The Washington Post

Google music: Not the service Google hoped to launch

Musician Mos Def performs during a party for Google's new music search feature, which allows users to more easily get song previews, on Oct. 28, 2009, in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles/AP)

Google will launch its long-awaited music program Tuesday at Google I/O, the company’s developers’ conference in San Francisco, but it won’t be the service Google hoped to launch.

Like Amazon, Google doesn’t have the cooperation of record labels, despite a considerable amount of time and effort spent trying to negotiate for rights. This means that users of Google’s new “Music Beta” won’t be able share or purchase music.

Music Beta will instead act simply as a personal online storage locker, from where users can stream and download files to Internet connected devices.

Google seems to blame record labels for what’s lacking on Music Beta. “A couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms,” Google director of content partnerships Zahavah Levine told Billboard.

In the battle for online portable listening, Music Beta is pretty similar to what’s already out there, looking much like the Amazon Cloud Player launched by Amazon in March. It’s striving to compete with Apple’s iTunes by giving Android device users a place to store and listen to their music collections.

Google will also unveil its music player app for Android devices at the Google I/O conference. The app can play any music stored on Androids, but can't access other music unless users are part of Music Beta.

Tech critics are praising the music player app for its Instant Mix feature that creates a playlist based on a single song, similar to Pandora, but with a user’s own music. Playlists can also be synched across devices without having to transfer them.

Google says it will remain open to partnerships with labels for Music Beta, indicating they haven’t given up the fight yet.

“This is the beginning of what we hope will be a long relationship with music and users and helping users engage with music and artist and fans,” said Levine.


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