Google’s take on online music services evolved Tuesday with the launch of Google Music, a free service that will let users upload 20,000 songs from their current libraries and acquire new music from Google (NSDQ: GOOG). That music can be stored on Google’s services and accessed by a variety of devices, including Android phones, tablets, and other computers.
The new service was unveiled in Los Angeles (the event is still in progress here) by Jamie Rosenberg, director for digital content on Android, and other Google executives. It’s clearly a take on what Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has been doing with iTunes and iCloud this year, and represents a step forward for the Music Beta service by allowing users to actually acquire new songs. Thirteen million songs will be available for purchase, but the service will be U.S.-only upon its debut.
EMI, Universal, and Sony (NYSE: SNE) are official partners for Google Music, the company announced, as well as dozens of other smaller independent labels. That leaves Warner as the only holdout among the big four record companies.
Record companies appear to have the ability to set their own prices to a certain extent, as tracks are available in the store for $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29. It’s not clear what bitrates Google is offering for the tracks.
The company will offer exclusive tracks from The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and Busta Rhymes as part of the new service in an attempt to jump-start demand. Google also hopes that people will share their music purchases through its Google+ social-networking service, allowing friends on Google+ to play the track once for free.
Google will continue to allow people to upload music they have already purchased to Google’s servers. Unlike Apple’s iTunes Match, you’ll have to sit there and watch the slow upload process of those files, but unlike iTunes Match, it won’t cost you anything.
The company also wants to turn Google Music into a tool for smaller bands to promote themselves and their music with a feature called Artist Hub. Bands can set up an artist page for $25, where they can post a biography, pictures, links, and actually sell their songs through Google Music. Google will take a 30 percent cut of those sales.
T-Mobile got a special place in the Google Music event, the one remaining major carrier in the U.S. that isn’t selling Apple’s iPhone. Its customers will be able to pay for songs purchased through Google Music on their monthly phone bills.