Google Play Music
|Opened||November 16, 2011|
|Platforms||Android, iOS, web browser|
|Format||MP3, Advanced Audio Coding, Windows Media Audio, FLAC, Ogg, MPEG-4, MPEG-4 Part 14: kbit/s|
|Restrictions||Concurrent playback limited to one device, non-concurrent playback limited to 10 devices (4 for All Access)|
|Catalogue||35 million songs|
|Preview||90 seconds (30 seconds for songs shorter than 2:30)|
|Trial||30-day free trial of "All Access"|
|Features||Free online storage and listening for 50,000 songs; Chromecast support; Custom radio stations and access to 35 million songs for "All Access"|
Google Play Music is a music streaming service and online music locker operated by Google. Users with standard accounts can upload and listen to up to 50,000 songs from their personal libraries at no cost. An "All Access" subscription, sold in combination with YouTube Red for US$9.99 per month, entitles users to on-demand streaming of any song in the Google Play Music catalogue for their geographical region and the ability to create custom radio stations. Users can purchase additional tracks for their library through the music store section of Google Play. In addition to offering music streaming for Internet-connected devices, the Google Play Music mobile app allows music to be stored and listened to offline.
The service was announced on May 10, 2011, and after a six-month, invitation-only beta period, it was publicly launched on November 16. Google Play Music offers more than 35 million tracks for purchase or streaming. It is currently available in 63 countries for Android and iOS devices, web browsers, and various media players (such as Sonos and Chromecast).
Google first hinted at releasing a cloud media player during their 2010 I/O developer conference, when Google Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra showed a "Music" section of the Android Market during a presentation. A music service was officially announced at the following year's I/O conference on May 10, 2011, under the name "Music Beta". Initially, it was only available by invitation to United States residents and had limited functionality; the service featured a no-cost online music locker for storage of up to 20,000 songs that could be played via its web player or Android mobile app, but no music store was present during the beta period, as Google was not yet able to reach licensing deals with major record labels.
After a six-month beta period, Google publicly launched the service in the US on November 16, 2011, as "Google Music" with its "These Go to Eleven" announcement event. The event introduced several features to the service, including a music store for the Android Market, music sharing via the Google+ social network, "Artist Hub" pages for musicians to self-publish music, and song purchasing reflected on T-Mobile phone bills. At launch, Google had partnerships with three major labels—Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music Entertainment—along with other smaller labels, although no agreement had been reached with Warner Music Group; in total, 13 million tracks were covered by these deals, 8 million of which were available for purchase on launch date. To promote the launch, several artists released free songs and exclusive albums through the store; The Rolling Stones debuted the live recording Brussels Affair (Live 1973), and Pearl Jam released a live concert recorded in Toronto as 9.11.2011 Toronto, Canada.
According to a February 2012 report from CNET, Google executives were displeased with Google Music's adoption rate and revenues in its first three months. The following month, the company rebranded the Android Market and its digital content services as "Google Play"; the music service was renamed "Google Play Music".
As of 2015, Google Play Music is available in 63 countries.
Features and usage
Google Play Music offers users an "online music locker", allowing them to store their music online at no cost (up to 50,000 songs) and listen to it through the service's web player or mobile app. Songs can be downloaded through the mobile app for offline playback, as well. Users must first sign up for the service and verify they live in a country where it is available by providing a valid credit card through their Google account. Songs and playlists can be uploaded through the Music Manager application, which is installed on the user's personal computer. The application can be set to monitor a specific folder or existing music library on the user's computer (e.g. iTunes) so that any new additions to them will also be added to the user's Play Music library online. During the upload process, Music Manager will attempt to match the user's songs to those in the Google Play catalogue; if a match is found, the song will be added to the user's library without the need to upload it. The service allows the user to automatically create a playlist using a feature known as Instant Mix. Users also get personalized recommendations based on what they listen to the most.
Google Play's music store offers song purchases for US$1.29, $0.99, and $0.69, in addition to free content; currently there are over 35 million songs in the Google Play catalogue. Songs purchased through the store are automatically added to the user's account and do not count against the 50,000-song maximum. Google also noted that "from time to time we'll be showcasing exclusive concerts and interviews available in Google Play."
In January 2012, a feature was added to Google Music allowing users to download MP3 copies of any song in their library from the web, with a two-download limit per track.
On October 29, 2012, Google announced several new additions to the service, including the song matching feature; the company also reached a partnership with Warner Music Group, the last remaining major music label not to be licensed with Google Play; finally, the music store was announced for release in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK on November 13.
In October 2014, a new "Listen Now" feature was introduced, providing contextual and curated recommendations and playlists. The feature is adapted from technology by Songza, which Google acquired earlier in the year.
On February 25, 2015, Google expanded the capacity of each user's music locker from 20,000 songs to 50,000 songs.
Paid streaming plan
At Google I/O on May 15, 2013, Google announced that Google Play Music would be expanded to include a paid on-demand music streaming service called "All Access", allowing users to stream any song in the Google Play catalogue. It debuted immediately in the US for $9.99 per month ($7.99 per month if the user signed up before June 30). The service allows users to combine the All Access catalog with their own library of songs.
On November 12, 2014, Google subsidiary YouTube announced "Music Key", a new premium service succeeding All Access that included the Google Play Music streaming service, along with advertising-free access to streaming music videos on YouTube. Additionally, aspects of the two platforms were integrated; Google Play Music recommendations and YouTube music videos are available across both services.
The service was re-launched in a revised form as YouTube Red on October 28, 2015, expanding its scope to offer ad-free access to all YouTube videos, as opposed to just music, as well as premium content produced in collaboration with notable YouTube producers and personalities. The subscription of US$9.99 per month includes both YouTube Red and the Google Play Music streaming service.
In December 2015, Google started offering Google Play Music family plan which allows unlimited access for up to 6 family members for US$14.99/month. A family manager upgrades their subscription to the family music plan allowing the members of the family group to stream music at the same time on up to 10 devices each. The family plan is currently only available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States, and may only be established using an Android device.
In 2013, Entertainment Weekly compared a number of music services and gave Google Play Music All Access a "B+" score, writing, "The addition of uploading to augment the huge streaming archive fills in some huge gaps..."
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