After being pushed back for what seems like forever, Google is offering invitations for Google Music. If you’re a current Pandora, iTunes or Amazon devotee, you may be wondering if it’ll be worth the switch, and what it will offer that those services don’t already provide. How will it compete with the current online music provider scene?
At first, Google Music seems to be trying to compete with iTunes, though the services will actually work hand in hand together to help you stream content to your devices. One of the major reasons, however, that Google Music is causing a major buzz in the tech industry right now is it’s one of the first services to store music using a cloud locker
What does that mean to you? Most importantly, you will not need to sync your device by plugging it in to your PC like you had to do with iTunes. The music and playlist you uploaded on your laptop will magically and automatically show up on your device. You’ll be able to upload your music collection to a spot on the web (likely under your current Google Accounts user ID) and be able to stream that music from the web or your Android device immediately, including your iTunes playlists. This means you can create a “Death Metal Mondays” playlist on your PC at home before you leave for work, then stream it immediately from your Android smartphone on the train to the office. You’ll even be able to access your recently played songs if you go offline for a bit.
What It Isn’t
Google Music won’t be competing -- immediately anyway -- with services that provide music recommendations, which are the popular selling points of services like Pandora or Last.fm. It also won’t be competing with on-demand services like Rhapsody or Grooveshark. The company will have to hash out deals
with record companies to be able to provide music in any form, either in online radio or on-demand form. You also won’t be able to buy music directly from Google Music, such as you would with iTunes, so your music files will need to come from iTunes, Grooveshark, or your own collection. And at least during the Beta phase of Google Music, your uploads will be capped at 20,000 songs
. Amazon recently released Amazon Cloud Player
, which offers cloud-based streaming music similar to that of Google Music. The most notable difference between the two services is cost: Amazon is offering 5GB of cloud-based music for free, but charging $20 a year for 20GB of music, while Google is offering free beta subscriptions. An actual pricing structure for Google Music once it comes out of beta has not been released.
Another obvious downside to Google Music is that it is not a solid backup of your music. It’s not meant to be an online hard drive that holds your entire music collection, and if you lose your copy of “Easy Like Sunday Morning” when your laptop’s hard drive fails, Google Music will not have a second copy for you to download. The only way to get your music back (legally) will be to buy the song again. Downloading music files via an online content player, even if the music was originally yours, opens a legal can of worms for the provider. It’s a battle Google hasn't figured out just yet.
How It Stacks Up
Google Music has several improvements to make before it will usurp most of the current content providers, except possibly Amazon Cloud Drive. The service seems to make sense for those that already have a large music collection, and the free beta subscription pricing seems right for my budget. It probably won’t stop my use of Pandora at parties, which is $36 a year
for ad-free music, or my flipping through my local hard drive to find that Hall and Oats song I want to listen to right now ($.99 a song on iTunes). But since I’m an Android/Google fangirl, I’ll probably find myself using Google Music during beta testing to see if the service is beneficial, and if I’ll actually utilize it frequently. Once the pricing structure is implemented, however, the features will need to stack up in order for me to justify paying a monthly or annual fee on top of my Pandora subscription and iTunes purchases.