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Google launches cloud-based music locker

Google is beta testing a cloud-based music locker service called Music Beta that’s free while in beta

By PETER WHITE

Published: 19 May, 2011

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Google is beta testing a cloud-based music locker service called Music Beta that’s free while in beta. Users can keep up to 20,000 tracks and playlists in the online locker and then stream them to any Android device or device with a browser. It’s a “buy-once, play on any Android device” service, a concept the studios and TV broadcasters also want to offer someday. The service is not yet widely available to the public and is currently by invitation only.

Music Beta will also suggest music, based on listeners’ collections. Because Google does not have a license with the labels, users will not be able to let others sample their music and will not be allowed to download any track they have put in the locker. Users must also upload each track, a process that will be lengthy for many. With a license, Google might be able to pre-store tracks so that multiple owners of that track could stream it without first having to upload it.

Google said it wanted to be able to scan a user’s music library and match the tracks to a central server, from where a user could stream them.

The music player (app) that Google developed for the Music Beta service can play any track that’s stored on an Android device. It has an Instant Mix feature that can create a playlist of songs in the user’s locker based on one song, using meta data and characteristics of the song. Playlists are instantly synched to the user’s other Android devices — no file transfer is needed. All of a user’s music, whether stored locally or in the locker, shows up in a single list of music.

It’s not clear that there’s any benefit to the labels from Music Beta. Users are less likely to buy a second copy of a song because they want to play it on a different device, something they had to do when the industry’s media changed from cassettes to DVDs, for example. It does not protect music from piracy any better than previously. In fact, hackers are surely trying to figure out how to play someone else’s music. It’s not going to encourage others to buy a song because they can’t hear what someone else likes.

Google said it’s negotiating with the labels. Google’s director of digital content for Android, Jaime Rosenberg, said their terms were “unreasonable and unsustainable” but said the company would continue to negotiate. The Los Angeles Times quoted Rosenberg as saying Google is close to agreements with two of the four major labels, but did not say who they are. A license might also allow Google to sell tracks. “We are excited about where this could go,” Rosenberg said, promising to negotiate deals with independent labels and artists.

Zahavah Levine, who led Google’s negotiations with the labels, told Billboard, “We’ve been in negotiations with the industry for a different set of features, with mixed results. A couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms.”

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