Google Play Music Radio: What Does It Mean For The Rest Of Us?
June 23, 2015
So, Pandora offers free 'radio' stations, and Apple kind of does too, and now we've just seen the launch of Google Play Music Radio. Watch this YouTube video:
The Google offer is relatively similar to the others. Limited skips (six an hour) but music based on artists and genre. And you get to also get Google's human curated radio stations too ('fun at work,' 'relaxing with the kids,' etc).
It is different in some ways. First, you can upload your own songs to the service - 50,000 of them if you like. In case you haven't done this, that essentially puts all your music collection in the cloud, and available to play on any device (Android, iOS, the web, a Sonos box, Chromecast, and various others). Those songs do appear in your radio stations, too, and you can even kick off a radio station with one.
Second, clearly Google will learn from what you play: not just what you listen to in the radio feature, but what you listen to elsewhere too.
And thirdly, Google Music is preinstalled on most new Android devices. This is unlike Spotify or Pandora, and means there is a big hurdle to jump if you are launching a similar service: when the one you are competing against is already on someone's phone.
It's ad-funded, and in the US only for now, but that probably means that it'll come to Australia next, but I won't see it in the UK for a long while since the music rights fees here are insane.
What does all this mean for radio?
Once more, it means that stations that only promise a vague music proposition are offering nothing that a consumer can't get, better, on a mobile phone.
If a radio station offers "The Best Mix of Music," "More music variety," "The number one hit music station," or any number of other pointless music descriptors, more and more people will realize that they can get an even better mix of music, much wider variety or as much hit music they want - WITH a skip button, and WITHOUT massive spot loads - on the interactive device they have in their pocket. On an app they already have.
The vast majority of radio streaming on a mobile phone, incidentally, is via a wifi connection - not mobile. So, tempting though it is to talk about limited data caps, most people aren't using them.
Google's new radio service - even if it isn't radio - is another wake-up call to an industry to consider promoting itself by something OTHER than just the music it plays.
Radio's all about human connection and a shared experience. Perhaps we might promote that.
PS: While researching this article, I came across this quaint British thread on Reddit.