Yesterday at the Google I/O Conference, the big boys announced that they were giving the finger to the RIAA and building a music download service in the cloud. This is pretty enormous because nobody other than a giant like all-seeing giant like Google has the legal muscle (and tech acumen) to go against the record labels. Google also gets the big picture on these things. They are looking at the music industry in 20 years when published music is extremely cheap or free, instantly available, and tailored to your preferences. Some of this works now, but it is not effortless. Say what you want about iTunes and Genius, but it is neither an effortless nor a pleasant process (for a non-techie, especially) to get the music you like on all your devices. The difference with Google is that they aren’t going to charge for the music … they are starting with user uploads. However, they are capping your uploads at 20,000 songs. This is like 60 gigs. Free.
The beauty of this is that Google doesn’t charge for any aspect of it. They are going to pull the bottom out of the RIAA’s argument that music download services contribute to piracy (and they do, but only because a CD is $14 … if CDs were under $5, and downloaded tracks were 20 cents, nobody would bother with piracy … duh). The RIAA can’t sue Google for much if Google gives it all away and therefore doesn’t generate revenue. I’m sure the RIAA will desperately cling to some argument along the lines of “this service promotes illegal activity”, but seriously, who will buy this? The RIAA is a dinosaur and Google is the meteor in that shall cause the dinosaur’s extinction (bad metaphor, I know, but this is stream of consciousness stuff).
An unintended casualty of this battle will probably be Amazon’s fledgling mp3 service. It’s really solid, but it limits you to 5 Gigs of music. This seemed completely adequate a few weeks ago when that service launched (with RIAA approval), but now it seems a paltry size. Amazon has loads of storage — hard drives are cheap, after all — with their cloud-based S3 storage system. So expect them to up that size, but I still feel that they’ve picked the path of pandering to the RIAA. Perhaps they lack the funds to fight such a massive war. Even Apple is toeing the party line, but iTunes is a little dystopic microcosm of Apple hysteria anyway. Don’t look for innovation from the Cupertino crowd. Their slavelike fanbase doesn’t care. They’ll buy the next little shiny product from them no matter what. Apple makes their money and stays in their sheltered closed-source phony world. Amazon may just walk away rather than take on the entertainment giants. After all, in the lawsuit against Google, the RIAA need only add a line that says something like “and Amazon was a jerk, too” and they’re on the line for billions.
If you are the early adopter type, then check out Google’s new adventure by requesting an invite here. If you have an Android, go download Google Music Beta from the market now . Currently, you only get the ability to play music but I bet in a few weeks, you’ll be able to upload your music collection.