Was Google Music Really Necessary?

Google-playGuest post by Tyler Hayes, founder of, 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.


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  1. I tried to order a Rolling Stones live concert via Google Play, it was a good deal. But using Google Chrome, on an iMac, the checkout/download process didn’t work. It wouldn’t work. I tried a few times and then gave up. I use Google Apps as my company email and I am happy with it but the support is non-existent. It takes 24-48 hours to receive a human response. I did’t bother to contact Google and spend all day trying to tell them that their product wasn’t working for me. Now, I’ve had problems with my Apple ID in the past and that also took too long to resolve but other than that, the Apple purchasing and downloading process is smooth and hassle free. That is why Apple is becoming a monopoly – they create a simple graceful process to do complicated things.

  2. Well, maybe they’re not used to selling to consumers, the actual users, providing adequate support, etc. If ~98% of customers are advertising, might be hard to change that DNA to something radically different, ie where user and the customer are the same thing and intentions are generally much more aligned.

  3. Was this article really necessary? The more music services out there the more artists and fans can benefit. Competition is a good thing.

  4. Given that Google is trying to create their own eco system I think it was absolutely necessary. Expecting them not to would be like asking a new auto maker to not put headlights on their car because there’s already enough cars with headlights.
    While you bring up a good point regarding Google’s lack of record selling content thus far, I think you are far too pessimistic given their track record. Google has put out of lot of products but also had some massive successes as well that should be weighted (Chrome, Android, Analytics, Maps, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, etc etc.) Given who they have gone up against just in those areas their internal product development has an unbelievable track record.
    And while the media is convinced G+ is unsuccessful, I think its far to early to suggest G+ isn’t doing well. G+ has doubled in size every quarter since it opened and while its not yet in FB’s league, its done very well considering its less than a year old. Keep in mind it took even FB 4 years to catch up to Myspace.
    G+ is important regarding Music since if Google music is going to succeed its likely to be on the back of G+. I’m sure you are aware that now songs shared on G+ automatically show up on your Google music where you can buy them – this is even an edge up on Spotify and something Itunes has no answer for at the moment. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t count Google out just yet.

  5. I agree that it is necessary. As I described in my comment I was using other Google products, very successful products, while trying to use their new product, which didn’t work. It’s amazing to me that Google didn’t realize it wasn’t working for me. That they didn’t contact me with a follow-up to an abandoned cart, or some notification that they realized my checkout was failing. Or didn’t have a help button on that checkout screen. In agreement with the other comments, they might need to learn that they have a problem with customer service and customer management.

  6. The more platforms for the artists to INDEPENDENTLY sell and connect to fans, the better for both parties.
    One of the things keeping google play down is that they only allow U.S. bands and music so f%&k that.

  7. “Content sold on Google Play will be 320 kbps .mp3 files” …is that constant bitrate or VBR? Anyone know?
    Stereo or joint-stereo?

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