Yesterday it was rumoured that Google were to launch their new subscription-based music streaming service to the masses at their annual I/O conference, which turned out to be entirely accurate, for those anticipating such a launch the wait is officially over- as of yesterday Google has entered the streaming market.
Having alluded to launching a new music platform over the past few months, Google, in perfect PR form, according to the Sydney Morning Herald forgo a “gimmick and gadget” spin which has coloured past annual conferences and took advantage of the public platform to announce upgrades to existing features.
However, what stole the day was of course Google’s announcement to all who were listening that they had finally arrived with the streaming best of them.
Called Google Music Play All Access, the subscription service costs $9.99 per month, with a discount rate of $7.99 for those who sign up by June 30th. The conditions stipulate an additional free 30- day trial, however as Pitchfork notes, there is “no free, ad-supported, long term version” of this service such as those offered by streaming giants Spotify and Deezer. Google Music Play All Access is currently exclusively available to the US market, although an international release is pending.
Google engineer director, Chris Yerga, set the idealistic tone of Google Music Play All Access at the I/O conference yesterday. Claiming that: “Music unites us, it’s universal. We set out to build a music service that didn’t just give you access to a world of music, but helped to guide you through it.”
The user-friendly pitch for All Access is apparently reflective in its features. Where the ‘Explore’ tab allows for the browsing of a million plus song catalogue, after sealing the licensing deal with Warner, Universal, and Sony recently. This win for Google will surely ruffle the feathers of Spotify, whose contract for the “Big Three” is up for renewal this year. “Music unites us, it’s universal. We set out to build a music service that didn’t just give you access to a world of music, but helped to guide you through it.” – Chris Yerga, Google
Other features of Google Music Play All Access which complement the “music service that’s about music” mantra include a ‘Listening Now’ function, which combines users’ purchased music with recommendations and a streaming radio feed.
Emphasis on radio is a recurring theme throughout the design of All Access, where subscribers have the autonomy to turn any track into a radio station of songs – similar to the 200m user-strong Pandora – as well as pre-empt upcoming songs and, if inclined, delete them from the radio playlist, according to Social News Daily.
All Access marks a personal milestone for Google who already had one foot in the door of online music services with Google Music, the online music storage and digital download store that recently landed in Australia, and forms the conceptual basis of All Access. Where in its cloud storage design allows users to upload to 20,000 purchased songs at any time and listen via any Android device or web player.
Speaking to The Verge, Google Play lead product manager Paul Joyce explains that, “we look at All Access as a complement to the locker, which we felt we had to build first,” adding that the services is in “version 1.0… We had a vision and it’s taken us time to build out that vision.”
The addition of a subscription service that complements the cloud storage and music store – competing with the likes of Amazon and iTunes – shows Google understand where the market is heading, and wants to cover all bases. “Music subscriptions are the fastest growing segment of the music business,” said Joyce. “There are people who will always buy music, and people who will always rent. Increasingly there will be both.”
Despite Google’s enormous reach, the success of All Access hinges on how it fits within it’s own systems, namely the Android operating system and Google+. Given Pandora and Spotify benefited hugely from their roll-out on iOS and Facebook, staying Google exclusive could hinder their expansion, though that Joyce hinted at plans for otherwise. “Music subscriptions are the fastest growing segment of the music business… [there’s] people who will always buy music, and people who will always rent. Increasingly there will be both.” – Paul Joyce, Google
“We’ll always evaluate other platforms and other opportunities,” said Joyce. “Our general goal is to have everyone use our service. I don’t think it should be a requirement that people have a specific piece of hardware to use our service — that’s not a strategic aim. I think we’re just getting started.”
Joyce alos hinted at future integration with the Google-owned YouTube; “[It’s] hugely successful and we’re all part of one company,” he said. “I think that’s something we’re all aware of, and directionally that’s likely.”
Google has entered the booming streaming market at a very significant time. According to the IFPI’s Digital Music Report , subscription services have experienced a 44% rise, with 20 million paying subscribers worldwide expecting to help account for 10% of digital music revenues. Similarly the RIAA’s recent report has outlined that the same service accounted for over $1 billion in music sales in 2012 and a 15% share.
With this boom, competition has naturally followed. Where as it stands, according to Social News Daily, Pandora makes claim to the most users in the market, with 70 million monthly active users and 200 million registered subscribers. Following close behind, Spotify continues to grow with 24 million monthly active users and 6 million paying subscribers in 28 countries boasting the largest catalogue of music with 20 million songs available to the masses.
Google has subsequently taken on competition at another level, facing off against Apple, placing themselves toe to toe in the tablet market- with Apple boasting a firm foothold in the market with its iPad. Google, through Music Play All Access, has made an effort to match Apple, offering to boost its education offerings through a range of new services tailored to the Android tablet platform.
This move has come at the most tenuous of times for Apple, who have been slow to arrive to the streaming party after hitting several snags in launching its ‘iRadio’ service, modeled on Pandora and set to be integrated as a free service into the next iteration of iTunes store, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday.