Google Music: Cloud-based Locker, Streaming and Downloads

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A new digital music service from Google (s GOOG) will likely include a la carte downloads, music sharing and a cloud-based “digital locker” where users can store their music for $25 a year, according to a report by Billboard. Sources told the music-industry magazine that Google has been circulating a detailed proposal for just such a service to a number of record labels, hoping to get them to sign licensing deals that would allow the company to offer access to their music.

One of the most contentious elements of Google’s proposal is likely to be an option that would allow users to stream an entire song from the company’s online store without buying it (once in their digital locker, they would apparently be able to stream or download it at will). Google is also reportedly proposing that users who own a song would be able to share a playlist with their friends, and those friends could also listen to each song once without having to buy it. With most existing music services, users can only listen to short snippets of a song before buying (usually 30 seconds or less).

Google’s idea of a digital storage locker, where users can transfer songs they’ve bought online with a single click, is also very similar to a service launched several years ago by serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson, called MP3Tunes. Robertson, who launched one of the first online music services at MP3.com in the 1990s, has tried repeatedly to offer cloud-based storage and streaming of music. His first attempt got him sued by Universal Music, because the record label argued he was copying its music illegally, and Robertson is currently fighting a lawsuit with EMI over the MP3Tunes music locker service.

Cloud-based music services have yet to really reach a mass audience. Although streaming music providers such as Rhapsody and newer offerings such as MOG are popular with some music fans, others don’t like the holes that exist in their libraries, and many users still prefer to own and keep their music on their own computers rather than relying on the cloud. Apple’s acquisition of music-sharing service Lala, meanwhile, suggests that the company is at least thinking about a cloud-based version of iTunes — but Lala has since been shut down.

In addition to Rhapsody, which was spun off by Real Networks (s rnwk) and Viacom (via) earlier this year, Napster (now owned by Best Buy (s bby)) is also a major player. Spotify, which is popular for its sharing features, is still not available in the U.S., although the company says that it plans a U.S. launch for later this year. Another new competitor in the field is called Rdio, which was recently launched by the founders of Skype, Joost and Kazaa. Google’s new service is expected to be part of the company’s attempts to build more social-networking elements into its online businesses.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Forget Syncing, Let’s Put Music in the Cloud

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Cameron Cassan

10 Comments

Ryan Taylor

It would be nice if the labels pulled their heads out and got on with it. In the past labels wanted to get their records in every available store and on every major radio station, not to mention heavy rotation on MTV. Now there are more avenues to make their music available, yet if it isn’t available as a collection of songs on a shiny, plastic disc, they recoil.

iTunes helped open the door to digital downloads and Spotify is opening the doors to streaming. The goal should be to put every single track you own in every available format, in every available venue. The more people have access to your music, the more they will buy and the more they will go see shows and buy other merchandise.

Yes, there are serious licensing issues to overcome. The byzantine licensing schemes restrict the availability of millions of tracks. It’s time for artists and labels stuck in the past to move into the the present. Look here artists and labels, your fans want your music. They want everything you ever recorded. They want all of your live recordings. Make it available. Don’t worry about piracy. We’ve been copying music since the days of reel-to-reel and cassette tape. That will not disappear no matter how hard you try. Accept it. Make your tracks and concert tickets affordable. Your fans will love you for it and buy more.

dissertation

100% agreed to Ryan. Some bands practice making their new albums available and they are rewarded – Radiohead did it, offering their listeners to buy the album and pay just as much as they feel for it and people gave the money they could afford – from a shy $1 to hundreds. Let the people set the price for the badn and they’ll see what they are really worth.

Alex

“many users still prefer to own and keep their music on their own computers rather than relying on the cloud…” Also, if you have a huge collection it will be a hussle to upload to the locker. Sure, Google can scan your collection and math it with the music in its library, eliminating the need to upload. But it doesn’t resolve the issue for users who have rare or international/indy collections missing from labels’s libraries.

At DiSTANTunes we share the same vision. Currently in private beta, we are asking users to give it a try. Head on to http://distanttunes.com/ and enter the following promo code: tcdt2010 to get the product.

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