Google is reportedly still pursuing a music streaming service despite several setbacks it has seen over the last few years. A subscription service was one of the original plans Google had in mind when developing Google Music, but that aspect fell short as negotiations with record labels fell flat. As it stands now, Google Play offers music to purchase while Google Music, a virtual music locker launched in 2011, stores and streams purchases and uploads.
Google's streaming subscription attempts have resurfaced in a new report provided by the Wall Street Journal. The company's "Android unit" is reportedly negotiating with music labels to offer a subscription-based Spotify rival. The YouTube division is conducting similar negotiations to provide a subscription service offering music videos and perhaps audio-only streaming as well.
Based on the provided information, Google's music subscription service may be offered in a three-tier format: a free-yet-limited web-only ad-supported Basic offering, unlimited music for $10/m, and unlimited music + video for $15/m. So far it's unknown how the video portion will effect Vevo which allows YouTube viewers to watch music videos from most of the record labels.
Like Google, Apple has seen its share of roadblocks when dealing with streaming music from record labels. The same sources that talked about Google's attempts claim that Apple is still looking to license music for a custom-radio service similar to Pandora. That said, Google may want something similar with its free music streaming service that's received by Android-based smartphones and tablets.
Francis Keeling, global head of digital business at Universal Music Group, recently said that a subscription service offered by Google would give the industry a welcomed boost. Indeed, Android is the #1 smartphone platform, taking most of the market share while Apple's iPhone falls in a distant second. Google's scale could turn millions more music listeners into paying subscribers, he said.
"We talk about for subscription services, the need to have a funnel. Google, with its hundreds of millions of users through search, YouTube with its more than 800 million users, arguably is the biggest funnel we could have," Keeling said in London at the launch of the IFPI's annual report. "Clearly if we could get consumers into a legal funnel through that route and encourage them to [subscribe], that would have a very positive impact on the business."
The big roadblock for Google in its pursuit of music streaming negotiations stems from its efforts in curbing music piracy. Labels and anti-piracy groups believe that search engines aren't doing enough to eliminate links that lead to pirated music. The company is facing the same issue with Hollywood and TV networks which has thus far limited Google TV's own offerings.
"Like all search engines, there is a problem; we're asking all search engines to prioritize legal services," Keeling said. "We know that search engines are a primary route for consumers to be able to find music and hope all search engines will implement those changes."
Keeling confirmed that Universal and Google share a "great relationship".