Google Music: Free Streaming and Some Unique Advantages

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 17, 2011

If you're a music fan and an  Android user you've got to at least be interested in Google's delivery of a beta version of the much-discussed Google Music store. Google officials have been adamant that it will remain a free way to stream music, and they've expressed no interest in pursuing subscription-based services. From all the information available, it looks like that pledge to remain free can be believed, and Google is probably more interested in feeding Google Music users into its lucrative search/ad ecosystem than charging them fees directly. Not everyone understands this new service well, so here are a few non-obvious points about it.

As The Wall Street Journal has noted, Google Music is not an iTunes killer and isn't meant to be:

"Google Music finally opened up today, offering both a locker service and a store, along with a limited ability to share songs, for free, with Google+ users...Google’s locker is free and lets you store 20,000 songs. Apple’s locker costs $25 a year and lets you store 25,000 songs...But that’s sort of missing the point, because few people will make that comparison in the real world."

Indeed, the armies of people out there with iPods, iPhones and Macs aren't going to turn on their heels and run to Google Music. But the key is that if you have an Android phone or device, you now have a good, free choice for streaming and sharing music--and it's very likely to stay free (for streaming). 

 PC Magazine provides one of the first hands-on looks into Google Music:

"Google's key addition to the final version of Google Music is a music store, with 8 million licensed tracks available from EMI, Sony, Universal Music, and a number of independent labels. Over the course of the next few weeks, Google will add additional songs for a total of 13 million. And purchasing music generally works well."

There are some obvious limitations to the service at the point. For one, it's available only for U.S. users, but that won't hinder the service. How long was Spotify unavailable to U.S. users, and still finding success?

One really notable feature that Google Music boasts--which it would be good to see iTunes copy--is the regular availability of free tracks for downloading. Every few days, Google Music will serve up a single that you can get at absolutely no cost. Why don't more music services do this? Many artists would be happy to reach listeners by providing free tracks, and offering the tracks is a good way to make people check in on your music service.

Especially if you're an Android phone owner, it's worth kicking the tires on Google Music over the next few days.