Google Music is old hat. Sorry, guys - it's true. Streaming? Amazon's Cloud Player and iTunes iCloud both have it. Locker storage? Amazon gives you a decent amount, too - and they might even increase it if they feel Google Music is one-upping them. Purchase options? Apple and Amazon both have more music you can purchase digitally, including titles from Warner Music Group (which Google Music does not have), where many major contemporary artists are signed.

Basically, Google did what it had to with Music: it kept up with the competition. Not having streaming, cloud storage, or a major storefront would make Google Music look like a joke next to iTunes with iCloud or Amazon MP3, and this is probably why Google waited so long after the launch of the "Beta" to unveil Music in a more public way.

There's really nothing about Google Music that makes it vastly superior to its two big rivals, and if you think quantity of storage space or default 320Kbps streaming are "reasons," you're probably out of touch with the average consumer. With services like Spotify, a lot of people are betting on a world in which we pay for access to a library of content on a monthly basis, but I think "owning" music is a concept that's here to stay. I'm glad Google veered away from a subscription service model and stuck with the more traditional approach to selling music a la carte instead of buffet style, and it had to be that way to make what I'm about to discuss work.

Google Music doesn't do anything particularly worse or better for consumers than Amazon MP3 (aside from the whole lack of Warner tracks), and there's no "killer feature" distinguishing it from iTunes. But there's one thing that Google Music does do a lot better for artists than either of those music stores: pay them.

Cutting Out The Middleman

Now, you may not be aware of this, but neither Amazon MP3 or iTunes allow artists to freely upload music for sale on their respective stores. You need a middleman, called an "aggregator." These aggregators charge about 10 cents on the dollar for each track sold, and also charge for each album they host and upload to the respective music stores.

Let's just break it down into some simple math (I'm talking about non major-label artists here):

  • iTunes:
    • Apple's cut: 35%
    • Aggregator's cut: 10%* (or, a yearly fee) + upload fee ($20-50 per album, $10 per single)
    • Artist cut: 55-65%, minus cost of aggregator fees
    • iTunes sets cost
  • Amazon MP3:
    • Amazon's cut: 30-35%* (unpublished, this is a guess based on CDBaby's FAQ)
    • Aggregator's cut: 10%* (or, a yearly fee) + upload fee ($20-50 per album, $10 per single)
    • Artist cut: 55-70%, minus cost of aggregator fees
    • Amazon sets cost
  • Google Music:
    • Google's cut: 30%
    • Aggregator's cut: 0%, plus unlimited content hosting
    • Artist cut: 70%, minus one-time fee of $25 for Artist Hub account
    • Artist sets cost

Plainly, Google Music is the cheapest way to sell your music online. You also get access to millions of Android smartphone and tablet users in the US. This is awesome for new or small audience artists.

The problem that Amazon MP3 and iTunes pose for many new artists is that they're innately geared to host album-length content unless you're already an established presence in the music business. If you don't have a full album, you're probably not going to shell out $10 to an aggregator for every track you produce - it's stupid. Fledgling artists can produce dozens of tracks in the search for a hit, and if these songs don't sell, the aggregator fees are wasted money.

Google eschews the notion that you should pay more for producing less. $25 for everyone, no matter what, period. With a growing number of part-time artists out there producing music singles by themselves (like those in the increasingly popular Dubstep genre), selling music online can be a cost-ineffective endeavor, and might even discourage some artists from trying to sell their music at all.

While aggregators do charge just one fee for placing music into most major MP3 stores and take no rights to your music, Google Music gives artists total control over pricing as well, which means that artists who focus on producing singles can charge a little more for tracks if they feel the cost is warranted by the length or quality of the song - or they can charge less to encourage sales.

So What?

Google Music is a storefront that already has a massive audience through the Android Market - it's going to be on every Android device from here on out. Artists won't ignore that, particularly as Android is the US's number one smartphone OS. Google Music's Artist Hub gives artists control over their music and access to an audience in a way that no other major MP3 store or music service out there right now does, much like YouTube gave amateur filmmakers the opportunity to interface directly with viewers without needing a distribution deal (the profit sharing model there has given them a chance to make money on those productions, too).

Google Music doesn't do anything revolutionary with your music - but it could quickly become a revolution in music.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Keyan X

    What about sharing and Google's connectivity through it's social network Google Plus?

    • Adam

      That would be great if anyone was actually using Google+.

      • Keyan X

        maybe not for you but there are plenty enough people using Google+ on my end. By no means am I saying its the most populated social but its getting

      • ocdtrekkie

        A ton of people are using Google+, they just may not necessarily be people you know. Most Google+ users have realized the Google+'s niche isn't just to let you talk to your friends, but to find you new friends.

  • JLishere

    I think this article nails it perfectly. Google Music is not here to compete head-to-head with iTunes, despite how analysts like to portray it in the news (and Apple fanboys who already think Google Music is dead). Yesterday's announcement is about closing the loop for this huge ecosystem that Google now has with the combination of Android, Google+ and YouTube. The service didn't need to break ground, nor does it aspire to. It's simply there. It's free. And one of its most powerful (but under-talked about) feature is Artist Hub. This is huge for independent artists, and terrible for MySpace.

  • Ron

    Wow. That's a big difference and appears to be a great thing for up-and-coming musical artists. Great article.

  • http://twitter.com/iamwillmoody Will

    Sure, it doesn't bring anything new to the table... except for being so good for small artists, which you actually mention yourself, and having tight integration into G+, including allowing your friends to listen to the entirety of any of your purchases. Oh, and being able to purchase music and play it on Android OR iOS or any PC with no extra software.

