Google Music - A Waste
My first taste of Spotify was in June 2007, over a year before the public launch of the product. I was in beautiful central France with a radio-controlled car website taking photographs and writing reports on the European Championship race. Stupidly I had forgotten my MP3 player and was getting music withdrawal symptoms. There was a serious storm just weeks before and communications had been disrupted, internet speeds in these rural areas of France are sketchy at the best of times, terrible with the storm - this ruled out YouTube.
Spotify - A New Era
I was explaining my woes to a friend when he mentioned Spotify, he knew the developers and sorted me out with a login to a very early beta. Despite the unbelievably slow internet connection the songs were streaming instantly and already there was an awful lot of music. Best of all, it was free.
Over the following four years I continued to be amazed daily by Spotify. Whether I wanted to listen to Beethoven's Symphony No9, some Scotish indie from We Were Promised Jetpacks, pop music from Avril Lavigne, some French electronic from Vitalic or M83, folk from Bon Iver... you get the point - it has everything from popular to obscure.
RIP the Spotify I loved: June 2007 - May 2011
In May this year Spotify killed off its free music service, taking it down to an tiny number of track plays and total hours. We know labels wanted more money than Spotify could make with its advertising model, I don't blame Spotify. But gone was an era when I could legitimately stream music, discover new music and do this at the small cost of the occasional radio style advert.
My friends have all but left the service, about 5 or around an original 30 users pay the £4.99 or £9.99 subscription fee. We all know the downsides of subscription service, you pay hundreds of pounds over a few years and when you stop you end up with nothing. Not great. if you spent that money on MP3 downloads you'd have them forever. So where have my friends gone? YouTube mostly, I am sure some access their songs in a less legitimate way now also.
Google Music - Hope from Mountain View
Rumours had been circling for a long time about Google Music, Vlad was posting about it back in June '10. Google is one of largest advertising companies in the world. My head was swimming of something even bigger and greater than Spotify. Just look what Google give us for free with an ad-supported model: Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Android and so on. If anyone could make the original free style music streaming service like Spotify work it is Google, right?
We should be so lucky... they released something akin to Amazon Cloud Player which is arguably less useful without a music purchasing ability, yet. Like Amazon it's frustratingly a US service only. This isn't a complete disaster, I have GB's of legally purchased (through 7digital) MP3's and plenty of devices I want to listen to them on. I see the value in what they have, but what a missed opportunity.
Who is to blame?
This is what I don't know. Record Labels will want as much money as they can for their song, Google will want to pay as little as possible for the songs. There must be compromise. Where is my dream streaming service? How can Google on one hand offer us music video (through YouTube) and turn enough money to keep themselves and the record companies happy yet can't manage a simple streaming service?
We learn about an MP3 Store on Android Market and through the Music web interface. But really, this is Google - we don't pay for Google products traditionally. There is so much potential here, somebody somewhere just doesn't get it. What a waste.