Google Music Is Now Free! (Sort Of)

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It’s probably no coincidence that just a few short days after Taylor Swift laid a Tumblr smackdown on competitor Apple Music, Google Play Music is making some major changes and selling it as a way to help artists earn more money. The formerly subscription-based streaming service is opening its doors to the unpaying masses with a new ad supported version that doesn’t require you to shell out any cash. In what is now the operating model for almost every steaming provider on the internet, fans can either listen to must and endure ads, or sign up for a subscription to make the commercial torment stop.

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Right about now you’re probably thinking, “Hey! Wait a second! Doesn’t Google already own a huge ad supported streaming music service and isn’t it called YouTube?” The answer, of course, is yes. YouTube is already the world’s largest de facto platform for streaming music. On top of that, YouTube has been hard at work for over a year building it’s long awaited and equally long delayed streaming platform YouTube Music Key. That service is also set to be subscription-based with the possibility of an ad-supported mode for those who aren’t willing to pay.

As much as all of these various platforms try to differentiate themselves, the simple truth is that there seems to be only one way to make streaming music a workable proposition. It’s got to be ad supported, possibly with the option to subscribe, but definitely open to the non-paying public. It also has to pay fairly little to artists. There’s only so much cash to go around and despite the efforts of companies like Tidal, it seems like we’ve already found the limit to what music fans are willing to pay (or tolerate) to stream new music. Raise that price any higher or make accessing that music any harder and fans will likely turn once again to pirating music in large numbers.

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It’s likely that an ad-based version of Google Play Music is aimed at widening the service’s slightly smaller audience and generating more revenue so that Google can continue to pay artists, like Ms. Swift, the CPMs that they demand deserve. That’s good news for independent artist who will now rake in tens of cents for streams of their music. It’s also great news for music fans who will now have access to Google Play’s extensive music library for just the cost of listening to a few annoying preroll ads about deck siding and life insurance!

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