Every Cloud…

On October 18, 2011

This week I have chosen Tim Ingham’s article on Google’s apparent plan to launch a digital music service set to rival Spotify, iTunes and similar services. The article itself is more about the rumoured announcement  Google music store is imminent, but also leads onto the discussion of how music and the internet are entering a new phase of joint enterprise. 

The integration of popular music services into other platforms is not new, but not until this year has media and music sharing been such a major playing card for sites like Facebook and Google. With media sharing becoming an important element to social networking, this deeper integration may have been inevitable. Digital music streaming services are a major talking point, especially when discussing piracy issues and artist payments (or lack of). So what does Google’s further ventures into these music services mean for the consumer and for industry professionals? 

The dominance of Google and its stronghold on the search engine market have turned “Googling” into its own term. It’s where many of us turn when looking for pretty much anything. We’ve seen how Google has driven media streams in the past: after purchasing YouTube, it went onto link video media into its search results, driving more traffic to YouTube than to any other video sharing website while also increasing Google’s own traffic.. This may give us hints to Google’s implementation, and we must now take into account both Google Music Locker and Google Plus and how they will also play a big part interlacing a music store and/or streaming service into Google’s portfolio. Although neither can be claimed as great successes so far, both have laid a significant foundation for a heavily connected social music environment, without having to adapt to work with third parties (as in the case of the Facebook-Spotify deal). Importantly, especially for those who are concerned about licensing and copyright, this will also link heavily into Google’s cloud computing plans. 

Cloud computing itself has come into the forefront of tech “chatter” over the past week. Apple’s new iOS includes the new iCloud service. Recognising that many Apple users have more than one device, this service stores much of the users’ information on an online server, sharing data and synchronising settings. But it also comes with online storage and the ability to sync your music across multiple devices (but without technically “copying” them to those devices). Amazon has also been in the news with their “Cloud Drive” service, which offers something similar. 

So with three major internet companies suddenly trying to crack the media market, we may see a better marketplace for the consumer as far as “deals” are concerned, although this is likely a bad thing for those aiming to make money by utilising these services to sell music. Currently, Apple has the edge; only it has licensing deals from the four major labels. Google and Amazon are in beta with their services while trying to secure licenses. Apple also is caching the files smartly on devices, giving the users quick access to their music, whereas Amazon must stream each file slowly and manually to the device. Apple also has an avid fan base, multiple successful product lines that can utilise the features and a store in place for purchasing. 

There is still an important question to be answered: “Will it create a viable revenue stream for the music industries?” In regards to cloud streaming, I believe it will be a source of income, though more like the pennies of Spotify than the pounds of the CD. But greater integration of music stores into search engines and social networks could create more paths for music to be purchased legally.

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