Google takes aim at Spotify and Pandora

May 15, 2013

Ryan Bradley has been contributing to Fortune since 2012 and was a senior editor between 2012 and 2014.

After months of buildup, on Wednesday Google announced a new, subscription-based streaming music service called Google Play Music All Access. The name may be clunky, but the offerings appear bountiful.

Google (goog) secured deals with three of the four major record labels—Universal Music, Sony, and Warner Music Group. Fortune reported in March on the Warner deal, and the plans from YouTube to launch a similar streaming service. Google Play Music All Access is, as its name suggests, built atop Google Play for Android, which previously existed as a digital locker for music. All Access merges users' current Play collections with access to millions of additional songs, for $9.99 a month.

Google is offering a 30-day free trial and, in a bid to reward early adopters, if you sign up by June 30th, after the trial ends, All Access will cost $7.99 a month.

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While Google's service seems a direct shot at other subscription-based streaming music providers, like Spotify and Rdio, it is also a direct shot at Apple (aapl), which has long been rumored to be planning a streaming service on its iTunes store. That Google managed to ink deals with the major labels -- companies that Apple has had a long relationship with -- and launch before Apple was clearly a point of pride at the company's Mountain View headquarters, where the company announced the service at Google I/O, its developer's conference. Google called it "radio without rules" and "your personal library, blended with ours" and repeatedly touted the power of "Google powered recommendations" behind a music discovery engine.

Google Play Music All Access launches Wednesday. (You can sign up here.) What will be fascinating to watch, in the coming months, is not just how Google's competitors respond, but what YouTube offers in music. After all, YouTube is currently the biggest music site on the Internet, and it gives its content away for free. When so much music is so readily available for free, what is it that makes people willing to pay for a service such as All Access?

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