updated 04:05 pm EDT, Wed September 15, 2010
Google Music may have yearly online locker charge
Google Music may depend on an online-based locker, not subscriptions, as the cornerstone of its service, insiders said today. Label contacts said Google's initial proposal would charge a flat $25 per year to put any music a customer owns in cloud storage that they could then stream or download. Billboard understood that it would cross-check a user's library and give them access to any song Google would have a license to sell, even if it was a CD rip or bought from a competitor like iTunes.
The search firm's experience with the Internet would also let users skip downloads entirely: any purchases could be pushed to the online locker if active rather than stored locally. It would be possible to play songs from the web, although a mobile app -- likely for Android first -- would be an important factor.
Full song samples are also supposedly part of the proposal. As with Lala before its acquisition by Apple, visitors could sample a song in its entirety once but would be cut back to 30 seconds afterwards. The strategy theoretically gives an accurate impression of a song but would still provide a strong incentive to buy the track.
So far, all downloads would be per-track rather than part of a subscription for the music itself. Tracks and albums would likely cost the same as they do on Amazon MP3, iTunes and elsewhere. Most details are unknown, however, including how much space users would get for their music. Most such services are often space-limited to a few gigabytes and usually only apply to casual listeners or those who only want a fraction of their music available at all times.
Labels, however, may be reluctant to adopt the deal. By allowing music that hadn't been bought from Google Music, the service could greenlight storing pirated music. The industry might ask Google to censor its search results to exclude peer-to-peer services or ban peer-to-peer apps from Android Market, although whether Google would consent is unknown. Google has historically been averse to censoring either gateway unless it's legally required to do so, which hasn't been the case in the US.
Cloud revenue and rights would also be in doubt: Google would split revenue from the $25 fee in half with music publishers to compensate for streaming access, but it's unclear how much would go directly to the publishers. Music studios have often tried to argue that cloud storage would let them charge royalties twice for similar material.
The disputes may provide color for the delays in getting Google Music to the public. Google was rumored to be pushing for a November launch, but it purportedly doesn't have any deals and may also lack a division leader or other essential ingredients. Apple is believed to be racing Google to cloud media and may not necessarily lose given complications.