The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the search giant could launch “within the next two weeks” a rumored music service dubbed Google Music that would tie with the Google+ social network to recommend songs to users, along with the ability to download individual tracks:
Users of Google Music, as the service is tentatively named, could recommend songs in an online library to Google+ contacts, who in turn would be allowed to listen to those songs once for free. The songs would then be available for sale as MP3 downloads, probably for around the usual 99 cents each. Executives at Google have told people in the music industry that they plan to start the music-download service this week or next week, even though they are unlikely to secure the rights to sell music from at least two of the four major label groups in time. The song-recommendation feature would work only for music released by record labels with Google agreements in place.
EMI could support Google’s music service at launch and Vivendi is currently in talks. Sony and Warner are unlikely to have agreements in place in time for the launch. In addition, “two organizations representing independent record labels also were close to Google Music deals” people familiar with the matter told the Journal.
If it launches, a music service from Google is sure to step on Apple’s toes. Apple has long dominated the digital music landscape. The company in the September quarter sold 6.62 million iPods, a 27 percent annual units decline due to iPhone cannibalization. However, Apple’s music player, which on Sunday turned ten, still holds 70 percent of all MP3 music players sold in the United States, with the iPod touch constituting over half of all iPods sold. iTunes remains the world’s largest music retailer with a total of 16 billion song downloads to date north of 60 percent of digital song downloads in the US.
Where it lacks in brand power, marketing and credibility in music space, Google could make up by tying its music service not just to Google+ but its many other properties on the web. Let’s not forget the dominant number of eyeballs attracted each day to the Google.com search engine and how the company could leverage its Android ecosystem and search results across platforms to really push the new offering in front of hundreds of millions of people. Paired with the power of the cloud and Google’s existing web-based music locker dubbed Music Beta, the company could create a compelling alternative to iTunes, something record labels have been clamoring for the past decade.