The Trials and Tribulations of Google Play

Earlier in November Google unleashed Google Play on to the UK market. The service means that you can upload up to 20,000 songs to your Google account without cost and (many would argue more importantly) without any advertising. Designed to revolutionise the way we store and interact with content, Google Play can store games, music, movies, eBooks and more.

As the service is completely cloud based, users can access their content at all times without fear of losing anything or ever having to move it due to upgrading phones, laptops, tablets etc.

Sounds pretty good right? Well, interestingly not everybody thinks so.

It seems that Google Play is somewhat of a divider when it comes to public opinion; some people think it is set to take the crown from Apple’s beloved iTunes and others are convinced it will never rise up as a genuine rival and more to the point it doesn’t even deserve to; so why has Google Play caused this Marmite effect?

Reasons to Love Google Play

Music lovers were given a number of musical treats when it launched in America a year ago. Not only did The Rolling Stones release a live recording from 1973 of two tour dates in Brussels (named the Brussels Affair), Pearl Jam also made a live recording from their Toronto tour date which marked the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

Whereas iTunes currently charge £22 a year for their iTunes match product, Google offer the same service for free. This same scan and match functionality pioneered by iTunes means that Google can store your collection in the cloud so that you can access it whenever you want, from a variety of different devices.

Reasons to Hate Google Play

Some big wigs within the music industry have argued that the whole thing is really quite hypocritical. Whilst they have launched the service to rival iTunes and fight piracy, at the same time they have failed to push illegal downloading services down in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

In addition to this suggested hypocrisy, it has also been argued that Google has actually undermined artists through their lacklustre approach to making changes to the algorithm as a method of weeding out illegal downloading sites.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has condemned Google for failing to succeed in pushing illegal sites down the rankings over three months since they announced that they would be changing the algorithm in light of this issue.

BPI executive Geoff Taylor stated that “We don’t think it makes any sense for them to be doing something which does support artists, and then, on the other hand, undermines artists by referring consumers to illegal sites.”

Google have reacted to the BPI, stating that Google Play is a totally separate entity from the search engine. Many feel this is a rather weak retort, given that Google have gone to such efforts to integrate their newest service into the Google family, adding a link to Google Play at the top of the SERPS along with Google Image, News and Maps.

Sami Valknonen, Google Play’s Head of International Licensing has said that he thinks “It’s something that is hopefully going to make piracy obsolete, because it’s so easy to operate within the bounds of the law that there is really no need to go beyond them.”

The sheer scope of the current piracy issue makes Valkonem’s statement optimistic at the very least. The statistics on illegal downloading are phenomenal, with 70% of online users finding nothing wrong with piracy and more than 75% of computers having at least one illegally downloaded application.

Can Google really fight these statistics? With their soft launch approach to Google Play here in the UK, surely the first obstacle to overcome is that many don’t even know it exists?

Whether Google Play is set to end piracy or stay in the shadow of iTunes for all eternity, if and when they get around to truly pushing those illegal downloading sites down the rankings it will certainly be an interesting time for Play, piracy and the music industry as a whole.

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