new Google music offering — indie musicians face new challenges and opportunities

Google has just announced a major enhancement to its handling of music searches. This change brings new conveniences for average Google users, and new opportunities for musicians. Herein, we’ll let an official Google video speak to the consumer side of things, then discuss what changes are under the hood, and what they mean for music marketing.

Google has just announced a major enhancement to its handling of music searches. This change brings new conveniences for average Google users, and new opportunities for musicians. Herein, we’ll let an official Google video speak to the consumer side of things, then discuss what changes are under the hood, and what they mean for music marketing.

So here’s the video, aimed at your average consumer:

Basically, users searching on keywords involving artists, album titles, song titles, or lyrics are presented with a simple means of listening to those tunes for which they are searching. Also presented at the top of the search results is a wealth of similar content that can be played and/or viewed. It is the playing of the material where things get interesting for musicians.

They playing of the songs is actually handled by Google’s partners — currently iLike and Lala. Clicking on the play icon at the top of the search results opens a popup song player, with the song of interest playing, and other songs by the same artist loaded. There is a link at the upper right of the song player to the retail outlet, where one can easily purchase the song in question.

Note that, while others have reported that the partner used to play any tune is random, my limited testing showed a decided bias to Lala. Out of perhaps twenty searches for an artist name, all but one came up on Lala. The last — Mahogany Rush — came up on an iLike player, but had no link to a retail purchase.

It should be mentioned that below the default links in the top search result are links to the artist on other sites — including iLike, Rhapsody, iMeem, Pandora, and possibly others. Note that MySpace bought iLike earlier this year. From my limited testing, however, it seems clear that Lala is a favored retailer.

As an online music retailer, Lala has a rather unusual business model. Users can stream every song on the service once for free. After that, customers can buy the right to stream it for $0.10 or buy the MP3 for $0.89. Users can also upload their own music library to Lala and then stream those songs freely over the Internet.

It is also interesting to note that Lala has recently partnered with Facebook, with an officially connected Lala Facebook application.

Google has also partnered with the major music labels: EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music. I assume this was required in order to smooth over the legal ramifications of being able to preview content in search results.

We all know what a giant Google has become. From it’s humble beginnings, it has risen in a few short years to dominate the Internet. Like iconic brands such as Xerox, the company name has become both a household noun and verb. Even given the central role of search in our daily lives, it has been reported that approximately 6% of all Google searches are music related. This points out how important Google is to all commercial musicians. Now with this major user-facing enhancement, the use of Google by consumers to identify and acquire new music seems certain to multiply.

So what does this mean to indie musicians? It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. From a personal perspective, I am in the middle of evaluating partner organizations to act as interfaces to online music retailers. As of today, I know that I need to re-evaluate my options, with a particular notice to which such organizations partner with Lala.

In a similar vein, I need to learn more about the relationship between Google and MySpace — as MySpace has just announced an ‘artist dashboard’. This is an analytics tool which over time may aspire to much the same functionality as ReverbNation.

In this wild musical world defined by the demise of the traditional recording labels, independent musicians live in a sea of change. One thing is certain — while this constant change requires continual attention, it also brings a steady stream of opportunities for independent musicians to bring their music to new legions of fans.

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