In an effort to upstage grand entry of Apple’s Beats Music into the realm of streaming music this coming week, Google has shrewdly launched a free version of its existing Google Play Music service, undercutting Apple in hopes of better cornering the mobile music market.
While Google’s own streaming music service has already been available for two years—making me wonder just where Apple has been all this time—the search engine giant announced this week that it will be offering a free ad-supported version of its music platform, a pared down version of the service that will allow users to get a taste of streaming music without having to sign up for the industry standard $9.99/month.
Although there’s no doubt that Apple’s entry into the market with its revamped Beats Music will open doors for the streaming music industry, many have criticized Apple for not offering the ability for users to sample music for free as other services have, something Google has now taken even another step further. Simply put, with millions of users on Google Play every day, a free streaming music service may be just the tantalizing offer they need to embrace this new music medium.
For those not yet in the know, streaming music has quickly become the next evolution of digital music consumption, as it offers a cloud-based model (thus no hard drives filled to the brim with our music) that curates playlists for its listeners, allowing users to listen to songs based on genre, artist, current mood, or even based on one’s activity. While users don’t purchase or own songs in the traditional way, many have found it far more cost effective and uniquely enjoyable, in that it often provides access to previously undiscovered new music.
“We believe this is a play that will expose a lot of people to the service,” Elias Roman, Google product manager, said in an interview. As mentioned, unlike Google’s subscription-based Play Music service, the free model will be supported by advertising, will be unavailable offline, and will exclude certain songs (likely the hits you really want to hear).
The marketing plan is, of course, to get some of those not yet ready to pay for a subscription to engage with the streaming music service, in the hopes that at least some of them will be compelled to pay for the upgraded version.
Now certainly we don’t need a marketing consultant to tell us that Google’s timing for the release of this free service was all about strategy, at attempt to piggyback on the hype Apple has generated around its own streaming music service, but here’s an analyst’s thoughts anyway: “It’s a smart time to do it with all the attention around Apple,” Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic, a digital entertainment consultancy, said. “If they did it absent the Apple service, it wouldn’t be the same story.”
Simply put, while it may have annoying ads and may not feature every song you might want to hear, Google’s new free version of its Play Music streaming service has the one thing Apple has refused to offer: something for free. Now the only question left unanswered is whether something free from Google can truly compete with Apple’s hype machine.