Google Music announced yesterday what pretty much everybody was expecting — a music store that puts purchased music into your cloud locker that you can access from any browser. What wasn’t quite expected (although I had mentioned I was hoping for it) was allowing artists to upload their own music and manage their own sales. With Google Music’s Artist Hub, they can do just that.
As their Artist Page explains, there is a one-time $25 fee for each artist, and then you can upload as many albums as you’d like. However, if the artist already exists in their database, the initial $25 fee is waived. (How an artist already ends up in their database or where they get the names from I don’t know, but every artist I was uploading content for already existed and there was no fee.) Google will take 30% of each sale, just like iTunes and Amazon.
Just allowing self-publishing isn’t too much of a big deal on its own, but could eventually impact gatekeeper services like TuneCore, CDBaby, etc. Even if Amazon and iTunes eventually did the same thing, assuming there’s a $25 fee for each, it would be initially cheaper to use a third-party for one album. In the long run, or for multiple albums, it could be cheaper to actually do it yourself. (TuneCore for example is $50 per year subscription per album.)
The thing I like most? You can set your own pricing. As long as it ends in a .49 or .99, you can set whatever dollar amount you want, or even have it be free. You can also choose to allow only one free preview stream, or unlimted. You can also make changes at any time, meaning you have full control over making free for a day or so, then bumping it up to full price later.
Of course, if anyone buys music, they can then allow any of their friends on Google+ to listen to it for free in full once by sharing it with them. That’s a good idea in theory, but until they allow the track to be embedded right there, it’s not that great. Someone shared a track with me for a free listen, but it took me several clicks and signing in different places to get to it. If it’s not easy to use, the feature is essentially pointless.
Overall, it’s a good starting point, especially for artists, but we’ll see where it goes from here. Hopefully they’ll get it integrated fully into Google+, and more importantly get store widgets you can place on other sites/pages.