Eager to beat Apple Music's June 30th launch to the punch, Google recently announced its newly-launched free music streaming service. Starting from this Tuesday, the search engine giant is introducing a free version of Google Play Music that allows users to listen to custom-made radio stations based on time of day, mood, artist or other factors. For the last two years, Google Play cost $9.99/month and this is the first time that Google is offering a free streaming service.
By creating free online radio stations, the tech giant is hoping to better compete against Spotify and Pandora, which have gained huge followings with their free music streaming services, and convert some free Google listeners into paying customers. Google Play will be using Songza's services (a company Google acquired last year) to create curated playlists designed to accompany every moment of your day. Instead of creating playlists through algorithms, they will be assembled by the staff at Songza. For Google, playlists is an easier approach to free music than the ad-sponsored music streaming that Spotify offers. By going the "music radio" route, Google hopes to avoid the harsh criticism that Spotify received for underpaying artists.
But how does this compare against Apple? Apple Music is also offering a $10-a-month streaming subscription plan that includes a free Internet radio station. It has a media platform that will let artists upload songs, videos, and other content, and it has a song catalog of more than 30 million tracks. So in this regard, Apple Music has the upper hand. However, Google Play trumps Apple Music in another area: Apple Music won’t have an ad-supported free tier. Instead, it will have its own radio components that will also be available to users that aren’t inclined to pay. While Apple Music is providing a free three-month trial period so you can access its massive song library (during which artists will still be paid – thanks, Taylor!), when that ends, you'll have to pay up.
So what does this mean for independent artists? Well, Google Play's introduction of this free streaming service makes it a huge player in the music streaming world. Google Play Music has already more than doubled its user base in the past year, and if its users continue growing like this, perhaps it's time to consider putting your music on Google Play too. Keep in mind, however, that while free ad-based services are popular among music listeners, subscription-based services may be better for labels and musicians, as subscription-based revenue tends to be higher than ad-based, so don't write off Apple's lack of free options too quickly.
Apple has also revealed that in the United States, 71.5 percent of its streaming revenue will go to music publishers and labels, beating Spotify's 70 percent and making it the most generous percentage in the streaming industry. Google, in comparison, has been quiet about its revenue-sharing plans. But it's still too soon to tell who will come out triumphant in the streaming wars – Google Play, Apple Music, or Spotify – so we'll just have to wait and see.
Michelle Lou and Katarina Underwood are editorial interns for Sonicbids.