So Google took another shuffle forward towards world domination this week by announcing their new Music Beta service. Depending on your choice of phrase it’s either an online locker or cloud that will store your music collection for you, or at least up to 20,000 songs of it. Here’s just a normal dude from Google explaining how it works, for people in the US via invite only for now, but no doubt soon to go global.
So what does this mean for the average music fan? Well, first and foremost, it’ll free up a hell of a lot of music and make your own personal archive a lot more accessible. If you’re anything like me, you probably have endless gigabytes of music sitting gathering digital dust on an external hard drive you barely plug in. All those albums that your laptop couldn’t handle, that had to be archived somewhere, which essentially means forgotten about, can now be accessed wherever you are. (Of course, Amazon did this whole thing in the US a while back, but Google’s version is slicker and more user friendly. Spotify, too, offers the ability to upload your own music).
It sounds pretty sweet. Everything you’ve ever owned suddenly freed from one place and sent off into the magical ether, for you to dip into at will. All that niche stuff you’ve gathered over the years at your fingertips with no searching for a CD behind the bookcase or firing up hard drives. Added to current streaming services and the new Hype Machine app it’s one step closer to online and mobile access to everything you’ve ever needed, music-wise.
But there’s a catch. Course there is. Google couldn’t reach an agreement with the major labels, so they’ve gone ahead with this project on their own, which has limited the scope of the offering significantly. For example, they wanted users to have the ability to “beam” their music to the cloud by instant recognition, and to offer a download service to match. No such features. Also, while you can access this cloud locker from any computer it can only be reached on the move via Android phones. So if you only have an iPhone, well, you only have an iPhone.
The whole thing is making the labels nervous, as new tech developments tend to, and the BMI has already come forward to suggest that a user listening to their own music via the cloud counts as a public performance, which could see them chasing for money and all manner of complications in the future. And some commentators think it’s only one small step in the right direction, a nice feature to have but something that needs to be synched up with other streaming services like Spotify as part of a properly revolutionary (wince in anticipation) 360 experience to have any real impact. They probably have a point – I spend much more time listening to streams online than my own collection, even if digging out some tracks with a personal history is nice from time to time.
So what do you make of Music Beta by Google? Would you use it? Is it the future of music online or just another fragmented pet project that will go the way of the Google Wave?