Google Play Music adds free, ad-supported radio in effort to lure subscribers

Human-curated playlists, the fruit of Google's acquisition of Songza, are part of the free offering that anyone can try.

google play music
Derek Walter

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Google hopes to steal some thunder from the launch of Apple Music. On Tuesday the company announced a free, ad-supported tier for its Google Play Music streaming service that will match the same type of offering from Spotify and Apple

You can sign up now on the web version of Google Play Music, with the free listening set to arrive soon on the apps for iOS and Android. The free tier includes Google’s human-created playlists, a feature brought in when the company bought Songza. 

Google’s blog post also indicates that artists will be paid for streams through the free service, as it says the plan will be “giving artists another way to earn revenue.” It’s a subtle dig at Apple for its recent dust-up with Taylor Swift over the plan to offer a three-month trial without any compensation for artists.

Along with the free music, Google has tweaked the icons for its playlists and put a more prominent button for new releases and top songs in the web player. 

The free music option is fairly limited, with six skips allowed per hour. There’s no offline playback. The goal, of course, is to get you to like the service enough that you’ll switch over to the full package, which is $9.99 per month. However, anyone can also use it as a music player, with the ability to upload 50,000 songs from your computer.

The story behind the story: Most of the attention in the digital music world surrounds Apple and Spotify, but Google has plugged away at building Play Music into a rather solid service. It has a great interface and a 30-million song catalogue like Apple Music and Spotify, though the competition is about to get a lot more intense.

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