Last May, Google unveiled a new project dubbed Music Beta to one million users lucky enough to snag invites. The idea was simple: A cloud-based music service where you could upload your audio files and access them anywhere, and early adopters seemed into it. On average, beta testers consumed 2.5 million hours of music daily through service, a healthy two-and-a-half-hour chunk of the day per participant. Yesterday, Google officially dropped the beta, expanded the features, and most importantly, opened registration to Google Music for everyone. With Amazon and Apple making moves in the cloud-based market, and seemingly infinite different streaming options popping up, we offer up the five most important caveats to consider when deciding to dive into Google Music.
1. Yet Another Digital Music Retailer
Arguably the crux of the Google Music launch is their entrance into the music retail industry via the Android Marketplace. Google has already reached distribution deals with three of the four major labels (Warner being the exception) and thousands of indie imprints. In total 13 million songs will soon be available with 8 million already live. Prices will be comparable to iTunes, which today boasts a cool 20 million tracks. So you’re not going to go to Google Music because things will be cheaper … but with launch, NME reports that exclusive content from Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones, Busta Rhymes is available.
2. Store 20,000 Songs (300GB) Online For Free, For Now
Like the Beta period, Google is letting users upload up to 20,000 personal songs onto the cloud for free. To put this into perspective, Apple is currently charging $100 a year for 55GB of iCloud storage space, on top of the $25 dollar yearly price tag for iTunes Match. But unlike the painless scan-and-sync system Apple has designed with Match, every song file must be manually uploaded to the Google servers even if it exists in the Android Marketplace, a process that could take days even to upload a few thousand tracks. You better hope you’re computer doesn’t freeze in the process.
3. Out-Myspace Myspace With Artist Hub Pages
Here’s one for the artists: For a $25 dollar flat fee, any independent musician can upload their music to the Android Marketplace, set pricing and create a Myspace-like “hub” page. Like Apple, Google will take a 30% cut of the proceeds. Overall, it’s a much more democratic process compared to the more tightly guarded iTunes store, a distinction that largely reflects the overall preferences the rivals have between open and closed systems, Google sometimes riskily favoring the former.
4. Android Integrated, Browser Optimized
5. Works Parallel with Google+
Perhaps a swipe at the cozy relationship between Facebook and Spotify, the pairing of the two Google services is regardless a natural move for the tech giant to make. Tracks that Google users share on Google Music will be posted to Google Plus, and open to people in your network to preview in full. It’s a convenient bonus, but in the end, another unimaginative feature that might fail to convince complete musical migration to the Google suite of services. It also assumes that people are adopting Google+.