The Google I/O conference takes place today, and the most exciting part of it for music fans will be Google’s new music subscription — or rather subscriptions, plural, because as reported by my former CNET colleague Greg Sandoval, Google has been readying two separate music subscriptions — one aligned with Google Play and Android, and another with YouTube.
It’s a confusing situation, which should become clearer later today (unfortunately for this reporter, that will happen just as I am enjoying an emergency dental visit).
If Google does launch two separate music subscriptions, music fans who want to collect music will be even more frustrated than they are now. If you thought it was annoying trying to remember whether you’d collected a song on your desktop, laptop, phone, Spotify account, Pandora Likes, YouTube Likes, Last.fm scrobbles, or any of the other mechanisms fans are using to attempt — usually unsuccessfully — to collect music these days, just wait until the same company, which already owns a download store, a music locker, and the most popular music video site tries to sell you two more music services that apparently won’t even work with each other.
Music fans like the ones we monitored to put together this story with Drowned In Sound agree that this is a big problem. And if it’s a big problem for diehard music fans who spend much of their lives discussing new releases in an online community like DiS, then it’s also a big problem for Google, Spotify, iTunes, record labels, publishers, recording artists, and anyone else with a stake in getting people to pay for music in the present and future.
Ideally, from that perspective, Google shouldn’t launch two music services today (although it might want to launch at least one, to keep the labels happy).
Instead, it should buy Last.fm from CBS or build or license something else that can scrobble music from just about everywhere that people listen to music (you know, like Facebook does now), and funnel all of that into the Google Play locker as 30-second samples. At least that way, we’d be able to collect music again.
Then, Google would have a big opportunity: to charge us all $10/month to turn those 30-second samples into full-length tracks.
In doing this, Google would solve the biggest problem plaguing music fans (an inability to keep tabs on a collection when everything’s spread out all over the place), while creating the perfect funnel, from the entire internet, into its own paid music subscription.
There might be other ways to skin that cat, but it’s the cat that Google should be focusing on if it wants to build something for real music fans to use in 2013 and beyond rather than another subscription option — or possibly even two of them.