Google finally launched its Music platform in the US last week. The web giant’s answer to Apple’s iCloud offers music downloads a la iTunes as well as a cloud-based web locker in which each user can host up to 20,000 songs in their accounts and stream those songs via various devices (Android-only for now) and the web browser from Google Music.
From the off, the store was offering a claimed 13 million tracks including songs from majors Sony, Universal and EMI as well as independent distributors including Tunecore, Beggars Group, Merlin, Merge and Warp. In a shrewd move, Google’s Artist Hub allows independent artists to sell the music they own the rights to, at the price they choose, for a one-time fee of $25. They keep 70% of sales and can allow users to listen to their songs for free if they desire.
Of course, it all ties in with Google’s other recent high profile platform Google +. You can share listens of songs purchased with your friends on the social network, much like Facebook’s much touted music sharing of songs on Spotify, Rdio, MOG and more ( which has racked up 1.5 billion shares in the first two months).
Back in Europe, Spotify launched in Belgium, Switzerland and Austria (still no sign of Ireland) in the same week that 234 independent niche dance music labels represented by STHoldings withdrew their songs from Spotify, Napster (it still exists!) and other US streaming services. Their decision was prompted by a review of their accounts which showed that 82% of listens came through streaming services but accounted for just 2.6% of its revenue and a study which concluded that streaming services are discouraging to music purchasing.
“Music loses its specialness by its exploitation as a low value/free commodity,” said an STHoldings press release. “Quoting one of our labels: ‘Let’s keep the music special, fuck Spotify.’”
That move follows the more high-profile rejection of Spotify by Coldplay for their new album. Coldplay’s decision makes sense for them. They’re a huge well-known band with a demographic that is more likely to purchase their music via legal means so offering streams could perhaps have compromised that.
“Fuck Spotify” was also how English composer Jon Hopkins reacted to his most recent royalty payment. Hopkins received just £8 (€9.31) for 90,000 plays of his songs. It sounds like a poor dividend but are Hopkins and STHoldings looking at that figure from the wrong angle? A single stream is not the same as a download and is usually only heard by one person. If you compare that figure to radio where one play on RTÉ 2FM to an audience of around 100,000 for example nets you €9.39 per play (at a rate €3.13 per minute) so all is not as black and white as it looks.