Is this the best or the worst of time for a tech giant like Google to revamp its streaming music service?
Google announced Tuesday that it will shift in an opposite direction from Apple Music and add an ad-driven, "freemium" version of its Play streaming platform.
Users of the free version will be restricted to Play-curated playlists and radio stations based around artists, albums or songs, and be able to host 50,000 of their own songs in the service for one-stop access. If they move to the $9.99 paid tier, they'll lose the ads, gain offline streaming and be able to search for and play individual songs and albums.
It's a contrarian bet, given the trends and tumult in the streaming market of late.
On one hand, with the impending launch of Apple Music, all eyes will soon be on America's Most Profitable Company and its long-anticipated entry into the streaming business. No competitor has Apple's reach, brand awareness, customer loyalty and as thorough an ecosystem for new products.
On the other? Taylor Swift (and many indie labels like Beggars Group) just led a minor revolt against Apple Music for failing to pay royalties on streams during its three month free trial -- and Swift won.
The move toward Swift's way of thinking may solve some short-term grumblings about Apple Music, but it left some distinct bad blood between the company and smaller artists and labels. Google has said it will pay royalty rates during its free monthlong trial, though it added that rates will differ between free and paid tiers.
Is there room for Google in a diverse market of these services, each offering a variety of price points and amenities? Or will one or two have to win out in the end to lock up a very fractured market?
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