The Fiction That Is Google Music

Google Play Music
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If you want to steal music – lots and lots of music – then Google is the best place to start.

Anything else is just a sideshow designed to placate labels and insulate Google from legal liability.  That includes Google Music, a mere distraction from what Google really represents to the music community – both on the consumer and business sides.

So why all the hype?  Because it’s Google, and because it’s music, the mainstream media is drooling over this thing.  Every few days it seems, a new report rehashes, reinterprets, and offers a bit more detail.  The latest comes from Billboard, which is reporting that Google is negotiating for full-length preview clips for its download store – instead of 30-second clips on iTunes.  That is, for the first preview only.

And who cares exactly?  Jump onto Google right now, and you can find a torrent of whatever discography you want – for free – ie, full-length clips in perpetuity!  This was painfully obvious during the launch of Onebox, and even more glaring in the current discussions.  Just scroll down.

Of course, Google is just one gateway to innumerable freebie options.  Want full length clips?  Jump onto Grooveshark in the US.  Or Spotify in Europe.  It’s all there, and it’s even legal.  So, why mess around with one-time previews?

But this is more than just a right hand, left hand scenario for Google.  It’s as if the left hand is 1,000 times bigger than the right hand.  And guess which one has the free candy?

So what’s the solution?  Wrapping entire collections into a smart cloud, and offering anywhere access sounds like a start.  Billboard is pointing to a proposed price of $25 a year, perhaps a workable amount.  But Billboard also notes that labels want to limit the content that can be ingested into the Google Music cloud.  So, MP3s purchased on iTunes or ripped from a CD are okay, but illegally swapped tracks would not be okay.

Game over?  If limited access is wrapped into a monthly or annual charge, yes.  Even at free, this has major issues.  Why?  Time and again, the lesson is that consumers are not willing to play with limitations.  Rightfully or not, music fans now demand access to everything, regardless of how it was acquired.  And regardless of whatever the pre-launch fiction states…

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher…