The launches of Google Music and iTunes Match were good news for music lovers all over the web. In iTunes Match, Apple finally has a cloud-based solution for accessing all your music on any iOS device, and with Google Music, Google can finally say it offers Android users a service that is competitive with iTunes.
Both of these announcements would have been really exciting to me two or three years ago. Today, however, they leave me absolutely cold. Why? Because I stopped buying music a long time ago in favour of using a subscription service like MOG, Rdio or Rhapsody. I know there are still many people out there who love the idea of owning music, but to me, it feels like Google Music and iTunes Match are smart solutions for a problem these subscription services solved for me in a long time ago.
Both Google and Apple are still betting on the fact that music is something people want to own — and if you subscribe to Apple’s vision, that also means you will only buy Apple products for the foreseeable future.
Don’t get me wrong. I listen to music almost all the time I’m at my computer or in the car. I love music. But unlike iTunes and Co., subscription services allow me to call up any song I want to listen to whenever I feel like it. They also allow me to listen to artists I would’ve never discovered if I just used iTunes. With iTunes or Google Music, after all, I would have to make a pretty hefty investment to listen to all the albums I listen to on MOG every month. With a subscription service, the investment remains the same no matter how much I listen.
Add in the fact that Spotify took the bold step of partnering with Facebook — a move which garnered it an extra 8-million or so subscribers — and you suddenly have a situation on your hands where one of the biggest players in the music streaming game has an ace up its sleeve that Google and Apple can only dream of: potential access to an 800-million plus strong customer base.
Both Google and Apple base their services around the idea that you want to own your music. To me, music is more like subscribing to Hulu or Netflix. Sure, my music “collection” goes away when I stop subscribing or switch services – but who cares? How many of those MP3s you collected on Napster years ago do you actually listen to regularly after all?