Google unveiled a streaming music service called All Access that blends songs users have already uploaded to their online libraries with millions of other tracks for a $10 monthly fee.
The service puts the Internet goliath in competition with popular paid subscription plans like Spotify and Rhapsody and free music services like Pandora.
The announcement Wednesday at Google’s annual developers conference kicks off a wave of developments in the digital music space that are expected to entice consumers with ways to listen to music on a range of devices.
Rival Apple is expected to debut a digital radio service later this year; Google-owned YouTube is also working on a paid subscription music plan; and Sweden’s Spotify is exploring a way to make a version of its paid streaming plan free with ads on mobile devices, according to a person in the music industry familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified by the Associated Press because the deals and features on the services have not been finalized.
Google is playing catchup in the digital music space after launching its music store in November 2011. Apple’s iTunes Store, which launched in 2003, is the leader in song downloads and Spotify claims about 6 million paying subscribers worldwide.
But Google’s massive reach on mobile devices that use its Android operating system means it could narrow the gap quickly. About 44 percent of active smartphones in the United States are powered by the Android software, according to research firm eMarketer. Google said about 900 million Android devices have been activated worldwide.
“This is radio without rules,” said Chris Yerga, engineering director of Android. “This is as lean-back as you want or as interactive as you want.”
By combining an all-you-can-listen-to plan with music sold from its Google Play store, the service covers any gaps. Some artists, like Taylor Swift, keep recent releases off of streaming services for several months in order to boost download sales. The combination also means people can listen to their own specialized music or bootleg recordings alongside the millions of tracks available from Google.
All three major record labels — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp. — are part of the All Access service.
Listening to music streamed over cellphone networks has become extremely popular. According to research firm eMarketer, more than 96 million Americans are expected to stream music on mobile devices at least once a week in 2013, up from 85 million a year ago.
What you get with Google’s All Access
Key facts about Google’s All Access music, which launched in the U.S. on Wednesday and comes with a 30-day free trial.
. Price: $10 a month, unless users start the free trial by June 30, in which case the monthly fee drops to $8 for the foreseeable future.
. Expected to roll out soon in 12 other countries where Google currently sells music, including the U.K., France and Germany, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
. Allows users to search for songs, albums or artists directly, or peruse 22 different genres.
. Google curators offer up recommendations based on your listening behavior and your existing library of songs.
. You can listen to any of millions of tracks right away or switch to a “radio” format that creates a playlist of songs that you might like. Radio playlists can be adjusted on the fly by deleting or reordering upcoming songs.
What you get with Spotify
. Users can listen for free on their computers and laptops when they sign up for an ad-supported version.
. The unlimited and uninterrupted version for computers and laptops costs $4.99 a month. A premium version allows users to listen across all devices as well as offline.
What you get with Pandora
. The service is free (40-hour-per-month limit on free mobile listening). Users can upgrade to Pandora One for $36 a year. Pandora One removes advertising and features unlimited listening across all devices.