Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
And it looks like Google's deal with the labels has been spiked, because the beta version of Google Music launched today with no major-label licenses in place and, according to Billboard, in a radically different version than they'd hoped for. The service, currently in an invite-only stage similar to Gmail's launch, was originally intended to use the kind of "scan and stream" model I outlined in my column, where Google would scan your music library and match each song in it to the corresponding file contained within their own label-supplied archive; that way, when you told your Google Music player you wanted to hear "Funky Cold Medina," it would stream Google's master copy of the song to your device. This method would keep them from having to store a copy of "Funky Cold Medina" for every Tone Loc fan on Google Music, but it also would've required getting licenses from the labels who own the songs.
Unfortunately for Google, it seems that the majors—Billboard's sources blame Sony and Universal in particular—weren't willing to provide those licenses. So the version of Google Music you can sign up for now is simply a digital locker setup, similar to Amazon's Cloud Drive or Microsoft's SkyDrive. If you get an invite, you'll be able to upload up to 20,000 songs to Google's servers, then stream them back through a Web interface or an Android app. There's a cool-looking feature that automatically generates playlists based on the characteristics of a single song, kind of similar to the iTunes Genius, but there's not a lot here to convince most people to ditch their iPods, especially with the amount of time it'll take to upload an entire music collection.
I guess we'll have to wait and see if Apple—also long-rumored to be working on a cloud-music service—fares any better.