The competition for your ears — and dollars — just got a little tougher. On Wednesday, Google launched a paid music subscription service that will put it in direct competition with other streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The announcement may just be the beginning for Google.
As it gets easier to access the Internet, more fans are streaming their music — not downloading it. A recent survey by the NPD Group found that for users between the ages of 13 and 35 streaming music services are more popular than FM radio. Google wants to make sure it rides that wave.
At its developers conference on Wednesday in San Francisco, the company's Chris Yerga introduced what it's calling All Access. While listening to !!!'s "One Girl One Boy" via the service, Yerga showed how it was possible to create a station curated by Google's algorithms but controllable by the user.
"So if there's something there we don't want to hear," he says, "Swipe it away! Swipe it away!"
All Access users can listen to millions of songs and albums as part of the streaming radio service, or they can listen to a song or album on demand, as many times as they like.
Google, the biggest company to enter the streaming music market, has reached licensing agreements with the three major labels. Pandora, the Internet radio service, has 200 million users. Spotify, which also lets users pick exactly what they want to hear, has 6 million paying subscribers and about 24 million users. But Paul Sloan, the executive editor of CNET, who follows the industry, isn't sure how well Google will compete.
"It might just sort of be one of those services that never gets traction," Sloan says. "Right now Google's various music services and other various things they've done like this have not worked well." Sloan points to Google's Play store, where fans can download books, films and music. He says it doesn't come close to Amazon or iTunes.
But Google-owned YouTube is another matter. It's by far the most popular way for young people to listen to music. Sloan says Google is working on another streaming service that will be part of YouTube.
"The industry is hoping for YouTube because that has the brand recognition," he says. "That has the brand recognition, and people already use it as their digital jukebox in the sky."
The service Google launched today will cost $10 a month. That's the same price as Spotify. But both Spotify and Pandora have free versions of their services. To get Google's All Access you have to pay up.