Google Music announces free, ad-supported streaming ahead of Apple Music debut

At a time when free, ad-supported streaming music is increasingly under fire from artists and labels alike, Google today announced that Google Play Music will join the ranks of Spotify and other streaming services to offer a free tier in the U.S.

One of the lower-profile streaming services on the market, joining the ranks of other streaming services from tech titans like Amazon’s Prime Music, Google Music is perhaps going free in an effort to stir up some much-needed attention in a streaming marketplace that continues to be flooded with choices.

“At any moment in your day, Google Play Music has the right soundtrack to accompany the occasion. Whether you’re working, working out or working it on the dance floor, Google Play Music gives you curated radio stations to make whatever you’re doing better,” reads Google’s press release.

The free service adds to Google Music’s paid subscription service, which offers premium features like caching for offline playback, playlist creation, and unlimited access to Google’s 30 million songs for the industry standard of $10 per month.

The timing of today’s announcement appears to be designed, at least in part, as a direct shot across the bow of Apple’s forthcoming subscription-only service, Apple Music, which will launch a week from today. While Apple’s new service will offer a host of new features including DJ curated stations, 37 million tracks, and a 24-hour live radio station called Beats One, the service will not offer a free, ad-supported tier. Instead, Apple has offered a three month free trial in an attempt to entice listeners to migrate to the streaming service.

Google claims the new ad-supported branch give fans “just the right music” while giving artists “another way to earn revenue.”

The latter point will no doubt be met with criticism, as ad-supported music streaming has drawn the ire of independent artists, music labels, and outspoken power players in the industry like Taylor Swift for its extremely low royalty payouts. Swift famously removed her music from Spotify, saying “I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

Swift’s comments are backed up by Spotify’s own financials: The service made over 91 percent of its profits last year (around $897 million) from its 15 million paying subscribers, while bringing in less than 10 percent from its larger portion of 45 million users who rely on the ad-free tier. That kind of discrepancy has lead to a broader conversation about the value of streaming music, with many claiming that ad-supported, on-demand streaming should be highly-restricted, or even eliminated.

For her part, Swift has become a champion of sorts when it comes to the fight against ad-supported streaming. In fact, while the pop superstar has said that she believes Apple’s paid subscription-only service could be the “platform that gets it right,” she famously called Apple out in a Tumblr rant over the weekend for its plan to withhold royalties from artists during Apple Music’s free trial period. In response, Apple reversed its decision, pledging to pay artists during the free trial.

While Swift may have swayed Apple execs, it appears her words had little affect on the higher ups at Google headquarters. Google’s new free streaming service will become available to users on the web today, and is slated to roll out to Android and iOS devices later this week.

Mobile

Apple purchases Shazam and makes the app free of ads

Soon after Apple announced it was acquiring music-recognition service Shazam, it was revealed that the European Commission would be looking into the deal. The commission has now cleared the way for Apple's acquisition of Shazam.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Home Theater

SiriusXM’s $3.5 billion purchase of Pandora just might be music to our ears

SiriusXM is aiming to expand its customer base beyond those listening in the car through a $3.5 billion deal that will see it acquiring streaming service Pandora, in which it already owns a 16 percent stake.
Music

The best new music this week: Prince, Brockhampton, Mountain Man, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases. On tap this week: Prince, Richard Swift, Christine and the Queens, Brockhampton, and Mountain Man.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Mobile

Google’s improvements to Sound Search will help it recognize songs better

Google has made some key improvements to how Sound Search works. By increasing the capacity of its machine learning algorithms, the company has made Sound Search faster and more accurate, especially in regards to more obscure songs.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation. Updated meta…
Home Theater

Pandora takes aim at Spotify’s Release Radar with smart playlist The Drop

Pandora is debuting its own answer to Spotify’s Release Radar in the form of The Drop, a weekly personalized playlist for Premium subscribers full of new music based on what they already love.
Smart Home

Amazon reportedly will introduce an Alexa-enabled microwave, amp, and more

Amazon's Fall 2018 Alexa device rollout is about to begin, sources say. Look for an Alexa microwave, an amplifier, receiver, and subwoofer, and an Alexa voice-responsive device for your car. Amazon is maximizing its voice-command presence.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
News

Winamp media player might be back from the dead, with Windows 10 support

Winamp might be back from the dead, and it's bringing support for Microsoft Windows 10 with the first new software release since its acquisition by Radionomy in 2014. Fans of the media player will also enjoy new features and bug fixes.