Apple is currently the undisputed king in online digital music sales. Ever since iTunes was released back in 2001, the program has been the default (and only really decent) option for people looking to build their digital music libraries.
This Holiday Season, Google is hoping to change that. And although “GMusic’s” existence has been confirmed for a few months now, it is only within the past week or so that concrete details have started to pop up.
Here are a few of the key features set to be included in GMusic:
Online Music Locker: For a $25/year subscription fee, users will have access to an onlne “music locker” where they can make music purchases as well as access and stream their entire music library from a computer or a supported mobile device. While you may be asking yourself why you’d want to pay a subscription fee for something you already own, consider the fact that with Gmusic your entire music library is automatically backed up online. If your computer breaks down or you just happen to be getting a new one, you won’t have to fret about losing all your music.
Direct Digital Downloads: Just because Google has been focusing on the streaming aspects of GMusic doesn’t mean they’re forgetting about traditional downloads. Google will allow users to save music to their computers for personal use just like they would with iTunes. The cost of a full-length album will be $7.00, while singles will go for 79 cents. These prices are about half of what we’re currently paying with iTunes, and could be one of the biggest selling points for the service. Google is also pushing record labels to allow for a one time preview of any track before making a purchase. In theory, this means that unlike with iTunes, you would have the ability to preview an entire album before deciding thats its worth purchasing. This would be huge, as it would mean an end to the days of purchasing a highly anticipated album, only to find out that it isn’t that great and you probably should’ve spent your money elsewhere.
50/50 royalty rate split between right-holders and Google: Consumers aren’t the only people that should be be excited for Google Music. Gmusic has the potential to completely transform the way that artists are compensated for digital music sales. Without getting into the gory details, just know that right now artists are essentially being screwed by iTunes. Most artists only get around 12% royalties on each album sold, and with plummeting album sales this has made it nearly impossible for artists to make a decent amount of money off of record sales. People in the music industry have been calling for revised royalty rates for awhile, and if Google has their way, they just might get it. Apparently Google’s proposal ”calls for a ’50-50′ revenue split between master rights-holders and Google, with music publishers receiving a 10.5% share. ” If this were the case, I would be a lot more inclined to start purchasing albums on a more regular basis, as I often feel that I am really not helping artists (especially independent ones) much when I purchase their album through iTunes, I usually choose to support them by buying concert tickets or merchandise instead.
I have high hopes for Google Music, but have to remain somehwhat skeptical until some screenshots start to surface. User friendliness is everything in today’s world, and if Gmusic’s interface is cluttered or confusing then a lot of people will hesitate to make the switch.
But on the other hand, if there’s one area where Google can’t afford to screw up, this is it. Google is one of the few companies that has the resources, ability and motivation to go head to head with iTunes, so they have to be fully aware of what is at stake here.
Realstically, the idea of Google Music “overtaking” iTunes anytime in the immediate future is pretty far fatched. However at the very least, it will be the first real competition Apple has seen in a long time. If Google Music is able to do everything they’re saying it will, artists, music fans, and the record industry as a whole all stand to benefit.