Google today announced Play Music All Access, a music service with subscription features that competes with Spotify and Rdio — building on Google's existing music store and cloud service that competes with iTunes and Amazon. That's a compelling mix of features, but Google still faces plenty of challenges as it attempts to establish itself as a credible competitor in the rapidly changing music space.
"For now, we have a version 1.0 of what's possible," Google Play lead product manager Paul Joyce told The Verge. "We had a vision and it's taken us time to build out that vision. We look at All Access as a complement to the locker, which we felt we had to build first."
"We had a vision and it's taken us time to build out that vision."
But while the streaming service came second, it's clear Google felt pressure to enter the subscription market as consumer music spending shifts. "Music subscriptions are the fastest growing segment of the music business," said Joyce. "There are people who will always buy music, and people who will always rent. Increasingly there will be both."
The combination of a store, cloud storage, and streaming service means that All Access is currently unique in allowing customers to browse, play, and manage both purchased tracks and subscription tracks in a single unified interface — something that no other service currently offers. "You can see how a subscription model works with your own personal collection, and if you like it, we would love for you to pay $9.99 a month," said Joyce. "But if you decide you don't need all that music, your going-away prize is a free level of service where all your music is safe in the cloud."
That's a pretty good deal, and it gets better if you sign up before June 30th — the price falls to $7.99, although Joyce wouldn't say if it would ever go up again. "It's $7.99 a month," said Joyce. "Forever and promises are difficult. But people have the same question about our free music locker."
But getting people to take advantage of that deal won't be easy — especially since Google seems to be artificially limiting its potential market by keeping Play Music safely within the boundaries of its own ecosystem. There's no iOS app, for example, and social integration is limited to Google+ — even though Spotify famously received a huge boost in users by integrating with Facebook. In an increasingly multiplatform world, a music service that only works in the US on a single platform and doesn't allow for seamless sharing seems seems destined for niche status.
"I think we're just getting started."
But Joyce said his team is exploring all their options. "We'll always evaluate other platforms and other opportunities," said Joyce. "Our general goal is to have everyone use our service. I don't think it should be a requirement that people have a specific piece of hardware to use our service — that's not a strategic aim. I think we're just getting started."
Joyce also hinted at future integration with YouTube, which has turned into a dominant music service in its own right. "YouTube's hugely successful and we're all part of one company," he said. "Can Google build something better that involves aspects of YouTube with things that Play is doing? I think that's something we're all aware of, and directionally that's likely."