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

Mike

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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. MP3.com 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 Amazon.com 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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Options can be seen here.

Here is the Terms of Service for Google Music Beta:

Additional Terms of Service for Music Beta by Google
Last modified: May 10, 2011
Thank you for your interest in Music Beta by Google! By using Music Beta by Google ("Music Beta" or the "Service"), you accept and agree to be bound by the Google Terms of Service, the Google Privacy Policy, and the Music Beta by Google Privacy Policy, each of which is incorporated into this agreement by this reference, as well as these Additional Terms of Service for Music Beta by Google (collectively, the "Terms"). It is important for you to read each of these documents, as they form a legal agreement regarding your use of the Service between you and Google Inc. ("Google") whose principal place of business is 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States. This document explains how your agreement with Google is made up and sets out some of the terms of that agreement. Capitalized terms not otherwise defined in these Additional Terms have the meaning given to them in the Google Terms of Service.
The Music Beta Service and Your Music
Music Beta is a Service as defined in Section 1.1 of the Google Terms of Service and is provided to you for your personal, non-commercial use solely in connection with lawfully acquired music files from your personal collection that you choose to make available to yourself through the Service, including all data comprising, describing, or associated with each music file that you choose to upload, such as audio data, metadata, and album art for each selected file (whether referring to individual uploaded files or to your entire uploaded library, "Your Music"). Music Beta consists of (a) Google-provided server space that you can use for storage of Your Music, and (b) software applications and related web sites and services that allow you to upload, manage, access, and play back Your Music through a web browser or through any supported, Service-enabled device. To the extent that you use the Music Application for Android devices in conjunction with Music Beta, those uses are governed by the Terms, including these Additional Terms.
Trial Service Availability and Limitations
Music Beta is a trial or "beta" Service from Google that requires you to register with your new or existing Google account. It is available free for a limited time to residents of the United States (including its territories and protectorates) who have received an invitation from Google and accept the invitation by signing into their Google account to register for use of the Service. As a beta Service, certain limits on storage or usage may apply; these limits may be set or changed by Google at any time, at Google's discretion, and you agree that you will not attempt to obstruct or prevent the application of those Service limits at any time, or to manipulate your usage of the Service to avoid or circumvent them. You can find more information about applicable Service limits through the Music Beta Help Center.
Third Party Fees
Music Beta is available without charge from Google; however, you may incur access or data fees from third parties (such as your internet provider or mobile carrier) in connection with your use of the Service. You are responsible for all such third-party charges for your use of Music Beta on or through third party services and devices.
Privacy and Your Personal Information
Section 7 of the Google Terms of Service governing Music Beta by Google is replaced in its entirety by the following:
7.1 For information about Google's data protection practices, please read the Music Beta by Google Privacy Policy at http://music.google.com/about/privacy.html. This policy explains how Google treats your personal information, and protects your privacy, when you use the Service.
7.2 You agree to the use of your data in accordance with Google's privacy policies.
Your Permissions and Instructions to Google
Section 11 of the Google Terms of Service governing Music Beta by Google is replaced in its entirety by the following:
11.1 You retain any rights you already hold in Your Music. You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for your own conduct and Content (including Your Music) while using the Service and for any consequences thereof. You agree to use the Service only for purposes that are legal, proper, and in accordance with these Terms, and that by using the Service you are requesting that Google make all of the necessary functions and features of the Service available to you in order to facilitate your use of Your Music according to the Terms. Without limiting the generality of this overall permission and instruction, you specifically agree that you are instructing Google to perform the functions described in Sections 11.2, 11.3, and 11.4 below.
11.2 By uploading or submitting Your Music to or through the Service, you are directing Google to store a unique copy of Your Music on your behalf and to make it accessible to you through the use of your login credentials.
11.3 By accessing, managing, playing back, displaying, or using all or any part of Your Music on or through the Service, you are directing Google to initiate and perform the corresponding functions on your behalf, together with any related steps necessary to achieve them, through the Service.
11.4 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide you with the Service as described in the Terms, may (a) transmit Your Music over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to Your Music as are necessary to conform and adapt it to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services, or media. You agree that in each such instance, your use of the Service includes a direction to Google to take these actions on your behalf.
11.5 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority to grant any permissions and give any instructions to Google that may be required to perform the actions necessary to provide you with the Service. You agree that you will not upload, submit, access, manage, play back, display or use any Content (including any portion of Your Music), or direct Google to do anything with Your Music on your behalf, unless you have all of the necessary rights to do so without infringing the rights of any third party or violating any laws or agreements that apply to you, the Content, or Your Music.
Copyright Notices
It is Google's policy to respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement that comply with applicable intellectual property law (including, in the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers. Details of Google's policy can be found at http://www.google.com/dmca.html.
Third Party Software
To the extent that Music Beta includes components governed by third party or open source licenses with provisions inconsistent with the Terms, those components are instead governed solely by the applicable third party or open source licenses. Information regarding those licenses (except for software provided by Gracenote, Inc., for which the terms are included at the end of this agreement) can be obtained at the following location:http://music.google.com/about/thirdparty.html.
Acceptance of Terms
You accept the Terms either by clicking to accept the Additional Terms presented to you when you first access the Service or by using Music Beta by Google. Your continued use of the Service constitutes your consent to the Terms (as may be modified from time to time, in whole or in part, with or without notice). It is your responsibility to review the Additional Terms regularly for updates. If you do not agree to the Terms, you may not use the Service.
You can review, print or save a copy of these Additional Terms of Service for Music Beta by Google (and navigate to other links referenced in the Additional Terms) by visiting the Additional Terms web page at:http://music.google.com/about/terms.html.
[HR][/HR]​







