Google is in the process of setting up a new music service which will challenge Apple iTunes. This is an upgrade of its Android operating system (OS) Honeycomb designed to power the latest range of tablet pcs. Google Music’s intentions are uncertain whether it will offer a streaming service or opt for a download store. Although rumours on the grapevine suggests that there might be some sort of subscription fee involved.
This comes at a time when most digital musical owners have already decided upon their preferred service. iTunes users purchase over 70% of all songs on the internet. It is a closed system which guarantees success, producing downloads playable only on Apple products. This has dealt a severe blow to all potential competitors. But by selling lots of hardware the low level of profits from the download service is not an issue.
Those already listening to free music are probably doing so on services such as Spotify and We7. These sites offer streamed pop music with an advert inserted every few tracks. There is no incentive here for user to change the habit of a lifetime and to start paying for music.
This brings us to a much bigger debate does the emergence of digital either music for free or paid for duly reward artists? It was claimed that Lady Gaga for 1 million plays of her hit Poker Face on Spotify received just £108 in a single year. The traditional approach was for a band go out on the road and use live music as a way of promoting their album. Now with digital pricing it means that albums can cost as little as £5, and are instead used to promote their tour. It would seem that music artists are unlikely to see much of a return for some time to come.
The real winners are the record companies, which would welcome the arrival of Google Music as a challenger to the dominance of Apple. This means big figure licensing deals, much larger than they are presently realising with Google’s YouTube music streaming for free. Apple declared its 10 billionth iTunes’ music download, selling songs at a price of 99p. It now appears inevitable that Google will join the fray.