Speculation was raging in the hours leading up to Google’s Music announcement on Wednesday. Will Google Music kill Spotify? iTunes? Pandora? Amazon? The more likely and arguably more important scenario seems to be the death of the Music Labels.
But let’s rewind for a moment. Google essentially announced what Ubuntu One has been doing for 18 months and later replicated by Amazon – a cloud powered music store and music streaming service – with a couple of important “tweaks”; sharing purchased music with anyone on Google+; and Artist Hub, a platform for independent artists to distribute their content (music, interviews, live concert recordings, etc) directly to consumers. In other words, one of the slickest examples of social music (just look at the reaction to Christina Warren’s music shares moments after the announcement) and a direct-to-consumer distribution platform powered by the combined audience of Google search, Google+, YouTube and Android.
The latter is the killer tweak – and that which could lead to the death of the music labels (and MySpace’s final breath, but who cares). Or at least, the music labels as we know them today – while none of them could ever match the volume and economics of Google’s audience reach, they could certainly become Google service providers in the areas of merchandizing and concert/event organizers. Maybe they already have, but that’s a question for Universal/EMI and Sony Music.
Of course, none of this is relevant if Google Music remains a US-only service for too long.
(Disclaimer: I work for Canonical and on Ubuntu One. These are my personal views.)
Cloud services are hot. Google Docs
making document creation and collaboration a cloud job, Dropbox
raking in users and getting the cover of Forbes
magazine, Apple getting the headlines even for a half baked iCloud
giving us access to any music for (almost) free and Turntable.fm
getting mighty close to a truly social music experience.
Most cloud services offer a combination of convenience, instant gratification and entertainment – but fewer have a behaviour changing impact on your daily life. Three cloud services have done exactly that for me recently:
Photo taking behavior. A subtle feature of the Ubuntu One Files app for Android phones made me exponentially increase the number of photos I take and toss my digital camera in an eBay listing. The app, which gives me access to all of my files, from all my computers, on my mobile phone – has an option to automatically upload any photo taken from my phone to the cloud and then automatically sync it with all of my computers. Goodbye tethering and other hassles around getting my photos from one device to another. Lytro better not come out without connecting to my personal cloud.
Music listening behavior. Spotify, Pandora and Last.fm have changed the way I discover music. But I also like to own a copy of my favorite music. And I also like to be able to access my entire music collection and playlists anytime, anywhere and on any device. But I’ve never been willing to take on the burden of copying my music from one device to the other and then recreating my playlists. I no longer have to thanks to services like Amazon CloudPlayer, Google Music and the less known (but first to nail this) Ubuntu One Music. My entire music collection is now synced to the cloud and available via online & offline streaming to my mobile devices. I can also buy music from one device, and it immediately shows up on my other devices, ready for listening.
Books reading behavior. OK, so I jumped late on the Kindle bandwagon. Not a huge fan of being restricted in the “where and how I can consume content I paid for” category, so I resisted for a while. Having my entire library in my pocket all the time, with immediate access to hundreds of thousands of books from the classics to the newest releases and instant delivery of any purchase, did me in. I still can’t walk past a bookstore or library without walking in – but anything I find of interest I wind up buying on my Kindle (sometimes while still standing in the bookstore). The exception – children books.
Disclaimer: I work for Canonical and on Ubuntu One, so it’s unsurprising that some of its services happen to solve my worst digital painpoints.