Today is certainly an interesting day in the music industry. Less than 36 hours after Taylor Swift’s open letter criticizing Apple Music went viral, and less than 12 hours after Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service lost its CEO, a new contender has announced its arrival on the scene: Google Music just launched an ad-supported, free version of its own music streaming service. This tactic will surely draw more users to the service, and it will absolutely disrupt the market, which is in a fascinatingly complicated transition moment at this point in time, both in terms of technology, practice, and in terms of digital copyright law.
Elias Roman, a product manager for Google Music, explains that the Google app differs from its competitors in that it uses sophisticated algorithms, as well as input from music experts, to curate the best possible playlists for its users. According to Roman, Google Music is not just a library or a search engine. Instead, its job is to provide the perfect music for every situation and to make our days better. His algorithms even account for the day of the week, the time of day, the location, and the device being used in order to optimize for the best kinds of music. Whether you’re waking up, working out or commuting, Google Music is claiming its stake in your ear buds for every step of the way.
This use of contextual information is something that sets Google Music apart from competitors like Apple Music and Tidal. It is designed for people who don’t have time to research and curate their own playlists.
“They have no idea how to DJ for themselves,” Roman says. “So Google is doing that for them. It’s providing a cure for a problem we all know: ‘Stale iPod Syndrome’.” Google’s model is less like Spotify, which gives users on-demand access to its large library of music, and more like Pandora’s model, which creates a playlist for you based on suggestions that you type into its interface.
“I think what artists like Taylor Swift are concerned about is giving an interactive experience for free, just supported by ads,” Roman comments on the recent controversy over Apple Music’s plan for paying artists. “That’s the experience that’s most similar to, and cannibalizing, ownership and therefore sales, and that’s the experience that artists are concerned about offering in a free, ad-supported environment.” Rather, Google Music intends to be more like the radio. The radio of the future, perhaps.