Is Google Play Music All Access really the end-all for the music streaming industry?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| May 15, 2013

Sticking with discussing all things Google during Google I/O, I’ve decided to go a little more in depth about the new streaming service from Google called “Google Play Music All Access”. (That rolls off the tongue like a charm. It just makes me want to say it over and over again because it’s so catchy. Not.) But let’s forget about names and focus on the real questions people are asking themselves: Is this new service from Google the killer for current streaming apps?

Particularly, I’m thinking of Spotify and Pandora, although there are several other notable apps that serve as competitors as well – but these are the two I have the most experience with.

Pandora has been around for much longer than Spotify, and has a huge user base at around 200 million users. The service is considered “freemium” and entails users being able to create their own radio stations that play a variety of songs based off of a band or song that you decided to base your “radio station” off of. So, say I decide I wanted to make a “Kansas Radio Station”. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear songs from Boston, Survivor, Foreigner, Styx, or any other classic rock band as users who liked Kansas also probably showed interest in other bands of similar genres at the time they were popular. Pandora is a popular app across all platforms and even allows you to skip up to 6 times per hour, per station, until you reach a total of 12 skips per day. It might not seem like much, but if you’re skipping 6 times within the hour you might want to consider switching stations anyway. Unfortunately, if you come across two stations that you don’t like within a 24-hour period, you don’t get a third chance unless you sign up for Pandora One. Pandora One allows you more skips per day, but you’re still only limited to 6 per station. This service costs $3.99 a month.

Pandora was a big thing when it first came out. You had a little more control over what you got to listen to, and above all it was a perfect way to discover new music suited to your tastes. But what about being able to listen to a song you really liked again? (And again? And again?) You can’t do that – at least, not all in a row. If you’re lucky you might come across it one or two more times, but you still had to wait.

Then Spotify comes out, and currently has 24 million users – only a fraction of how many users Pandora has, but it has only been out for two years. Spotify is another “freemium” service that works in many ways that Pandora doesn’t. You have the option for music discovery, and if you find a song you like then you can simply place it in a playlist that you create (although I have found that Pandora provides music suggestions that are more properly attuned to my taste than Spotify does – personal experience). As a free service, you occasionally have to suffer through the occasional commercial, but otherwise I have found it to be a great service for building playlists. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought the $10 premium service in order to skip commercials and enable offline listening, which lets you “download” the music (within the client, not to your computer or mobile device) and allows you to listen to your playlist even when you have no wireless available to you. Did I mention that you could skip as many apps as you like?

But now we have Google Play Music All Access - but what exactly is it? Simply put, it’s Google’s attempt at entering the fad that is the streaming music industry. To be honest, it’s not off to a bad start. For starters, you've got the name “Google” in it; if nothing else, you've got that. However, All Access does have an extensive library that about matches Spotify's at over 20 million songs which is impressive to start off with – Spotify didn’t hit that benchmark until around December of 2012. All Access also features a Pandora-like feature that allows you to search for a band or song and it will match you by creating a playlist of similar bands or songs of the same genre. You also have offline listening. It’s a perfect blend of Pandora and Spotify, but it does come at a price.

Unlike the other two "freemium" services I previously mentioned, Google Play Music All Access does not currently state that it offers any type of free service. The service will come at a price of $9.99 a month, with a 30-day free trial. If you sign up for the service before June 30th, you will get a discounted flat rate of $7.99 a month (which is not a bad deal if you pay $9.99 a month for Spotify's service already). Unfortunately, Google is doing itself a great disservice by not including its more frugal audience, which is surprising given that Google usually takes the cheap road when it comes to services and makes most services free, or almost free.

For people like me, I feel like Google Play Music All Access may be taking away a good chunk of users who use the Premium version of apps like Spotify, or even Pandora, but I do not think that it's the end-all of streaming music unless they end up releasing an option for free services. Where most people would have to seek out and download apps like Spotify and Pandora, Googly Play Music All Access will most likely already be preloaded on Android devices – if it had all of the above, including the free services, it would be game over for most of these other apps in just a few short years. But until then, I don't see that happening.

Readers, what are your thoughts on All Access? Do you plan on purchasing a monthly plan from the new service from Google, or will you stick with the service you already have? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Images via Gizmodo