Google Music Beta: A First Look Review at the Music Industry Game Changer

Discussion in 'Blogs' started by Mike, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
    Staff Member Premium Supporter

    Jul 22, 2005
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    Let's Explore the Internet's Next Big Change in Online Music

    Since the release of the iPod, Apple has been on a roll. In 2011, no one in the technology world can discount the impact that this company has made without acknowledging the fact that they have become the market leader in consumer music products. The iPod has done for digital music what Sony’s Walkman did for analog. While cassette tapes and vinyl records were mostly replaced by the mid-1990s by CDs, the shockwave of Apple’s iPod release was felt throughout the music industry. But can Apple take all the credit for the digital music revolution? The Fraunhofer Society might disagree. July 1994 was a landmark month for digital music. Fraunhofer released l3enc, the first MP3 encoder, and by 1995, the .mp3 file extension had been decided upon. Nearly two years later, in 1997, a company called Nullsoft released its Winamp application to the web. Winamp was capable of playing MP3 files. was launched that same year, allowing independent artists, and just about anyone, to host their music online.

    From 1994 to 1997, the spread of MP3s across the Internet grew like wild fire. In the years that followed, with Internet users making the transition to broadband in one form or another, the proliferation of online music flourished; this, despite the objections of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Anyone who used the Internet for music in those days will remember Napster. Napster was the first mainstream peer-to-peer file sharing network, which was sued by the RIAA and taken down. It allowed Internet users to get music. There was, however, a good argument in Napster’s favor. They, after all, weren’t hosting any of the content on their service. It was the users of their service that were downloading and sharing files illegally.

    The sharing of music under these conditions flourished. For audiophiles, Napster and the services that sprung from it weren’t just a way of obtaining music through illicit means. Much like the obsession with collecting vinyl records, many audiophiles enjoyed the idea of finding new music and then buying the album. Interestingly enough, the argument against copying music has been one that has been hotly debated throughout history. Radio broadcast of music was initially rejected by record companies on copyright grounds until labels realized how much money it would bring them. Then, with radio, a payola system of purchasing air time was instituted for certain major label artists.

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, college radio brought completely unknown bands to the forefront of the music industry. Those stations weren’t limited to playing Top 40 artists, and through community grants and licensing, were (and still are) able to provide listeners with an eclectic variety of independent music that many listener’s appreciate. But it wasn’t just the average listener who began tuning into college radio in those days: facing declining sales of big name hair metal bands and a decline in popularity of mainstream 80’s pop music, record labels started signing indie music acts out of areas like Seattle and Boston. For the first time in decades, rock music had a true full scale revolt on its hands. This sensation also led to the discovery of rap as a commercially viable music genre and with it a new style called hip hop emerged with the resurgence of R&B music. Evolving technology and new, provocative artists would bring techno and dance music back into the mainstream.

    Then, Apple released the iPod. Suddenly, you didn’t just have to listen to one CD, you could have your entire music collection on a device. But perhaps what many people don’t remember is the first MP3 player. It wasn’t an iPod. It was a device called MPMan, which actually used no moving parts (solid state). The Rio PMP300 quickly followed. These devices were condemned by the Recording Industry Association of America. Much like radio was first condemned, then VCRs, and so forth. But similar to the advent of radio, and the idea of labels paying radio stations to play the same songs over and over, or rather, stations sticking to the same format to keep good company with the corporate music bigwigs, when the iPod was released, and became a sensation, something had to be done.

    Just as the RIAA had destroyed Napster and busted down the door of free music, Apple soon launched its iTunes store, and, in what some would still consider a defiance of the record labels, promised not to increase song pricing. This allowed iTunes to undercut its soon-to-be competitors, like … hmm… Amazon, and a bunch of other companies that sell MP3s which to this day have little to no brand recognition. It is clear that, before long, other companies realized that they needed to get into the MP3 player game. After all, MP3 players weren’t just becoming MP3 players. They could play a number of formats, including video, and Apple developed their own lossless audio format with Digital Rights Management (DRM) built-in to appease the record labels. If your computer or iPod wasn’t licensed to play the music on your computer, you were out of luck. Microsoft launched its Zune product, and didn’t tie down consumers to having to use the iTunes software. After all, in order to ensure that no one on earth could ever buy a song off of iTunes and use it on anything but the iPod, and consequently, copy the music, Apple sells all of its music using its special codec and Digital Rights Management (DRM).