    But yeah, besides those killer features which set it apart, yeah, totally old hat.

  • ben dover

    Google music does bring something new to the table! 320mbps mp3 files!

    That along is reason for me to buy all my music on google music!

    • anon

      I use FLAC audio. 320 is a step down for me.


      • Eric B

        You can upload FLAC which is nice.

    • ben dover


      lol. 320mbps bit rate would be awesome!

  • Warden Chinbach

    320 kbps mp3 files, letting you log in on any computer and play all your music for free, sharing all your purchased music with your friends who can play it all once for free, syncing with iTunes, artists making their own profiles and not even needing record labels at all... right, not much new here.

    • Phil

      Gotta kinda side with this post here. I mean theres not really anything earth shattering you can do with an MP3 music store. Its music files, you buy them, you listen. But to say its nothing new is rather harsh. Sorry but like the poster said no other store is letting me listen from any device or computer I log into for free. That alone is rather huge and I'd say more than enough to make Amazon look boring and overcome the iTunes argument in deciding Android or iOS. And Warner won't be able to hold out of this game anyway. Oh and lets not forget all the exclusive stuff they are getting.

  • David

    Yup, Sharing on Google+ is awesome! I've already found so many songs and artists just from my G+ stream that I was never even ware of! that is a "killer app" in and of itself.. now if G+ were just bigger :- /

  • Chris

    Agreed. Google doesn't feature-wise bring anything truly 'new' to the end-user, although it combines a number of features from existing services under one roof, such as the sharing aspect Microsoft pushed with Zune, and the now-standard cloud storage method Amazon put on the table earlier.

    The whole situation with ecosystem is both a boon and a curse, though. Mostly a curse for those who pony up for locked ecosystems like Apple's. Yes, Apple has loosened its restrictions quite a bit over the last few years, but I do have a few legacy tracks from iTunes I haven't converted to iTunes Plus. I'm sure many others do as well.

    I'd like to 'jump ship' as it were, since I see Google's current system as superior to Apple's in terms of utility to me, but the sticking issue is my media library playcount, which I have yet to figure out how to transfer, and the need for laughably huge amounts of storage (which is why I still rock an iPod Classic).

  • Nino64

    Looks like David is a lil jealous n mad XD

    • David

      Rarely am I jelly or mad good internet troll-ling . I just wish there were more people I cared to be friends with on G+, I'm GLAD my retarded family is still completely unaware of Google+ less spam from stupid people. Now I just need some more interesting people. what do you do when you hate 99% of the people you meet? >**<

      • Nino64

        I really sorry but it was just a joke u know that, n I'm not hating anyone cmon let just be friends ok :)

  • Jim

    How about the fact that you don't need to download iTunes and install it on a computer? Once you have it updates, updates, updates, etc which is downloading and installing over and over again.

    Just like the Android market, the music store is browser based. This alone is more user friendly.

  • Shiamal Harkison

    Nice post david, my only concern is that its US only, yes i know that the US is the biggest market for the service, but I see a pattern with this and the Movie rentals where other countries are being left out. In south africa we have the market and books, and navigation. Whats more concerning is in Asia where android is getting more growth than anywhere, a country like Malaysia doesnt have Navigation, seriously? This needs to change, sure a planned roll out is great, but atleast move it out of the US sometime..

  • http://android-zone.org BogdanSNB

    Sharing on Google+ is awesome!

  • http://genesischess.com/ Micah

    I think there's a few things that set up the Music by google up for failure. These are the reasons I will currently NEVER buy a song from google music.

    1. No PC client. I want to be able to download MY music to MY computer however many times I want to.

    2. No method to download the songs to my device in a method that doesn't need to be re-synced each time from the app.
    I want to be able to download it to /sdcard/music/artist/album/trackname.mp3

    3. The app is missing a lot of options and currently I can't play MY music with other media players. HUGE failure.

    The way I see it, they need to make some changes fast.

    • fooflamfinn

      There is a PC client. On the Home Screen select Upload Music (which allows you to upload your existing music files, by the way) and you can download the Music Manager. This allows you to upload/download as much as you want. You can install it on any computer (at least PC, not sure about Macs). You can then play the files from any application that plays mp3s.

      Also, you can download them to your Android device if you install the Google Music app (it's the offline option that let's you set it to just download when you're on Wifi). This will allow you to play them on any media player you have on your Android device.

  • Google Music US only?

    Nice to see Google bringing goodies for US only... iTunes here I come...

  • augustofretes

    I think Google has a bigger chance of becoming some kind of "Indie" label, by merely charging a one time $25 fee and letting the artist set the price, we're getting closer to how music and book should be sold (closer to the model of the Android Marketplace, and less to that of the 70's).

  • Mike

    I was curious about these split numbers. Appreciate the article; one of the reasons why I've always liked Google as a corporation.

  • epitome

    Google needs to get this out to other countries - and fast. Even for iTunes, at least there's a workaround to create USA account, and purchase USA iTunes credit. Google Music? Absolutely has to have a USA credit card - no exceptions.

    If Google doesn't nail down that, it's not gonna take off.

    • Jobayer

      Change your billing mail address to a US one :3

  • https://steamcommunity.cim/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

    I still haven't bought any music yet on Google Music. What are the available file formats available? I am keeping all my music in FLAC for archiving purpose, and I would preferably want to get my purchased files in that format.

  • disqus_BQDyNtQUHs

    stumbled upon this article in google while searching for stuff. what a stupid fucking article lol. google play music is superior in every way.