Google officially opened the doors to its online music-download store on Wednesday, joining a competition with Apple's iTunes and Amazon's MP3 shop. Artists providing exclusive tracks for the occasion included the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Busta Rhymes, and Tiësto. The early reception from the technology press has been positive, though without the exuberance that tends to accompany the launch of a product from rival Apple.
Google Music Beta had already been enabling users to upload up 20,000 songs from their personal collections to the cloud, to stream from any location. The non-beta launch of the service will allow users to buy MP3s from a selection of more than 13 million tracks, offered by a wide range of major-label and indie partners — though, conspicuously, not yet Warner Music. As the Economist puts it: "It will be tough for Google to dislodge Apple from its digital throne. Yet it would be a mistake to underestimate it."
New users of the service can get their Google Music collections started with exclusive freebies from several high-profile acts. The Rolling Stones will be making six previously unreleased concerts available on Google Music in the months ahead, and one, Brussels Affair (Live, 1973), can be downloaded now. Pearl Jam's contribution is a live album from the band's show in Toronto on September 11, 2011. Coldplay, meanwhile, are sharing a live recording of "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall," a five-track live EP from a recent Madrid concert, and a "Paradise" remix by Tiësto, the Dutch super-DJ.
Of course, Google Music's free offerings aren't limited to guitar rock. Busta Rhymes' new single, Chris Brown collaboration "Why Stop Now," is also available. Tiësto is offering new mix "What Can We Do?," with singer Anastacia. Shakira fans can download a live EP from a recent Paris show, plus her new single "Je L'Aime à Mourir." Dave Matthews Band are adding albums from two live concerts. All of the above releases are free.
As MTV News notes, the lack of a deal with Warner means Google Music users won't be able to purchase tracks by artists including Green Day, Wiz Kahlifa, Gucci Mane, and Mastodon. But Google Music has a connection to the Google+ social networking platform. When users buy a track from the Google Music store, they can share streams with friends for free via Google+. It remains to be seen whether the "pluses" will outweigh the minuses, but for now, consumers can hope that a bit more competition in the digital-music marketplace will play out to our benefit.