    Although iPods still support MP3 from anywhere, there is a good indication that Apple’s new service, the iCloud, won’t. As the rumors go, you will only be able to use iCloud to play music from the Apple iTunes Store. iCloud will apparently be a collaboration with major record labels to provide iTunes-based music to the masses.

    Enter Google Music Beta in 2011. Currently accepting beta invitations, Google Music Beta allows you to upload your entire music collection, up to 20,000 songs, to Google’s servers. Cloud streaming won’t be contingent on Digital Rights Management or copyrighted songs. Music in Google’s Music Beta will apparently allow people to access music in a new way. While consumers may still find themselves paying for music, it won’t necessarily be from iTunes. There is an opportunity here, with Goole Music Beta, to allow music enthusiasts, recording artists, and just about everyone to play their music from anywhere, without having to worry legal jargon. The obvious implications of this service, in its current state, would mean that your, and not someone else’s, is what is always on-demand. If the Google Music Beta service can be endorsed by mainstream audiences, record labels that rely on iTunes to make sales will have to contend with a new player, no pun intended, in the digital music revolution. In the past, Apple has been criticized for the proprietary nature of its offerings. To use Apple’s flag ship operating system, Mac OS X, one must buy Apple’s “whole banana”, rather than install OS X on x86 hardware. In other words, even though Apple no longer uses PowerPC, and instead uses IBM-compatible computers to power OS X, customers must by a highly marked up PC with the Mac OS X software installed on it, in order to take advantage of Apple’s operating system offering.

    In addition, in order to use iCloud, right now, it looks like you’ll only be able to use iTunes purchased songs.

    With Google Music Beta, one can see the possibilities immediately upon its use:
    No need for including your music in your backups anymore: your music is physically uploaded to Google, and can be used on up to 8 devices.
    You will be able to stream your own music to your Android-based phone, and other devices.

    There is no need to worry about what device you are using.

    Is this the perfect storm for digital music? In an iTunes dominated world, one would hope so. The ability for other companies to partner with Google Music, and also make use of future, open APIs, could be a game changer for the entire music world. The price of online music could be driven down. As Apple’s iTunes offering was once seen as a liberation for music listeners and consumers, the iron grip that it extends on its music-based products and services can be felt around the world. With powerful companies like offering cloud-based MP3 services already, and offering said services without the pain-in-the-butt of Digital Rights Management (DRM) on songs, it will be exciting to see where Google’s streaming music project leads.

    What I’d like to see in Google Music:
    • Ability to look up album liner notes and lyrics.
    • Ability to download your music back to your computer.
    • Fix problems with non-Honeycomb based Android OS phones.
    • Provide links to the music videos of songs in your library to YouTube.
    • More music stats and information: When was an individual single released, etc.
    • Integration at clubs, bars, and diners (Google Jukebox!)
    • Integration into game consoles and other mainstream smart devices.
    • Keep the service free for use using paid advertising.
    Google Music Beta looks to be as promising as its other offerings have been. If that is any indication, Apple may find itself, quite literally, in a run for its money. One issue that stands out from using the beta of Google Music is that only the artists I have seen on the service can stand to benefit: I bought all their music already, I like knowing it’s around, and without the bane of iTunes, I may just get to buying some more online music again.

    View attachment 14642
    After applying for a beta invitation, you may be lucky enough to get one of these e-mails.

    View attachment 14652
    "It's time to listen", and they're not talking about their rules about copy-protected songs and DRM just yet.

    View attachment 14651
    Google Music uses a Music Manager application in Windows to find your music from nearly any source or location and upload it to its cloud based service.

    View attachment 14650
    A breathe of fresh air. At present time, Google Music Beta offers a free way to host 2,000 songs.

    View attachment 14649
    A sign of good programming. Google's Music Library application isn't just going to leave you hanging when you have something new to add to your music library.

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    Pick where you want Google Music to actually find your music. After the upload process is complete, you can cross your fingers, as you may never have to worry about hard drive-based music storage again.

    View attachment 14647
    Here's the sign in process. Simply plug in your Google account and you're good to go.

    View attachment 14645
    Downloading the Music Manager is quick and easy - from any web browser.

    View attachment 14644
    Free music you say? Can this thing get any better?

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    Note that it is only available "free for a limited time". This is unfortunate, but the reality of the online music industry in 2011. Maybe Google's offering will be better than others.

    View attachment 14653
    Options can be seen here.

    Here is the Terms of Service for Google Music Beta:

    Here is the Privacy Policy:


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