Google Launches Music Store, Artist Hub, and More

android-musicGoogle’s “These Go to 11” press conference marked the official launch of the Google Music program for U.S. users, opened the door to Google’s long-awaited MP3 store, and unveiled several new music features for both consumers and artists.

As we discussed previously, all signs pointed to the conference being the launching point for the Google Music Store. While we were right on that front, the press conference gave a flood of important and, in some cases, surprising details.

Store Functionalities

Users will be able to add a song to their cloud library with just a few clicks, using the same payment systems used by the Android Market. Each song will be high-quality (320kbits) and will become available immediately.

Typically, users will be able to listen to a 90-second preview of a song prior to purchase. However, once a user buys a song, they will have the option to share the content via Google+. When shared, connected users will get access to a full play-through of the song or album.

Music video content and other band merchandise will be available and integrated with the YouTube Merch Store.

The Label Partners

The content partners include Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music Entertainment – three of the four major record labels. While Universal had confirmed its partnership and EMI indicated it was still in discussions with Google, Sony is an unanticipated partner for launch.

Additionally, over 1,000 labels – including some indie management groups that work with thousands of self-publishing labels – are launch partners for the music store. As a result, 8 million tracks are purchasable immediately. Another 5 million will become available in the coming months.

While concerns about piracy were the declared reason for major labels to be reluctant, Universal Music Group’s President Rob Wells stated his feeling that “Any new legitimate place to consume music is a fantastic anti-piracy tool.”

Promotional Deals at Launch

The Google Music Store has partnered with a variety of artists for starting promotions. This includes Coldplay, Shakira, Pearl Jam, Busta Rhymes, the Rolling Stones, and the Dave Matthews Band. Each of these groups is providing free and/or exclusive tracks.

Google will also be offering a free song of the day every day for the foreseeable future. Further, hundreds of tracks are currently available for users to add to their library, free of charge.

The Artist Hub

Independent artists will also be able to publish their music directly, control their artist page, and integrate their content from YouTube and other external platforms. While each artist will have to pay a $25 fee (the same amount as app developers pay to list content in the Android Market), they will then get 70 percent of the list price for each song sold.

That 70 percent is highly competitive with Apple and Amazon. As noted by Digital Music News, artists who sell their music on iTunes through a major label often receive only $0.08 to $0.14 per $0.99 track sold. Direct publication and a high degree of control will give indie musicians a new opportunity for exposure and revenue.

Some indie artists will also see additional visibility thanks to the Music Magnifier program, which highlights new bands. One band a week will also receive time in the spotlight of Google Music’s home page.

Other Extras

Alongside the features mentioned above, Google is launching a new version of the Google Music app to accommodate easy purchase, and a new version of the Google Music Manager application to make uploading your own music easier. Additionally, Google Music is being moved past closed Beta; any U.S. user can now sign up for the service.

It was noted that current Google Music users listen to their songs for an average of 2.5 hours per day. Given that any interested party can now take advantage of the service, storing up to 20,000 songs in the cloud and getting quick access to millions of high-quality songs, that number may well go up.

The Full Press Conference

Are these incentives enough to make you want to switch to Google Music? Do you already use the program? What features are you most excited about? What does the service need most? Give us your thoughts in the comments, below.

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