One major missing component of Google Music, the company’s recently announced cloud music player, is the complete lack of support from any record labels.
That’s not for a lack of trying, as Google has been in talks with labels for years. But now it may be more difficult for Google to convince the industry to play nice since it launched the service this week without them.
“People are pissed,” one record label source told The Hollywood Reporter. Google apparently tipped labels off that the service was coming, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise when it was announced on Tuesday. But that’s not stopping them from being angry about it, especially since Google painted the labels as the problem behind the deals.
Google may not have had much choice in the matter. Amazon launched its own cloud music service (tied to its MP3 store) in March, and Google is desperate to head off Apple’s rumored cloud music service, which is expected to debut in the next few months (likely at Apple’s own developers conference next month).
THR also points to other factors that made music industry deals difficult: All labels apparently wanted upfront advances — which Google was willing to pay — but those negotiations turned messy. “[S]ome labels wanted larger upfront advances than others. And then other labels would learn of the advances agreed to in those deals and then demanded similar rates. And the independent labels wanted to be treated on equal terms as the majors,” THR writes.
Piracy was also an issue, with labels disagreeing if downloaded music files should be allowed in Google Music’s digital locker. Additionally, labels were aiming to use the deals as leverage to get Google to remove peer-to-peer site links from its search engine.
Some music executives also worried that licensing their content to Google could strip away potential revenue from Apple, which at this point is a stronger competitor given the popularity of the iTunes music store and the ecosystem of devices surrounding it.
Google also didn’t help its case too much by constantly changing what it planned to launch with the music service. Sources say Google was discussing a music subscription service initially, before it settled on a locker for users to upload their current music. That subscription service may still appear in the future though.
Our own Matthew Lynley found Google Music to be a miserable experience at launch, but I think many of the issues with the service will be ironed out in the coming months. Most of Google Music’s problems, in particular its lack of label support, stem from the fact that Google had to rush it out the door. We can expect it to be more fully fleshed out over time — hopefully with the music labels behind it.