Gracenote Software
This application or device may contain software from Gracenote, Inc. of Emeryville, California ("Gracenote"). The software from Gracenote (the "Gracenote Software") enables this application to perform disc and/or file identification and obtain music-related information ("Gracenote Data") from online servers or embedded databases (collectively, "Gracenote Servers") and to perform other functions. You may use Gracenote Data only by means of the intended end-user functions of this application or device.
This application may contain content belonging to Gracenote's providers. If so, all of the restrictions set forth herein with respect to Gracenote Data shall also apply to such content and such content providers shall be entitled to all of the benefits and protections set forth herein that are available to Gracenote. You agree that you will use Gracenote Data, the Gracenote Software, and Gracenote Servers for your own personal non-commercial use only. You agree not to assign, copy, transfer or transmit the Gracenote Software or any Gracenote Data to any third party. YOU AGREE NOT TO USE OR EXPLOIT GRACENOTE DATA, THE GRACENOTE SOFTWARE, OR GRACENOTE SERVERS, EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY PERMITTED HEREIN.
You agree that your non-exclusive license to use the Gracenote Data, the Gracenote Software, and Gracenote Servers will terminate if you violate these restrictions. If your license terminates, you agree to cease any and all use of the Gracenote Data, the Gracenote Software, and Gracenote Servers. Gracenote reserves all rights in Gracenote Data, the Gracenote Software, and the Gracenote Servers, including all ownership rights. Under no circumstances will Gracenote become liable for any payment to you for any information that you provide. You agree that Gracenote, Inc. may enforce its rights under this Agreement against you directly in its own name.
The Gracenote service may use a unique identifier to track queries for statistical purposes. The purpose of a randomly assigned numeric identifier is to allow the Gracenote service to count queries without knowing anything about who you are. For more information, see the web page for the Gracenote Privacy Policy for the Gracenote service.
The Gracenote Software and each item of Gracenote Data are licensed to you "AS IS." Gracenote makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, regarding the accuracy of any Gracenote Data from in the Gracenote Servers. Gracenote reserves the right to delete data from the Gracenote Servers or to change data categories for any cause that Gracenote deems sufficient. No warranty is made that the Gracenote Software or Gracenote Servers are error-free or that functioning of Gracenote Software or Gracenote Servers will be uninterrupted. Gracenote is not obligated to provide you with new enhanced or additional data types or categories that Gracenote may provide in the future and is free to discontinue its services at any time. GRACENOTE DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE, AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. GRACENOTE DOES NOT WARRANT THE RESULTS THAT WILL BE OBTAINED BY YOUR USE OF THE GRACENOTE SOFTWARE OR ANY GRACENOTE SERVER. IN NO CASE WILL GRACENOTE BE LIABLE FOR ANY CONSEQUENTIAL OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES OR FOR ANY LOST PROFITS OR LOST REVENUES.
© 2011. Gracenote, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Here is the Privacy Policy:

Privacy Policy
Last modified: May 10, 2011
The Google Privacy Policy describes how we treat personal information when you use Google’s products and services, including information provided when you use Music Beta by Google (“Music Beta” or the “Service”); your usage of Music Beta on or through Android devices will also be governed by our Mobile Privacy Policy. In addition, the following describes our additional privacy practices specific to your use of Music Beta. Capitalized terms not otherwise defined have the meanings given to them in the Additional Terms of Service for Music Beta by Google.
Personal Information
  • Account activity. You need a Google Account to use Music Beta. Google asks for some personal information when you create a Google Account, including your email address and password, which is used to protect your account from unauthorized access. Google’s servers automatically record certain information about your use of Music Beta. Similar to other web services, Google records information such as account activity (e.g., storage usage, number of log-ins, actions taken), data displayed or accessed, and other log information (e.g., browser or device type, IP address, date and time of access, cookie ID, and so forth).
  • Content and usage information. Music Beta stores, processes, and maintains Your Music in order to provide and personalize the Service to you and to improve Google’s products and services. This may include storage and analysis of information related to your use of the Service, access to and playback of Your Music, playback counts, playlist content, and related information needed to provide you with automatically generated Instant Mix playlists. You can find more information about Instant Mix in the Music Beta Help Center.
  • Authorized devices. In order to authenticate your upload computers and/or authorized devices for offline access, and to implement Service limitations as described in the Additional Terms, we may record device identifiers including your computer’s MAC address or device identifiers such as IMEI or MEID for mobile devices.
Uses
We use your information to deliver the Service to you, to enforce usage limitations in connection with the Service, to process and personalize your requests in connection with your use of the Service, to develop new features, and to improve the overall quality of Google’s products and services.
Your choices
You may terminate your use of Music Beta at any time by ceasing to use the Service and uninstalling any software related to the Service. You may also delete Content (including all or any portion of Your Music) at any time and the Content will be deleted from our servers. There may be some delay before any deletion is reflected in our system.
More Information
Further information about Music Beta is available here. For more information about our privacy practices, visit ourPrivacy Center. For questions concerning the product or your account, please check out the Google Help page.
 


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