Google’s ventures in the world beyond search have been hit-or-miss. Chrome? Love it. Google+? Eh, not so much. Google Wave? Seriously, remember waiting for an invite to Google Wave? Those things were going for like $70 a hit on eBay! Google Music pretty much died on the vine when it beta-launched in 2011, but the civilization-consuming monolith is back in the game as of now with Google Play All Access, which was unveiled at Google I/O earlier today, and launches in the US, um, later today.
The new streaming service is an attempt to get a piece of the still-cooling pie currently being crushed by Spotify and Pandora. The hard numbers are thus: You get a 30-day free trial; after that, subscriptions run $10 a month (same as Spotify Premium in the States), with an early-bird fee of $8 per month. While I personally haven’t fucked with it yet, Gizmodo has some details:
Google claims that All Access is better for discovery than others. From what we can see so far it’s an on-demand meets radio service with the personalization options you would expect. It works on phones, tablets and web browsers.
The innovation comes from the degree to which it’s easy to switch between the hands-on and hands-off experiences. If you don’t know what you want to listen to you can just hit “Listen Now” and start listening to something right away. When you want to geek out on Google’s huge on-demand catalog, you can do that too.
Whether it’s better for the end consumer remains to be seen; it sounds to me like the music snob (talking to you, Stereogum reader) might be better served by Spotify, but who knows how the respective products will evolve. More important to my mind is the cost at which this comes to artists. Right now, AFAIK, Spotify operates at a loss, with the (perhaps unrealistic) belief that subscriber numbers will eventually rise to the point of break-even. That’s a serious drag, because artists (“content producers” as they are known in the corporate world) are currently being fed only the smallest fragments of flattened crumbs lining the tray of the aforementioned pie. If Google somehow undercuts even that infinitesimal percentage … well, “professional musician” is going to become a substantially less lucrative field.