK, it doesn’t have Warner Music Group’s catalog but it does have Universal, EMI and Sony. Will Warner eventually come join the Google party? Probably, but they probably won’t need to hurry or anything.
Google’s upended the advertising world, it’s now a major mobile OS vendor with Android, but don’t expect Google Music to pull away many iTunes or Amazon buyers. And it’s unlikely to put much of a dent in the businesses of any of the online music subscription services e.g. Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody etc. And Pandora’s off in its own world. (If anything, maybe there will be “buy” buttons from Google’s store that start appearing next to individual songs on Pandora playlists?)
What is it exactly? It’s an online music store. Like iTunes, like Amazon’s MP3 download store only without the Warner catalog.
What Google’s store has going for it are one potential differentiator and one me-too feature (besides the whole a la carte download store with standard pricing for songs — $.99 or $1.29/song with the odd $.69 song).
The me-too – a cloud storage service aka the Google Music Beta. With the cloud service the user can purchase songs from the Google store and have them automatically populated in their cloud account. And users with Android devices and the music application can stream songs to their device (assuming they haven’t already dumped the songs into the device). So . . . neat? (Note: according to the Google (Is this true for devices that have forked versions of Android like the Nook Tablet and Amazon Fire?)
The real differentiator for Google’s Music store is the potential of Google+ as a way to create a massive set of transaction opportunities. With somewhere north of 40-million users, Google+ with Google Music, users will be able to post songs purchased from Google Music to their Google+ accounts and visitors will be able to listen to the complete song one time and, if they like them, hit the “buy” button and go straight to the store. So…that’s a potentially powerful feature. Enough to siphon off iTunes or Amazon buyers? No, not in the short- or medium term.
One other potential differentiator? The “artists hub” which will enable independent or unsigned artists to directly upload their creations, create an artist page and start selling songs. But unless and until Google Music’s team decides to invest time in curating that collection of unsigned or independent artists – providing reviews, putting these new, independent/unsigned artists in context with the larger, more established artists or genres – then those artists aren’t going to have much more than having cheap shelf space in a very big store. So far, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way Google Music is doing much to surface that content. (Actually, there is a page called “Antenna” which might be where the independent or unsigned bands will be featured.)
And finally, Google Checkout is the payment system. The payment capability does work. Will it be as seamless and easy for consumers to spend money as it is on iTunes and Amazon? That remains to be seen. So that’s good. But the bar’s set pretty high by Amazon and iTunes which have, in their own ways, turned the task of getting people to part with their money – repeatedly – into an art form.
So good luck Google Music! You have a week to get to one million paid downloads.