Google announced the official launch of their digital music store, Google Music, on Wednesday, almost a decade after Apple revolutionized the music industry with iTunes.
Google Music is now open to the public, allowing users to buy individual tracks and complete albums from the catalogs of three of the four major record companies: EMI Group, Sony Music and Universal Music. Google has not yet reached an agreement with Warner Music, who have artists such as Cee Lo and Green Day.
Their current music library consists of eight million tracks and will eventually include 13 million.
“I’d definitely like to try it out,” said Steven Horowitz, the news editor of HipHopDX.com and associate editor of YRB Magazine. “I think this is one of those things you have to try in order to know if it really matches the way that you prefer to digest music.”
The service is tightly integrated with Google’s social network, Google Plus, and allows users to share music by providing their friends with one free listen to any purchased track.
Analysts say that the social media aspect of the service was crucial in order to give Google Music an edge in the competitive market.
Google’s entry into digital music sales is the latest battle in its competition with Apple and Amazon. The three digital powerhouses will now be brawling for a piece of the projected $6.8 billion in online music sales in 2012.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t really think they can touch Apple,” Horowitz said. “Apple has this industry unlocked, they came to the game early.”
And Google Music faces an especially difficult challenge capturing Millennials, who grew up using iTunes and Facebook.
Josh Wehle, who works for Fool’s Gold Records and is the drummer for DECADES, doesn’t think Google Music appeals to the generation.
“I don’t see any reason college students would switch to Google Music,” Wehle said. “Just like Google Plus was an attempt to catch up to Facebook, Google Music seems like a desperate attempt to catch up to iTunes, but it’s 10 years too late.”
While the integration of social media into the digital music industry is compelling, it’s not entirely unique. In September, Facebook incorporated music apps into their site through partnerships with Spotify, MGO, and Rdio. Users can now see what their friends are listening to, and then access the tracks themselves, similar to Google Music. However, Facebook provides these services for free, which is important to young adults on a tight budget.
“When Spotify came out I was really into it and I still am, it’s really easy, and it doesn’t require a lot of investment on my part, monetarily, which is really important,” Horowitz said.
Many worry that Google Music’s main appeal, it’s integration with Google Plus, may not actually be much of an attraction. The social networking site was intended to offer an alternative to Facebook, but has failed to gain much traction.
Wehle has never even logged in to his Google Plus account, and Horowitz hasn’t used his in months.
“They’re basing their Google Music on something that didn’t really take off,” Horowitz explained. “I don’t really know how that’s going to play into their favor. It’s dicey.”