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


Hands-On With Google Music Beta on the Web

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Google Music, Google’s new music service just launched as an invite-only beta at Google I/O today and we just got a chance to take it for a test drive on the Web (look for our review of how it works on mobile devices later). After testing it for a little bit, it quickly becomes clear that this could be a major hit for Google. Indeed, among today’s music locker services like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and MP3tunes, Google’s efforts come the closest to recreating the convenience of Lala, the service that Apple bought last year and promptly shut down.

Install

After you download the installer, Google Music will ask you if you want to automatically sync your library whenever you add new songs to it. This should make it easy for Android users who are deeply invested into their iTunes library and playlists to keep using it on their desktops. Google, of course, doesn’t make a Google Music desktop app, so for the time being, you will have to use another desktop jukebox anyway.

As part of the install process, Google also lets you select a few music categories that you enjoy and will pre-populate your music locker with a few free songs (I’m not sure how Google actually licensed those, by the way).

Depending on the size of your playlist, uploading songs can obviously take a while, so having some free songs to play around with at the beginning is a nice bonus.

Playlists

Thanks to its ability to sync with iTunes, Google Music also syncs your playlists. You can, of course, also start a new one at any time. The service also creates some automatic playlists for you based on your likes (thumbs up, in Google Music parlance), as well as list of your recently added songs.

Instant Mixes

One of the niftiest features of the service is the ability to create “Instant Mixes.” During today’s keynote, Google stressed that its algorithms don’t just compare users’ playlists the way Apple does, but actually looks at the music in your collection and finds songs that actually go well together. To start an instant mix, you just click on a song, select “Instant Mix” and assuming you have a few matching songs in your collection, Google Music will create a new playlist for you and start playing it.

Verdict

Except for the fact that you can’t buy music and that the service doesn’t feature any social layer yet, Google Music is probably the best online music locker service yet. As Google builds out partnerships and adds features, it will hopefully be able to offer features like playlist sharing (which works great for Spotify) and the ability to buy music on the Web and your mobile devices as well.



1:48 pm


Google Takes On Amazon’s Cloud Player With Launch of Music Beta

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Google today announced a new music service at its annual developer conference in San Francisco that goes head-to-head with Amazon’s recently launched Cloud Player and easily beats it in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. With Music Beta, users will be able to upload their music to the cloud, create playlists and sync their music to their mobile devices.

The launch of Google Music doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as rumors about it had been floating around the Internet for the last few months, but now we finally know more about the details and how it will work together with Android devices. While Google didn’t mention this specifically, it’s noteworthy that the company did not announce any partnerships with major record labels today.

Legality

As for the licensing issue, Google mostly sidestepped this question during a press Q&A after the keynote. While the company noted that it wants to work with the music industry, Google found their demands “unreasonable and unsustainable.” The service that launched today is, according to Google, perfectly legal and is “just the same as a backup hard drive.” Google obviously thinks that what it’s doing is completely legal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the music industry wouldn’t try to stop or cripple this service.

The Basics

Here are the basics: The beta is currently invite-only (all Google I/O attendees will receive access today – others will have to wait a bit longer). Google will provide uploaders for both Microsoft Windows and Apple’s OSX. For now, the service will be available for free (though this could change after the beta) and users will be able to upload up to 20,000 songs. Apps for Android 2.2+ phones and tablets will be available starting today.

google music beta on the webUnlike Amazon’s Cloud Player, Google Music will allow users to change the MP3 tags and other file information. Users will be able to download their songs to their devices from the cloud and playlists will sync wirelessly. Indeed, during the keynote, Google took a swipe at Apple and noted that it doesn’t just feature a better automatic playlist generation system based on the actual sound of the music, but that users will never have to plug in their phones to sync music.

Beating Amazon on All Counts – Except Music Purchasing

The user interface of Google Music both on the Web and on mobile devices is clearly superior to Amazon’s service (and any other current music locker service available today). With a focus on 3D graphics and easy syncing between devices, Google is clearly beating Amazon here. Where it can’t compete, though, is with regards to music purchasing. Without partnerships with major record labels, Google simply can’t offer this feature yet and users will have to continue to buy their music elsewhere.



10:39 am