Hooking in its social network, Google+, the company is also making it easy to share songs either publicly or with select groups through the network’s Circles feature, adding the all-important element of social music discovery.
Here’s how Google measures up against some of its biggest competitors on a few key points.
Price: Google Music is free, free, free and lets you store up to 20,000 songs. Apple’s cloud offering, iTunes in the Cloud, is free for up to 5GB of music, excluding what you’ve bought on iTunes, and requires $24.95 per year to match up to 25,000 non-iTunes songs. Amazon MP3 also gives you 5GB of music for free; you can upgrade to unlimited storage for $20 per year.
Spotify and Pandora have free options but don’t let you use your own music. The same goes for services such as Rdio and Mog, which recently introduced free models that have their own limits. Rdio has an ad-free, capped listening plan, and Mog has a novel model that lets you “refill” your music meter, granting you more listening time depending on how much you listen, share and use the service.
Social: Social is a huge part of what these online music services are trying to tap, and each service does it in its own way. Google has — no surprise -- decided to make its music shareable over Google+, which is either a boon or a barrier, depending on how much you and your friends use the service.
Still, you get a little more control over what you share than with the Facebook-connected Spotify, Pandora, Mog and Rdio, which show users every track their friends have explored. It’s a matter of taste here: Do you want to share everything you listen to with more people or curate your suggestions to a smaller crowd?
Recommendations: Google Music also has an interesting leg up on the competition in the way it recommends music. In addition to recommending tunes from your favored artists and hooking in the suggestions from your friends, Google also has a staff of music critics who will be contributing reviews and their own recommendations.
Google expanded the program to be publicly available after a beta testing period, and now hopes its free service will move users away from iTunes and pay sites. As Halyey Tsukayama explained:
Google announced that it is opening its Music service to everyone for free for up to 20,000 songs. In addition, the company is adding a music marketplace through the Android Market, adding a catalog of millions of songs.
The company announced content partners including Universal, EMI and Sony Music. In addition to big labels, Google has also signed on with smaller, independent labels. Warner Music was not listed as a launch partner. The service launches with access to around 13 million tracks, with more to come, Google executive Zahavah Levine said at a news conference.
The company also announced that it will be offering free tracks from artists such as the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Busta Rhymes, Shakira, Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band. The Rolling Stones will be pushing six unreleased live concerts to the site from now to 2012. A single from Busta Rhymes is free to download immediately.
Users will be able to put iTunes music into their music lockers, and the Music Manager is even supposed to retain users’ playlists and ratings.
Google is partnering with T-Mobile for exclusive releases on its mobile platform, and hopes to reach out to independent artists with its cheap artist pages. As AP reported:
T-Mobile USA, which brought Google’s first Android-enabled smartphone to market in 2008, also was a partner in the Google music launch. The cellphone carrier said it would offer other free songs to its customers and soon allow them to pay for music purchases through their phone bill.
Google also appealed to independent artists who release their own music, allowing them to upload songs, biographical information and artwork to the store after paying a one-time $25 fee. Artists would be able to keep 70 percent of all sales.
By launching the store, Google is opening its music service widely. It released the service as an unfinished beta in May to about a million people in the U.S. who requested an invitation and got one. That version of the service, which essentially uploaded your digital songs for online storage and allowed playback on computers and Android devices, proved to be a hit: Testers were streaming music on average 2.5 hours every day.
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