Google adds free ad-sup­ported tier to mu­sic app


Google is adding a free tier to its sub­scrip­tion stream­ing mu­sic ser­vice in the U.S., aim­ing to con­vert the mil­lions of peo­ple who click on the Google Play Mu­sic app ev­ery month but turn away be­cause they’re prompted for pay­ment in­for­ma­tion.

The ser­vice uses Songza, an In­ter­net ra­dio app that Google ac­quired a year ago but whose in­no­va­tions it had re­served for pay­ing cus­tomers.

Now playlists cu­rated by Songza mu­sic ex­perts, like “Drop-a-Beat Work­out” and “Songs to Raise Your Kids To,” will be avail­able to U.S. users for free, in­ter­spersed with ads. Playlists that are au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ated ac­cord­ing to gen­res, songs or artists will also be avail­able.

Google hopes the free tier will en­tice users to pay US$10 a month for a sub­scrip­tion that un­locks fea­tures like on-de­mand play­back with­out ads, off­line lis­ten­ing, and use of the YouTube Mu­sic Key app, a mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice that in­cludes videos and is still in de­vel­op­ment.

Za­havah Levine, vice pres­i­dent of con­tent part­ner­ships for Google Play Mu­sic, said the free tier is a way to en­gage cu­ri­ous users.

“Up un­til now, this has been a lost op­por­tu­nity to bring more peo­ple in,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to pub­lish­ers’ data ver­i­fied by roy­alty track­ing firm Au­diam, Google Play Mu­sic had around 815,000 pay­ing sub­scribers in the U.S. in De­cem­ber 2014, far be­hind mar­ket leader Spo­tify with 4.7 mil­lion. Spo­tify said this month that it now has 20 mil­lion pay­ing sub­scribers glob­ally.

Along with video ads that will play be­fore songs, ban­ners and in­ter­ac­tive pitches, Google will also plug its paid ser­vice. For now, Google is not an­nounc­ing any ex­pan­sion of the free tier out­side the U.S., though the paid plan is now avail­able in 52 coun­tries.

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