Google Music has been anticipated for quite some time, and will certainly be a force to consider as the audio entertainment landscape continues to morph. It is being reported that Google Music will launch a cloud based service and do so without licenses. Amazon launched cloud drive about a month ago without licenses, and argued that they were not required. With Google joining that strategy it will be interesting to see the response of the record labels.

Google is naming their service “Music Beta by Google” and the service allows users to upload their own music library to a personal online storage locker. Users can access that locker from virtually anywhere so long as they have a device that can obtain an Internet connection.

Starting out, Google will allow only invited people to use the service, a strategy Google has used for many services, including the launch of GMail. If you want Google Music you need to request an invite at google.music.com. Special priority is being given to those with a Motorola Xoom Tablet and attendees of the I/O conference. Music Beta By Google is free, and as of right now limited to 20,000 song per account.

Google wanted to launch with much more, but was unable to come to terms with the record labels.

“We’ve been in negotiations with the industry for a different set of features, with mixed results But a couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms.”

Billboard is reporting that the culprits were Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group. It has been reported that “Google wanted to offer a scan-and-match style locker service — where instead of uploading different copies of the same track to store in a locker for each users, the service would scan users’ libraries and match the songs they own to a centralized server, paying rightsholders for each stream.”

Along with their cloud based locker, Google will launch a new music player app. The app is for Android devices that anyone can download, and can be used to play any music stored on Android devices. If the user is part of the Music Beta By Google, they can also access the cloud.

Certainly without a clear path from the record labels, Google’s launch is not what the company wanted, but they are now moving forward. The music app has some pretty cool features such as For instance the Instant Mix feature. Instant Mix creates a playlist out of one song. This can create some compelling results that allow for quick playlist creation. One feature that certainly appeals to me (an Android user) is that playlists created on one device sync across devices, thus a playlist created on my smart-phone will also be on my tablet as well as my Google account on-line. Cumbersome transfers are not required!

Features of Music Beta by Google:

  • Any Web-connected device with a browser or supporting Flash can stream music from the locker. Requires Android-powered devices with the app installed to download and play cached streams.
  • Users who sign up for the locker service will get free music added, similar to how some mp3 players ship with sample tracks. Google negotiated rights to this free music with various rightsholders.
  • All music available to each device is available in a single view, meaning users won’t see one list for music stored native on the device and another list of music stored in the locker.
  • Audio quality for streaming files can be as high as 320kbps if the device and network supports it.
  • Optimized for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) but any Android device version 2.2 or above can support it.

Google has plans for more, but the record industry is only unified to a certain extent. Google is one company that has the potential to recreate how consumers access and use music. At this point they will exist in conjunction with, and not competing with, more traditional services like terrestrial, satellite, and Internet radio.