What happened to Google Play Music?

Mathew Ekundayo - Music Release

Why is Google Play Music is no longer available?

Google started shutting down Play Music in September 2020, retiring the old service and suggesting that users move themselves over to YouTube Music instead. The service will now join Reader, Google+, and countless other products in the great Google graveyard in the sky.

That sees the end of music purchases from Google, moving to a streaming offering instead.

Google Play Music debuted at Google I/O 2011 as “Music Beta by Google.” Music Beta was announced alongside the launch of Google Movies on the Android Market store, which was the precursor to Google Play. Combined, Movies and Music were meant to take on Apple’s iTunes media juggernaut. Android was still chasing Apple’s superior ecosystem, and one of the holes Google needed to plug were quality media services.

Until Music Beta launched, there was no music service at all from Google, just a basic local music player on Android.

The beta wrapped up after six months, and on November 16, 2011, “Music Beta by Google” became “Google Music.” The service opened up to everyone in the United States, no invites needed.

While Google couldn’t negotiate a deal with record companies during the beta, for the official launch, the various billion-dollar companies put their differences aside and decided that selling us all music actually was a good idea, so Google got its music license.

Well, it signed a deal with three of the four big record labels, at least. Universal, EMI, Sony, and some smaller labels all signed up and brought 8 million tracks, while Warner Music held out for an entire year. Independents didn’t need a record label at all—they could sell music through Google’s new “artist hub,” which would list indie songs on the store exchange for a 30 percent cut.

Google’s decision to kill Google Play Music is mostly about YouTube. For a while, it was negotiating two separate music licenses with the record labels—one for YouTube music videos and another for Google Music radio—so combining them makes some amount of sense. In a Google Play Music versus YouTube fight, the service that pulls in $15 billion a year (YouTube) is going to win. YouTube Music pulls songs from YouTube, and Google can consolidate them into a single license.

YouTube Music is adding features all the time, but we don’t know if the service will ever match the Google Music feature set or how long that will take.

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