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Music by Google: Will Internet Giant Control Your Cloud?
Users of Google agree – the Internet giant changed the way the world searches for information. Email, chat systems, social networking tools, editing software, and browsers have also sprung up under the Google umbrella, easily making the multinational, multi-billion-dollar corporation the ruler of the web. And just when spectators thought the world according to Google couldn’t grow anymore, execs announced the launch of Music by Google: the company’s cloud-based music service.
Rumors of Google’s online storage locker date back to June 2010. On May 10, 2011, Google confirmed it would be offering users the ability to store their music remotely and access it from any compatible device. Although the service is reminiscent of Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Music by Google is only open to a select group of users, and storage is limited to 20,000 songs. As of now, the use of the locker requires an Android-powered device, and, while in beta, the service is free. Most notably, though, is that Music by Google is offered without music licenses from major labels.
Despite the unveiling of the service, execs have openly stated the deal isn’t exactly what they hoped for. “We’ve been in negotiations with the industry for a different set of features with mixed results,” says Zahavah Levine, director of content partnerships. “But a couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more focused on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms.”
Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group are rumored to be the two labels in question. The labels were supposedly not in support of Google’s scan-and-match style service (similar to Apple’s new iCloud service – see page 49), which would have included matching users’ songs to a centralized hub and paying rights holders per stream. Although Google ignored the labels’ concerns, it is still reworking the service to garner support from the music community.
“A large segment of the music industry worked cooperatively and was extremely helpful sorting out the issues of online licensing,” says Levine. “We certainly remain open to partnerships with the music industry for new features and functionality. This is the beginning of what we hope will be a long relationship with music and users and helping users engage with music and artist and fans.”
Google’s possible motivation for label support is because users won’t be able to share their tunes or purchase new songs without it. Despite issues surrounding the launch of Music by Google, there are nifty aspects of the service. For example, those with Android devices can cache recently played songs and listen to music, even when offline. The app also supports playlist synchronization, which allows a user to create a playlist on his/her laptop and then access it on a smartphone.
The service’s playlist automation is almost identical to Apple’s Genius playlist creator. Google’s Instant Mix creates new playlists based on a single song by analyzing the song’s characteristics and matching it with other tunes.
One of the services Music by Google won’t offer includes “de-duplication,” which lets users skip uploading their copies of music to the cloud is there’s already an identical file available. Multiple users could stream music from a single file, and users with large music collections could save time waiting for perhaps thousands of songs to upload.