Google’s Musical Chairs

I kid, I kid. Google’s Music Store is interesting for a few reasons. 

While the prices will apparently be between $0.99 and $1.29 — the same as iTunes — Google may discount tracks to entice buyers. Of course, Amazon has done this for years to little effect. 

As Brian Womack and Andy Fixmer report for Bloomberg, only three of the four big labels are said to be on board: Sony, Universal, and EMI. The fourth, Warner, is holding out apparently due to pricing and piracy concerns.

It has been about 18 months since Google first indicated their iTunes competitor was coming “soon” (and soundedawesome”). If they really still don’t have all four labels on board, that’s just sad. And I don’t understand why they’d launch without everyone on board. Spotify waited. Apple waited. Everyone waits. It’s weird to have a huge chunk of popular music unavailable. 

On second thought, I know exactly why they’d launch without everyone on board. It’s been 18 months. They obviously hope the launch will pressure Warner to get on board. Apple does this from time to time. Sometimes it works (books), sometimes it doesn’t (TV rentals).

Google Music Beta (the cloud storage/streaming service) has been out for 6 months now. It’s essentially worthless without a store attached to it, so that’s another argument for why Google needs to launch this store now. Amazon’s cloud music service has a store attached. And, of course, Apple just launched their cloud music service with iTunes Match.

The social sharing of music on Google+, which Matt Rosoff first reported for Business Insider back in October, could be interesting. Facebook’s music launch has been pretty underwhelming. Google has a chance to do this right. 

The whispers I’ve heard about what Google is going to launch tomorrow is that it’s very good. Of course, I’ve heard that before… Still, it probably just has to be a 7 out of 10 to have the potential to at least somewhat disrupt iTunes, which has long since become too bloated.

That being said, I still don’t really get why Google is doing this. This feels like another reach. They’re going after something that Apple has dominated for the better part of a decade. And they clearly know how difficult the content space is after the Google TV fiasco and the last 18 months trying to launch this store. 

If Google is trying to focus, this seems like another distraction.

I get the importance of music on portable devices. I’m just not sure why Google doesn’t partner up here. They did half-heartedly with Amazon in the early days of Android, but Android wasn’t ready for primetime yet. That partnership could have gone farther (well, except for the fact that Amazon now has their own designs for Android). Or better, why not partner with someone like Spotify or Rdio? 

Instead, Google is creating yet another business with little or no margins (especially if they do discount the music). Maybe it sells more Android devices, but they’re not making much money there either. At best, this is two steps removed from Google’s bread-and-butter, search and advertising. 

This could be one expensive — and shallow — new moat.

  1. ofblog reblogged this from parislemon
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    I love Android cause I didn’t have to deal with itunes.
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    Bracing myself for the big day. Love getting some pre-game commentary from my fave tech though leader, Mr. parislemon.
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