With a week to go before Apple launches its debated Music service, Google has just updated its Play Music service to include free, ad-supported radio stations curated by music professionals.
The free radio stations will be an ad-supported version of the Songza-like functionality that Google integrated into Play Music last year. The user will be able to generate playlists centered around specific listening scenarios, such as workouts, driving, or social hangouts. The service will also allow you to listen to curated stations that cater to a specific genre, decade, or mood. All of these playlists will be curated by people, not machines.
Free radio stations come with only a limited number of skips, they won’t come with a rewind button, and they also lack information on the upcoming songs in a playlist. All in all, free subscribers will get little control over the music that they’re listening to for free. This seems to be the middle ground between offering free ad-supported content and the Spotify approach, which means offering entire albums up for free on-demand listening.
Google’s goal with the new free ad-supported radio stations is to convince users to become a paid Google Play Music subscriber. The full service costs $9.99 per month (just like Apple Music), and subscribers are granted access to a library of 30 million songs, while also being able to download music for offline listening.
Google Play Music is a now serious competitor against Apple Music, as we’re forced to note a striking similarity between the new free stations that Google added to Play Music and the Apple Beats 1 station. However, where Google Play Music has the upper hand is the fact that its free stations will remain free forever, while Apple will only offer three months of free trial. The Play Music personal locker (users can also upload up to 50,000 songs from their personal collections to Play Music for free) is also another ace up Google’s sleeve.