Google plans to launch its licensed music store with tight integration into its Google+ social network, but its lack of agreement from two major labels may jeopardize this latest entry into the field of music sharing.
Users will be able to recommend songs in their online library to Google+ contacts, who, in turn, would be allowed to listen to the songs once at no charge. After the one-listen trial, songs are expected to be available for sale as MP3 downloads, likely at $1 each.
Google is integrating its music store with Google+ to keep up with the competition, but not having agreements with all four labels may backfire on the fledgling social media site.
The search giant already has a signed license agreement with EMI and is negotiating with Universal, although it’s unclear whether the latter agreement will be finalized before the launch. But these labels are only two of four major industry players, and labels Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are holding out on signing agreements with Google. These four labels combined account for 87 percent of the music sold in the U.S.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Sony is concerned Google does not do enough to stop piracy on its existing sites and platforms, including YouTube and Android, and views Google’s online “music locker” storage service as a tacit endorsement of illegal music sharing. Warner Group says that since Google’s music locker is free, as opposed to the iTunes Match storage service that costs $25 per year, it will depend too heavily on inexpensive music downloads for its revenue stream. Yet, Google executives say they plan to forge ahead with the launch of Google Music, even lacking these two key agreements.
But without Sony and Universal on board, the Google+ recommendation feature, which promises to set Google Music apart from competitors, won’t work for songs it does not have a license to use. Google Music customers who can’t easily find and access the music they want may therefore look elsewhere.
Google’s moves to beef up music offerings and integrate Google Music with their recently-launched social media site echoes the moves of competitors. Apple launched iCloud earlier this month, an online cloud storage service that allows users to share music and other media among all their mobile devices.
Both Apple’s iTunes and Spotify waited to launch until they had all four major music labels’ signatures on the line.
Social media giant Facebook also hopped on the music-sharing trend, integrating the Spotify music-listening service. Spotify playlists, listening history and other information are shared on users’ Facebook pages by default, in effect making the social media site a marketing tool for songs, artists and the music site itself.
Google Music has been available since May, but does not yet include licensed music or purchase and download capabilities. Earlier this month, Android head Andy Rubin said at the AsiaD conference Google would debut its music store “with a twist,” most likely referring to its integration with Google+ and the one-listen free trials people can access by sharing music with friends.
That twist Rubin referred to may help put Google+ on the social media map and enable the company to take advantage of the music downloading and sharing trend, especially when coupled with other planned Google+ features and enhancements.
But if Google rushes in without the right signatures on the dotted line, it may find itself without enough music available to satisfy hungry customers.