After years of speculation and hype, Google has finally launched a digital music service. It’s dubbed Google Music and it’s mission, “to help people access their music collections easily from any device”.


As of Wednesday, US users have been able to access an updated Android Music app as well as the web version of the Android Market in order to access more than 13 million tracks from over 1000 labels, with the notable absence of Warner Music (The Doors, Green Day, Plan B, The Black Keys, Prince, Eric Clapton…)

To compensate for the temporary absence of the Warner catalogue, and to ‘celebrate the launch’, Google is offering users a number of exclusive, free downloads from a number of high-profile artists including Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam and Busta Rhymes.

On the face of it Google’s new music offering looks like a direct alternative to Apple’s iTunes, or Amazon’s digital music store, but it has a unique social twist that could prove to be an invaluable USP.

“Good music makes you want to turn up the volume, but great music makes you want to roll down the windows and blast it for everyone”, said Google bod, Andy Rubin. Google Music lets you do just that by allowing you to share full songs with your friends on Google+ for free. A nice feature, but the extent of it’s appeal will of course depend on the success of Google+ as a social network.

The relationship between music and social media is a natural one that already plays a huge role in the digital space, with numerous ‘music social networks’ out there to prove it. But there’s been an evident gap in the market (arguably since the decline of MySpace) for a service with enough clout to capture the attention (and wallets) of the masses.

Even the biggest digital music retailer in the world, iTunes has tried and failed in it’s attempt to ‘socialise’ music – Ping anyone? In addition, Google’s biggest rival, Facebook is lagging in the race for music domination, so it would appear Google has as much chance as anyone.

In addition to the social features, all Google Music purchases are automatically added to a cloud-based holdall at no additional cost, meaning easy access across multiple devices, no matter where you are. iTunes recently launched it’s iCloud service, which does a similar thing but requires a degree of manual input and comes with a price tag, which will undoubtedly deter some users.

Google is also making big noise about it’s new music discovery tool, which lets users discover new musical talent, and in turn offers a place for new and emerging artists to upload and promote their tracks.

Naturally, Google Music has received it’s fair share of scepticism, but Google has as much chance as anyone of succeeding in the music world, arguably more chance due to it’s arsenal of services and almighty web presence. There’s even talk of artists being able to sell their music directly on YouTube in the future, which could prove an interesting concept.

Perhaps much of iTunes’ success comes down to it’s ‘out of the box’ access, which essentially restricts iOS users to the iTunes Store. That, and the simplicity of iTunes means the vast majority of iPod, iPhone and iPad users use the service for all their music buying needs, no questions asked. If Google can apply the same level of accessibility and trust across the Android community (the biggest mobile OS in the world) then Google Music could have a bright future.

It looks like Google is already making Google Music as easy for users as possible, even striking a deal with T-Mobile that allows customers to bill Google Music downloads to their mobile accounts.

Much like some of Google’s recent initiatives (Google+), Google Music looks like an exciting prospect and a neat alternative to a lot of services out there already.  However, much like Google+, it may struggle to attract users who already have a familiarity with other, often free music providers, such as Spotify.

What do you think? Simply the best music service out there, or sour times ahead for Google?