SiliconFilter

Google Music and iTunes Match: Modern Solutions to Yesterday’s Problems?

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With the launches of iTunes Match and Google Music, this was clearly a good week for music lovers (at least in the U.S.). With iTunes Match, Apple finally offers a cloud-based solution for accessing all your music on any iOS device, and with Google Music, Google can finally say it offers Android users a service that is competitive with iTunes.

Both of these announcement would have been really exciting to me two or three years ago. Today, however, they leave me absolutely cold. Why? Because I stopped buying music a long time ago in favor of using a subscription service like MOG, Rdio or Rhapsody. I know there are still many people out there who love the idea of owning music, but to me, it feels like Google Music and iTunes Match are smart solutions for a problem these subscription services solved for me in a long time ago.

Mog Music PlayerBoth Google and Apple are still betting on the fact that music is something people want to own – and if you subscribe to Apple’s vision, that also means you will only buy Apple products for the foreseeable future.

Don’t get me wrong. I listen to music almost all the time I’m at my computer or in the car. I love music. But unlike iTunes and Co., subscription services allow me to call up any song I want to listen to whenever I feel like it. They also allow me to listen to artists I would’ve never discovered if I just used iTunes. With iTunes or Google Music, after all, I would have to make a pretty hefty investment to listen to all the albums I listen to on MOG every month. With a subscription service, the investment remains the same no matter how much I listen.

Both Google and Apple base their services around the idea that you want to own your music. To me, music is more like subscribing to Hulu or Netflix. Sure, my music “collection” goes away when I stop subscribing or switch services – but who cares? How many of those MP3s you collected on Napster years ago do you actually listen to regularly after all?

Image credit: Flickr user lungstruck



6:14 pm


Google Music Launches: Purchase Songs from Android Market, Share on Google+, Music Locker Remains Free

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Google today unveiled its long-awaited music store at an even in Los Angeles today. Google Music is now available to all users in the U.S. without a need to get an invite. According to Google, millions of songs will now be available for purchase in the Android Market. Users will also be able to upload up to 20,000 songs to Google Music and store them in the cloud for free. Partners include EMI, Universal and Sony, as well as numerous smaller labels. In total, the store currently feature 8 million tracks but will soon have about 13 million in its library as Google adds more tracks.

Google launched a limited beta of its music services at its annual developer conference Google IO earlier this year. There was no music-matching, similar to what Apple is doing with iTunes Match, though, and no music store, as Google wasn’t able to secure licenses from the major music industry players. Because of this, users had to upload their own songs to the service, which could often take hours or days for large music libraries.

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google_music_in_androidAt Google IO, the company’s executives stressed that they had really wanted to open the service with support from the music industry, Google found their demands “unreasonable and unsustainable.” Clearly, the relationship between Google and the labels has changed now.

Indeed, Google managed to get a number of exclusives from the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Busta Ryhmes and others.

As Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s director of digital content for Android noted during the event, consumers now expect that their music services are connected to the cloud and available on all devices instantly. 

On Google Music, all songs will be encoded at 320kbps. Users can buy songs from their Android devices and from the web. The music store required Android 2.2 or higher. The new versions of the Google Music app will be available in the next few days.

T-Mobile users will get carrier billing for music purchases in the near future.

Sharing

google_music_sharingGoogle is also putting a strong emphasis on sharing songs. Users can tell their friends that they have bought a song on Google+, but more importantly, your friends will also get one free stream of the song or album as well.

An Artist Hub for Independent Musicians

Google is also working with independent musicians and will make it easier for them to set up their own shops on Google Music. They will be able to create an artist page for a one-time $25 fee, upload their own songs and set their own prices.



9:56 pm


Cloud Drive: Amazon Launches its Online Music Locker and Cloud Storage Service

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Amazon just launched its rumored online music locker project. Dubbed the Amazon Cloud Drive, the service will actually do more than just store your music. Besides supporting music – which is clearly the main focus here – the 5GB of free storage space on Amazon’s servers that come with every Cloud Drive account can also be used for documents, pictures and videos. Users who purchase one full MP3 album on Amazon before the end of the year get 15GB of additional free storage for a total of 20GB. Extra storage on top of the 5/20GB free tier costs $50 per year per additional 50GB of storage space. The Cloud Drive is currently only available for Amazon customers in the United States.

New music purchases from Amazon are automatically saved to your Cloud Drive. To upload your existing music collection, you have to install the Amazon MP3 uploader, which is based on Adobe AIR and is compatible with Macs and PCs. Besides a web-based music player, Amazon also offers an Android app for streaming your music from the online locker while you are on the go.

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The Cloud Player, which runs in your browser, allows you to play back any music you uploaded. You can also create new playlists. You can not, however, edit any of the information attached to your files. So if Amazon can’t identify an album or artist based on the MP3 tags, it will simply organize it under “Unknown Album” or “Unknown Artis” and won’t allow you to change the name.

Overall, the Cloud Player is pretty straightforward, though limited. There is no advanced playlists feature, for example, or the ability to organize your collection by anything else but song title, album title, artist, genre and time.

To get started, you need to install the Cloud Drive software on your machine at home and start uploading your music. The files are stored – with their original bitrate intact – on Amazon’s S3 service. The service will accept any DRM-free MP3 file.

Putting Pressure on Apple and Google

The Cloud Player feels quite similar to Lala, the streaming music and music locker service that Apple acquired last year. Most pundits expect Apple to launch a music locker for its Mobile Me service soon. So far, however, Apple has not made any announcements about this yet. The company’s new data center in North Carolina, however, is likely the central piece of infrastructure that Apple needs to complete before it can offer a service that will compete with Amazon’s new offering.

It’s worth noting that other companies, including MP3Tunes, have been offering a similar music locker service for a while already and that besides Apple, Google, too, is rumored to be working on a similar service.



10:04 pm