Last year, YouTube Music became Google’s primary streaming service with the company telegraphing that Play Music will eventually be replaced. Google this month will close the Google Play Artist Hub that musicians use to directly interact with the Play Store.
Smaller, indie artists that were not signed by labels could use the Google Play Artist Hub to manage their presence on the Play Store and upload/sell songs. In an email today, Google told these musicians that the Artist Hub is shutting down on April 30th. YouTube Music is cited as the reason by Google:
With the launch of YouTube Music last year, we eventually plan to replace Google Play Music with YouTube Music. In anticipation of this change, we are shutting down the Artist Hub.
This portal allowed smaller artists to directly interact with Google to see statistics, and get paid for streams/purchases. Musicians can still sell their content in the Play Store and have content available for streaming in Play Music, but must now sign-up with a third-party distributor to handle that entire process.
At the end of this month, all existing songs and albums uploaded through the Google Play Artist Hub will “no longer appear in the Google Play Store or Google Play Music service (including the paid streaming and free radio service).”
Artists that would still like to “make [their] music available for purchase/download” have to republish, with Google providing a list of “YouTube partners,” including AWAL, Believe, CD Baby, DistroKid, Stem, and TuneCore.
In the grand scheme, this move is a part of Google’s eventual — and increasingly confirmed — replacement of Play Music with YouTube Music. It shows that Google no longer wants a direct relationship with artists that is Play Music-branded. Of course, the company is not exiting the overall music field as evidenced by the juggernaut that is YouTube, and commitment to the new YouTube Music.
However, there are still many unknown questions about the transition:
- Will the Play Store continue to sell music or will that functionality be removed from Google Play and added to YouTube Music? For Google, does it make sense to still sell MP3s in the streaming age?
- Google has yet to lay out a detailed transition plan. Ignoring the beloved cloud locker feature, what will happen to existing song purchases made in Google Play? Presumably, the deprecation of Play Music means that it will have to be made available in YouTube Music. Is Google going to retain the Google Play storefront for songs, or would they rather just brand it with YouTube?