Guest post by Tyler Hayes, founder of Liisten.com, an independent music discovery site.
Let me ask you a serious question, did you know Google has a music store? It falls under the name Google Play Music. Google opened its music store in November of 2011, to which Billboard called it a "solid competitor" to Apple and iTunes. That has since proved to not be the case. The company had originally projected Music to do $1.5 billion in revenue in 2012, while the current estimates is that they won't even hit $100 million.
Instead of asking what's wrong with Google Play Music, what if we come at it from a more interesting perspective, did they need to launch a music store in the first place? And let's remember that the whole content push is to build out the ecosystem for their mobile operating system, Android.
Originally Android phones came with Amazon's mp3 store preloaded on them, or easily accessible, as a way to buy music on-the-go. At the time, this seemed like a great solution for an obvious missing piece, but increasingly the goal Google has been aiming at has been creating its own ecosystem rather than relying on other companies. This build out with music, books, apps and videos is in order to directly compete with Apple's list of content services.
Taking a quick look back at Google's track record with launching services should be telling for the future. Google launched Google Video in 2006, but that has since been shut down. The company now operates YouTube as their video hub. Google has also launched Google+, Wallet, ChromeOS, Google TV, Wave, Buzz all of which have either tanked or aren't doing well. When you then compare Google Music no one should be surprised it hasn't met expectations.
There are a host problems with the service including lack of label support and confusing UI, but there are some really interesting aspects including my favorite, Artist Hub. As someone who advocates independent artists, I saw the feature as a huge win, allowing any artist, signed or not, to directly upload their music and set up a store front page that people could then buy their music from. Its like Bandcamp but with Google's name and resources behind it. Unfortunately this has fallen short too and isn't the savior it could be.
Despite all the arguments against it I think Google still needed to launch Music. The last thing consumers need is another music store and the ideal situation would have been to continue to partner with Amazon using their digital music store. Unfortunately the two company's relationship has taken a less than positive turn since Amazon created their own version of Android for the Kindle Fire and has said with their actions that Google doesn't know how to sell content. In light of not really having a suitable source to point people towards to buy music, I do think Google needed to launch Music, but now they need to focus on it for the sake of Android users and not let it become just another failed service.