Free Play

Google Adds a Free Option to its Music Service

Play_Music_lYesterday, Google introduced an advertising-supported version of Play Music to users in the US. The streaming service had been available exclusively as a $10-per-month subscription package.

The free facility provides access to genre- and mood-based music lists and lets users customise their own stations, but doesn’t allow on-demand access to specific albums or songs. Google executives hope the offering will entice users to upgrade to the $10 monthly subscription service, though it’s unclear whether free content will be enough to secure paying customers in an increasingly crowded market.

The move comes as music-streaming services are finding their footing. The introduction of Apple Music and Spotify’s expansion into video are among recent developments in the segment — service providers are still feeling their way forward, looking to develop an optimal business model for a product that’s historically been free.

Play Music continues to suffer from branding issues. It’s not among the first names that music fans think of when looking for new songs — Google’s YouTube is a more popular destination, and its upcoming music subscription service looks set to cloud problems further.

Play Music aims to be contextual. Weekday morning playlists, for example, offer soundtracks to “drinking coffee” and “having fun at work”, and the suggestions adjust for any potential activity given the user’s history and the time of day. Play Music supports Google’s objective to keep users logged in and connected, and resulting data contributes to the company’s library of knowledge about individuals. Google provides a high degree of customization, aligning well with the needs of marketers.

The growing competitive nature of music streaming could benefit consumers. Like radio stations, such services aren’t mutually exclusive, and users can hop around depending on content, features and usability. The free version of Play Music comes to Americans a week before the launch of Apple’s streaming service. Regional expansion will depend on content licensing, but will be a sign of things to come.

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