Mike Isaac

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With Sights Set on Spotify (And Pandora), Google Launches a Music Subscription Service

GoogleMusicJPG1Yep, Google’s Spotify competitor is here.

Google unveiled its long-rumored music subscription service at its I/O developer conference on Wednesday, aiming to take on Spotify, the one dominant player in the category.

It’s called Google Play Music All Access, and it has pretty much everything Spotify does. Explore different categories of music, flip through featured content from Google’s editors, browse some of the top albums and songs, and create playlists inside the app. It’s available across the Web — which is nicer than Spotify’s desktop client — as well as on Android phones and tablets.

The biggest likely draw is the radio station option. Listen to one track, and turn it into a radio station that is tailored to your listening habits. If you don’t like what’s in the queue that Google has given you, you can swipe away the music you don’t like. Better radio, as Google positions it.

How interesting! Especially considering that Apple is working on an online music radio competitor with extended features, and Pandora, of course, is going to have to fight on all sides to keep its business strong.

Here’s the biggest drawback: Unlike Spotify, All Access comes with only one pricing plan — $10 monthly. (It’s free for the next 30 days, and you can get it for $8 if you sign up before July).

That means no ad-supported free version, which arguably has been the reason why Spotify has gained more than six million paid subscribers globally to date, and more than 20 million active users of the service overall.

I’m curious to see the level of traction All Access gets compared to Spotify, mostly because Spotify has another key advantage: Facebook. The social giant is a nice boost of traffic for Spotify, surfacing users’ listening activity to the billion-plus users on the social network. Google’s All Access, on the other hand, has Google+. That hardly stacks up to Facebook’s reach.

Time to watch, wait, and see if Googlers are willing to pony up the dough.

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