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Google Makes Lemonade from Lemons: Music Beta by Google

By Mike McGuire | May 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

Have you heard that Music Beta by Google is now available – if Google grants you permission to use their “beta”?

Check it out here.  Google wants to make listening to music “…a much better experience,” according to “Chris” who is the talking head who describes the Music Beta from Google in the video that you’ll find at the end of the link.

From what I can tell, this is Google’s answer to Amazon’s cloud-based locker.  According to news reports, like this one(WSJ – so you might need a subscription to get to the whole story)  Google’s music team did not secure licenses from any of the major music labels that would enable the company to sell song files (as Apple’s iTunes or Amazon’s MP3 store do) or deliver a music subscription service a la MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody etc.

So when music label lawyers give you lemons, make lemonade, right? And in this case, the lemonade is effectively a nice little locker for your music files. Users will be able to upload their libraries – or at least part of them—to their Google cloud storage. Then, those songs would be a) backed up in the cloud b) could be streamed to an Android-based device such as a smartphone or tablet.  Synchronization is a big part of Google’s value proposition and in context of the lemons-lemonade homily, it’s probably the best they could come up with.  This synch feature would allow a user to make a playlist on their connected device which would then be automatically synchronized to their account so that the playlist would be available to the user’s PC or other devices.   Google has also developed their “recommendation” capability for the service, thus enabling a consumer to take a single song that, perhaps, matches their mood (you know the drill, it’s a rainy day, so Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”), the service would then generate a playlist based on . . . whatever tools Google has to map the rest of the user’s collection to that seed song.

Groundbreaking, this is not.  (OK, I’m basing this on the video and the descriptions of various attendees at the Google I/O conference. I haven’t yet been granted entre into the beta.)

Without the license from the labels, the world’s biggest search company has had to effectively offer a “service” that is effectively a feature in other services.  For example, MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody etc. all have licenses from the labels which means their users can browse millions of songs, create playlists etc. to their hearts content.  As much as anything else, these online music services enable discovery of content beyond the user’s established libraries – an important value. 

I guess this is a step forward for Google but I’m somewhat surprised by the fact that they haven’t been able to strike deals with the labels.  There must be something in Google’s demands that the labels, for all their faults, found objectionable.  I mean, the labels’ strategic interests surely would be met by having a significant alternative to Apple’s current domination of the market for pre-recorded music sales.

I’m hoping we get a chance to hear more about what it was that Google wanted that somehow didn’t pass muster with the labels. Or maybe it was the publishers? The performance rights organizations (ASCAP et al)?

Until then, however, we’ll just have to make do with Google’s nice little cloud locker.

Could somebody please pass the lemonade?

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