Google announced this morning that it will now offer a free, ad-supported version of its Google Play Music streaming music service in addition to the existing paid subscription option. This offering appears to somewhat match Spotify by providing both free access to what are essentially online radio stations. But it is also clearly aimed at Apple Music, which is set to launch next week.
Honestly, it’s kind of hard to keep track of what each of these companies really offers, and how they compare. And of course, each of the services changes over time, usually for the better.
Google Play Music has always worked well, but I don’t really use it because it’s not available on Windows Phone (by Google, at least, there are third party options), and that’s where I consume music. The basic service is free, and as of early this year, Google lets you upload up to 50,000 of your own songs—which you could have ripped from CD, purchased online from any service, or whatever—and then access them from any compatible device, including via the web. You can of course buy music from Google, and that will appear in your Google Play Music cloud-based collection (and not count against that limit) as well.
Additionally, Google has also long offered a subscription service for Play Music. This service costs $9.99 per month, and works much like (paid) Spotify or Xbox Music Pass for Xbox Music: it lets you add any music from the Google Play Store to your cloud collection, stream it online, or download it for offline use on some number of devices.
So what is this new offering? It appears to be online radio stations, and not the entire Google Play Music catalog, with arbitrary album or song streaming. “You can browse our curated stations by genre, mood, decade or activity, or you can search for your favorite artist, album or song to instantly create a station of similar music,” as Google explains.
It’s free, but comes with advertising, though if you do opt for the Google Play Music subscription, the ads go away of course. Google also notes—and I’m not sure I’d heard of this before—that that subscription also provides “ad-free, offline and background features for music videos on YouTube.” That is interesting.
The new free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music is launching first in the US, Google says, with the web version available now and Android and iOS support coming via the Google Play Music app later in the week.
But Google has two problems: Spotify and Apple Music.
It appears that with this week’s change, Google Music is nearly identical to Spotify. Like Google, Spotify has a paid tier (with the same pricing, $9.99), that removes the ads and provides unlimited skips, higher quality audio, offline capabilities, and arbitrary track playback (instead of being stuck with online radio stations).
Apple Music is foregoing the free, ad-supported route, though Apple will offer a one-time, free 90-day trial. And Apple of course has a highly compliant user base, eager to throw money towards Cupertino. It’s also $9.99 per month, but there is a $14.99 per month option for families with up to six people, which is unusually generous, and seems to offer the same basic feature as the paid Google and Spotify options. Apple Music launches June 30, so I’ll be checking that one out soon.
Long story short, Google needed to do this. I’m not sure it changes anything though.
Tagged with Google Play Music