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Google’s digital content outlet Play launched its music service yesterday in the UK putting it in direct rivalry with Apple’s iTunes Store and bringing welcome competition to the market.
Apple’s crown as the dominant player in the online music market has never been under more threat as Google is now taking it on toe-to-toe and Spotify continues to make huge gains in its number of premium sign-ups.
In addition, EE is now offering music streaming service Deezer as an incentive to sign up to its 4G contracts in the UK, so competition has never been hotter.
Google has seemingly realised that personalisation is key to any content strategy and has therefore included a “scan & match” service that peruses a user’s existing music library.
In the vast majority of cases, this means scanning a user’s iTunes or My Music folder, with any songs that match against its database automatically added to their online music library of up to 20,000 tracks, (see video below).
Music on Google Play
In a sign of the scale of the challenge facing Google, uploading your existing music library to the cloud-based service can take some time and you have to wonder with so much competition already in the market, do potential users necessarily have the time?
Once installed the service embeds an icon on the user’s desktop – usefully it takes the form of some headphones – which when activated sparks up a browser session.
Users can also buy individual tracks or whole albums and listen to them on any Android or iOS device, via apps available on both app stores, as well as online through their web browser.
When comparing the Google Play Music and Apple iTunes stores directly there’s not a lot of difference in terms of functionality with users able to organise their tracks by genre, compile playlists and ‘share’ tracks. That said, Apple’s iTunes does feel a bit more easily navigable in terms of both aesthetics and the user interface with people directed to sections such as ‘albums for under £5’, etc.
Although it must also be said that Apple’s cloud-hosting service iTunes Match costs £21.99 per year while there is no mention of such a charge on Google’s service.
Google Play also lets users purchase new tracks either by album or individually, with its recommendations lists editorialised by the relevant grouping such as “top tracks” or “latest releases.”
However, it is on the whole ‘sharing’ front and commercialisation that both Apple and Google’s services lose out to the fast-emerging Spotify. For instance, Apple seems to have rolled back its attempt at social – does anyone remember Apple Ping? So there’s not much by way of sharing tracks with friends now.
Meanwhile, Google’s service lets users share their tracks with YouTube alone at present – even Google Plus integration would have been nice.
When compared to Spotify’s Facebook and Twitter integration, as well as its subscription or ad-funded model, I can’t help but feel that it has the potential to generate more revenues for artists. In fact when you think about it the only way it lags behind the two global behemoths of Google and Apple is in scale.
Although, it’s also worth pointing out that Google’s music service does edge the other two in that its complete integration with Google’s other services, namely search, YouTube and gmail, does mean that it’s quite close to users’ online lives.