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Is iTunes going to be made obsolete by Google Music, the upcoming cloud-based service from the internet superpower?
iTunes may have met its match

Billboard magazine, one of the oldest and deepest entrenched music magazines, is citing multiple sources as having revealed secret details of Google's upcoming music service.

The new Google Music comes at a price -- $25 a year to be precise -- but it makes Apple's iTunes (in its current implementation) look like a dinosaur.  First the basics; the service will offer direct digital downloads much like Apple.

An album download will reportedly generally cost $7.  Most tracks will cost 70 cents, "superstar tracks" will cost 91 cents, and "catalog tracks" will cost 49 cents.

Your $25 subscription fee comes with a free online music "locker" -- a secure storage site in the cloud – in which you will be able to place your purchases.  From there they can stream your music to any compatible internet connected computer or device.  

The size of the locker was not revealed to the sources.

If that feature is not enough to make Apple blush, this will as well -- Google will be offering a one-time 
full preview, reportedly of every track in its library, similar to what did before Apple acquired it, killing the full-length previews.  Full previews certainly outdo iTunes 20 second previews of 4 minute tracks.

The app for the service would reportedly be entirely web-based, so you don't have to worry about installing pesky applications on your machines.  Additionally Google is reportedly planning on including a mild social network/song sharing service, similar to Apple's new Ping network, with Google Music.

And the biggest upside of all for Google is that the company obviously has vastly more ability to redirect internet traffic to its service than Apple.  While Apple can boast reaching hundreds of millions of users with its iDevices, Google can literally boast reach over a 
billion users worldwide.

The biggest trouble spot for Google, according to the report, is shaping up to be reticence from music labels.  Some industry officials called the proposal "a good start", but others promised that it would see resistance particularly on the issue of track costs and previews.

According to the sources Google's proposal calls for a "50-50" revenue split between master rights holders and Google, with music publishers receiving a 10.5% share.  It's unclear if that 10.5 percent is deducted before the split, or if it will come out of one of the two parties' shares.

The sources say Google is seeking to lock labels into a 3-year contract from the launch of the service in terms of pricing and features agreements.

Users would also be able to use their web app to scan their hard drives and upload files to their music locker -- including music from other services (iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.), songs ripped from CDs (which the RIAA contends is "stealing"), and even songs obtained from P2P networks.  The latter is a thorny issue in the negotiations for labels, but they reportedly realize that it may be inevitable and are pushing Google to, in return, tighten restrictions on its search results to filter out P2P software and torrent sites.

It remains to be seen how music labels ultimately react to the proposal, but planned service certainly sounds like a good deal for customers.  And with music labels already fed up with Apple, they may begrudgingly embrace Google's terms as the lesser of two evils (in their eyes).  Armed with superior technology and brand reach, it might finally put an end to the era of iTunes reigning supreme in the world of digital music sales.

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Still waiting...
By ApNw on 9/16/2010 6:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
I am still waiting for someone to make some kind of monthly or yearly subscription, let's say $25 a month or so, that would give us unlimited download.
And I'm not talking about crappy mp3 that you can only use with an internet connection or some bloatware, but full FLAC (or other lossless) albums to your disposition, to do whatever (legal) stuff you want to do with it.
I'm sure a lot of pirate would actually prefer to have reliable albums download that way and be ready to pay that fee.

RE: Still waiting...
By Lazarus Dark on 9/16/2010 6:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
I guess I'm in the minority but... I only buy maybe 5 or 6 cd's a year. Most are around 7 bucks at release these days. So that's maybe 50 bucks a year?

I don't see how I would benifit from any subscription, I mean there's only a couple of worthwile albums put out each year in the whole music industry. I guess if you like crappy music and LOTS of it...

RE: Still waiting...
By TheEnemy on 9/16/2010 11:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. I buy even less. There is just not much worth listening to, let alone worth buying. I would like to try out some of the streaming services if they ever make it to Canada.

I think personally I would pay $25/yr for a streaming service where I didn't have to buy the songs or buy the songs without having to pay a subscription, but not a bad combination of both.

RE: Still waiting...
By Sazabi19 on 9/17/2010 9:25:13 AM , Rating: 2
uh... there is something like that, its called the Zune Marketplace.... its by MS.

RE: Still waiting...
By Belegost on 9/17/2010 9:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, the Zune Pass is $15/month to download almost anything as much as you like. You can use as many PCs as you want, and up to like 5 Zune devices.

RE: Still waiting...
By Belegost on 9/17/2010 9:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and I should point out that every month you get to pick 10 tracks to keep permanently as DRM-free mp3s.

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