It’s no secret that digital music, in one form or another, is the future of the music industry. But what form that will take remains to be seen as established companies and digital music start-ups currently are vying to create platforms that will become the new standards in music consumption.
One of the most exciting platforms of recent years, particularly for independent artists, is subscription streaming services. These include services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Xbox Music and more. But now a major player has arrived on the scene as Google announces its own subscription service, Google Play Music All Access.
The company revealed the service at its I/O developer’s conference this year, shortly after announcing deals with all the major labels that allows it to offer “millions of songs.” Additionally, Google reached a deal with Merlin Network, which represents a slew of independent labels around the world -- the group calls itself the “virtual fourth major” label.
Surprisingly for a company that makes most of its money in advertising, All Access will not offer a free, ad-supported version, and will be available for a regular subscription rate of $9.99 per month. This is contrast to the biggest subscription service, Spotify, which offers a free version as well as two subscription options: a desktop only version for $4.99 per month and a desktop and mobile version for $9.99 per month.
Of course, Google has its huge name recognition and existing customer base on its side, which could draw users despite the lack of a free options. One label executive told Billboard that this is the biggest advantage to the music community of Google entering the market.
“Anytime a mainstream company decides to invest in digital music that is good for the entire industry," said Scott Ambrose Reilly, the North American Chief Executive of X5 Music Group. “But seeing a mainstream advertising company like Google launch a paid only service does raise some eyebrows. Hope springs eternal and let’s all hope this product lives up to the Google reputation for worldwide mass market appeal. If not at launch then hopefully in the very near future.”
That last sentence may be referring to the fact that All Access doesn’t seem to have many distinguishing features upon initial launch. Other than an Explore tab that allows users to discover songs based on their current library and the ability to turn on a “radio station” with never-ending tracks by clicking one song, the features of the service seem to be in line with the features of nearly every other popular streaming service.
And while current trends show that music customers are not likely to pay for streaming music when a free option exists, the colossal clout of Google could go a long way toward changing this.
“Even if Google can convert a miniscule percentage of its vast audience to All Access, it will be considered a huge success," Mark Mulligan, principal analyst at MIDiA Consulting, told Billboard .
Regardless, it will be interesting to find out more about the service, and how independent artists can get their music on All Access.