Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Music’s New Service Set to Launch, Without All the Music

Google, which tried to launch a music service earlier this year but couldn’t get all of the big music labels on board, is ready to try it again. But it still doesn’t have all of the big music labels on board.

The search giant has sent out invitations to a “special event” in Los Angeles next Wednesday, (supposedly from Spinal Tap bassist [Doh! Lead guitarist, that is.]Nigel Tufnel, which is a calendar joke). Every indication is that it will be to launch Google Music — a service that’s supposed to include both a store and a limited sharing capability, tied to its Google+ social initiative.

But as of now Google hasn’t convinced all four of the big music labels to come on board.

Google has EMI Music, the smallest of the big four, locked up. And industry executives I’ve talked to believe that Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest label, is also signed up or will be very soon.

But people familiar with the labels tell me that Sony and Warner Music Group haven’t lined up deals yet, and they’re skeptical that both will be locked in by Wednesday. (Apple, meanwhile, looks like it’s finally ready to show off iTunes Match, its new $25-a-year music service.)

That runs counter to the confidence that Andy Rubin expressed last month, when he told the audience at the AsiaD conference that he was “close” to launching a music service “with a twist.” My hunch is that Google feels the invitations will be a forcing event that will speed negotiations up.

Or perhaps Google feels that some music labels are better than none, and it can add the stragglers in after it launches.

Conventional wisdom in the music business is that you can’t launch a service without three of the big four signed up (Spotify waited to lock up all four before coming to the U.S.). But Google has shown in the past that it’s quite willing to put stuff out there before it’s fully baked. Perhaps this is another one of those.

 


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald