Google opens music download store, welcomes artists to upload directly

Google logoGoogle has decided to join the rest of the online music party and begin selling music directly to users. The announcement came during the company's Google Music event on Wednesday wherein Google announced various changes, improvements, and new features coming to its music streaming service. The most significant announcements, however, revolved around the fact that Google is finally getting on the music-selling bandwagon instead of referring its customers to content partners, and the company will even begin allowing musicians to upload and sell their music directly to customers through the store.

When Google Music went into beta earlier this year, it started out as a streaming-only service. Users could upload their music directly from their music libraries, which could then be played back via the Web to any computer or on any compatible Android devices. Google referred people who wanted to purchase new music to Amazon's MP3 store, and Google-branded Android devices even began coming with the Amazon music store preinstalled.

Now, however, Google has partnered directly with music labels in order to sell music downloads directly to customers via the Android Market. The company said it had already signed deals with EMI, Sony, and Universal—with one member of the Big Four conspicuously missing—as well as thousands of indie labels and a number of indie "aggregators" such as TuneCore and CD Baby. "You don't need to search the web anymore for music," Google said during its presentation, "just search the market!"

(Google is keeping the uploading and streaming features of Google Music around despite the introduction of music downloads to the Android Market. The company says the service is now open to all users in the US and will remain free for the foreseeable future.)

Forget the major artists though, or even TuneCore and CD Baby for that matter. The most interesting element of the presentation was related to Google's new Artist Hub; this essentially allows musicians without a music label to completely bypass services like TuneCore—which is what allows them to put their music on other major music stores like iTunes and Amazon—and upload their music directly to Google for sale to users. Artists can build their own artist pages, upload original content, and set their own prices, with Google giving artists 70 percent of sales revenue. (We sure hope Google has a top-notch accounting department for as many individual artist accounts they're about to start managing!) Musicians who want to participate in the Artist Hub are required to pay a one-time registration fee, but won't have to pay annual or upload fees after that.

This is simultaneously good and bad news. It's good for independent artists, who could use any break they can get in order to get more exposure. Allowing undiscovered artists to upload their music directly to a store with a well-known name and sell directly to users is the fantasy that MySpace Music was never able to fully achieve, and up-and-coming musicians will undoubtedly love it. Hardcore music geeks who are always on the hunt for new content will love it too.

But what about the types of music listeners who would rather stick to professionally produced content—the kind that has gone through layers and layers of curation at the hands of talent scouts, producers, and music labels? Google patted itself on the back for making its main Google Music page curated by staff members so that only the best stuff is up front, and the company simultaneously (and repeatedly) said that users won't have to "search as hard" for the music they're looking for. But will it really be easier? As I said on Twitter during the event, with the soon-to-be influx of uploads from independent musicians, it may actually become harder to search for music simply because of the sheer number of musicians that will soon be available.

(For what it's worth, I think Artist Hub is a great thing. That doesn't mean it won't be more difficult to search for music, though, due to volume.)

There are a number of other features that came along with the launch, such as the ability to share songs with your friends on Google+ (they will be able to listen to each song once), as well as shared playlists. The new store is already online at market.android.com and will roll out to Android devices running Android 2.2 or higher "over the next few days."

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google

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