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Google opens Android music store in iTunes' face

Artists can sell direct just like developers

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Google has opened up its beta Music service to all US computer users, and has plumped for free as the best model for music streaming.

“The Google Music service will continue to be free,” Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s head of digital content for Android, said. “Other cloud music services think you have to pay to stream music you own - we don’t.”

Introducing the service today (Wednesday) in Los Angeles, he said the service lets users upload about 20,000 songs into cloud storage and play them on any computer, even in iOS, or on an Android smartphone running version 2.2 or better.

There’s no charge for using the service, but data fees could be an issue unless you are one of the shrinking minority with unlimited data plans.

There is the all-important commercial aspect - and on top of the personal collection limit you can add purchased tracks.

Google Music is to be integrated with the Android market, and eight million songs are available for purchase from Universal, EMI (possibly one and the same soon) and Sony. Warner Brothers are staying out. When indie labels are taken into account, and the service is fully set up, buyers will pay from 99 cents to $1.29 apiece from a selection of over 13 million tracks.

To encourage the independent sector Google will include artist pages. This allows people to upload their own music and sell directly, with Google taking a 30 per cent commission, as with software developers. If this takes off, Google could have a nice little revenue generator on its hands. Altertnatively, this could just sink into a storage-heavy morass of garage bands and desperate wannabes.

Google+ is to integrated with the service from the launch, and each purchased track can be shared with friends for a one time-only listen. It can also be shared with non-subscribers – once they subscribe. A recommendations feature will also spread the word.

Adding to the pot, Google will also throw in a free song a day, starting with David Bowie’s Sound and Vision, although El Reg bets you’ll hear a lot of unknown artists on that channel. T-Mobile USA subscribers will also get a free song a day until the end of the year, and can charge music directly to their bills.

Other freebies available for subscribers include recordings of six live Rolling Stones gigs (Brussels Affair) and then one a month), as well as free content from Pearl Jam, Coldplay, the Dave Matthews band and Tiësto.

The beta for Google Music was tested with around a million participants, who spent an average of 2.5 hours a day streaming music. It has received a mixed response, but it seems Google now has a shot at building a credible rival to iTunes. ®

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