Evolution of Google Play Music
Google Play Music has a short, but rich, history. Google’s music offerings were first hinted in a presentation at the 2010 Google I/O developers conference, where the presenter at the time flashed a slide showing a “music” section in the Android Marketplace. For those of you new to the scene here, the first few iterations of Android had a different app catalog interface, the Android Marketplace. But enough of that, the following year’s Google I/O developers conference, held in May 10th of 2011, was when Google officially announced its first endeavor into the world of music distribution.
Google Music Beta
Originally the Google Music Beta was a completely free service that was available to US residents only. Other than its limitation to the states, it was an invite-only service as well. Google has had a history of launching invite-only services. I was an early adopter of Google’s Gmail service in high school and actively recruiting future Googleites. I also had invites to hand out for Google Wave (bet you don’t remember that). Regardless of all of that, Google Music Beta was invite-only as well.
Its sole feature was the ability to upload 20,000 songs which could be accessed via their web-app interface, or from the Android companion app found in Android Marketplace. While this might sound awfully lackluster, at the time (and even now) that ability was pretty great. There wasn’t a music store per se, and their wasn’t any licensing agreements with the four big record labels.
Google Music public release
The invite only Google Music Beta lasted six months, at which time The Goog decided a public release was in order. On November 16th 2011 it went public, and new features we’re included in the package as well. There was a storefront for the Android Marketplace, licensing agreements with three out of the four big record labels, music sharing via Google+, and “Artist Hub” for musicians to post directly to the Google Music service, and straight to a couple thousand fans. I kid, I kid, there were more users than that back then…
It was a rough, slow, start for Google Music. With services like Pandora around dominating the streaming music scene, Google Music might have been a bit too much for the general public to swallow, and was only really “successful” with a portion of early adopters. A rebranding was in order, and the birth of the Google Play Store was in the making.
Google Play Music
The Google Play Music rebranding was a success, generally speaking, it didn’t steal the majority of iTunes sales as it had planned, but it did offer an enticing and exciting alternative to iTunes. And for those migrating, it offered the PC program Google Music Manager, which was to be installed on your iTunes enabled desktop in order to transfer the DRM information over to Google Play Music. The 20,000 songs upload feature was still an option (thankfully), while their were now individual songs for sale as well; $.69, $.99, and $1.29 options to be exact.
All that you’d expect from a top tier company like Google was found in Google Play Music in 2012. Personalized recommendations included, the most interesting feature at the time was an MP3 analyzer that created an Instant Mix for users by automagically categorizing a users legal and pirated music into ready made, catered playlists. Another point I’d like to bring up during this article is, how did Google not get in trouble with record labels for voluntarily harboring mostly pirated music?! We’ll never know. Regardless, time marches on, which almost brings us to the Music Key era of Google Play Music, and before that their All Access premium memberships.
In January of 2012, Google added the ability to download songs from your own library from the cloud, only two copies though. It wasn’t until October 2012 that they finally reached an agreement with Warner Music Group, granting them access to a sizable library that could directly compete with iTunes for top spot. Also releasing a “song matching” feature to Google Play Music which allowed users to skip the whole uploading thing, and merely just match the DRM data from your computer to the files already stored on their cloud. It made the whole library creation process simpler for you and Google.
Google Play All Access
At Google I/O in May of 2013 we saw the release of Google Play Music All Access. It was their answer to the still incredibly popular streaming service Spotify, and answer it did. It was the little push that their struggling service needed, not only could users upload 20,000 songs, they had access to the pre-existing library of Google Play Music files, and the ability to store those songs, albums, and playlists offline for on the go listening. This was a major turning point for Google, and it’s where they finally started gaining traction amongst the digital audio nerds, I mean us.
It wouldn’t be for another year that Google made a significant change to the Google Play Music All Access playing field. And because of this wait we know that they were profiting, we were profiting, the system was working. In November of 2014, Google announced “Music Key”, a bundle package which included all the perks of All Access, with the addition of YouTube music videos. It was a hybrid. Music Key is still in beta according to the play.google.com site.
Current State of Affairs
To this day nothing significant has changed about Google Play Music, and if the market is ready the most likely time for a significant promotion would be in the spring when college gets out. Or after summer break prior to school kicking back into gear as well as the 2015 holiday season. That’s when the spending happens, it’s just math (money) that determines the release dates of new promotions.
At the moment, Google Play Music is available in about 58 countries for $9.99 a month, and comes bundled with the YouTube Music Key beta. They offer 30 million songs, Instant Mix, and pain free iTunes license transfers all for one low price. It’s arguably the best option out there for music lovers, with the only competition being Rdio and Spotify. As per protocol, the Google Play Music app is lovingly available to iOS and Android users free of charge.
What’s your favorite music streamer? I use a Spotify free account still, but after looking into Google Play Music, I’m pretty sure you may be reading the words of a soon to be subscriber.