A Lackadaisical Google All Access

Since the onset of mix-tape driven selectivity up through the era of Internet-enabled file sharing, traditional music retail has lagged behind the volatile demands of music’s consumers. Streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Deezer, and Saavn offer markets across the globe a fast, free, and flexible alternative.

Streaming’s latest competitor faces stiff barriers of entry. Google’s “All Access,” an upgrade to the company’s existing Play Music service, adds interactive streaming to the existing cloud functionality of its predecessor. With the recent passing of its discounted debut period, All Access is a freshman facing veteran alternatives in Spotify and Rdio. It must prove itself superior or run the risk of fading away.

Success for any music streaming depends on three factors: the quality of its interface, the strength of its partnerships, and the seamlessness of its integration into everyday life.  In order for All Access to succeed, it must outperform its competitors and fulfill the demands of users in each of these three areas.

A. Any feature that influences the way consumers interact with a service is considered a component of User Experience. “UX” not only encompasses aesthetics, it calls for logically placed content and comfortable navigation throughout a service. Spotify, Rdio, and All Access each feature crisp, flat UI elements and responsive layouts, garnished with colorful images and branded with the conventions of modern design. The pages load without complication and maintain their integrity across browsers.

Navigation throughout Spotify’s interface feels intuitive; one can figure out all the options without looking at a help screen. The same holds true for All Access. However, only after combing through the entire Google Play page and taking a wrong turn at the company’s traditional music store did this correspondent get to actually stream something.

All Access does well to pull through with a library function that builds upon its predecessor, allowing users to access the cloud and explore their full collection of owned music in addition to selections from the All Access library. These songs influence radio stations and recommendations that expand collections and keep music fresh.

Google’s interface, therefore, is well illustrated, organized, and intuitive and for users familiar with Google Play, All Access is attractive. The drawback is that too many choices may diminish the user’s experience, which could benefit from the clarity of a dedicated platform.

B. As the intermediary between content and consumers, the sustenance of a music streaming service depends on positive positioning with both artists and listeners. Users are attracted to the utility of the service, which, in turn, hinges considerably on its relationship with content-providers. Such relations translate into catalogue depth. At the moment, Spotify offers 20 million songs to All Access’s 18 million.

Most of the music that people listen to comes from the major labels. As the Internet continues to encourage a greater depth of musical taste, music selection will widen, making dependence on a wider set of artists likely. For a company with Google’s resources, there is a remarkable opportunity to reach out to new talent. As a competitive content behemoth, the company has in the past experienced a tumultuous relationship with the major labels, but with its tools and capital, Google has an open lane to resonate with artists in ways that Spotify can’t afford to. The company is beginning to create appeal for independent artists through the Artist Hub service, wherein artists can host their music on the Play network in exchange for allowing Google a 30% cut of resulting earnings.

C. At its core, a service’s success is based on its ability to integrate seamlessly into the lifestyles of a variety of people. Whether a user is a casual listener, an obscurity driven fanatic, a runner, an international business auditor, or any resulting combination of the above, the service should morph to accommodate individual needs. Spotify recognizes that music augments the quotidian and positions itself accordingly as a soundtrack to life. With mobile functionality, a dedicated software application, a web-browser client, and offline capabilities, content is rarely out of reach for Spotify’s customers.

Meanwhile, All Access lacks the malleability of its competitors. With no free service beyond an initial trial month and no option to set streaming quality, there is little room for casual listeners and more active listeners lack options. The service’s social integration, driven by the Google+ network, can’t compete with the Spotify–Facebook tag team.

Nevertheless, All Access fits nicely into the Google utility belt. Listeners can access radio, stream, and purchase music all within the Play environment; for those immersed in Google’s network, All Access is a great fit.

Despite extensive creative input and much capital backing, All Access’s pitch to the streaming market lacks thrust. After the expiration of the $7.99 promotional period and the conversion of some price-sensitive music streamers, Google seems to offer few incentives if any to draw new users.

Moreover, the company appears complacent with its half-hearted approach to music. It has the potential to be a great service but perhaps refuses to see music as more than another source of user data or an asset to its ad network. Considering the low profitability of streaming, it is likely that allocating additional resources to All Access may not be feasible yet. Still, with streaming becoming a more integral part of entertainment, the future of All Access would seem to be more urgent than Google makes it.

 

By Kyle Billings

 

Endnotes

1. Play.google.com

2. Peckham, Matt. “Google Play Music All Access Review” techland.time.com
http://techland.time.com/2013/05/16/google-play-music-all-access-review-not-a-spotify-competitor-after-all/

3. Hewitt, Ed. “Google Play Music All Access Review” omgchrome
http://www.omgchrome.com/google-play-music-all-access-review/

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Comments

4 Replies to “A Lackadaisical Google All Access”

  1. Nelson Brooks says:

    Isn’t the biggest factor for success the ability to make a profit? Having a better business model than Spotify where profits are possible would automatically make it better (though I have no idea about that aspect for All Access). I expect the idea of turning a profit will get that much harder for all of these paid services what with the free services like Jango, and Torch Music out there. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

    1. Optimizing for revenue can mean accepting certain austerities and offering less than what other services offer. With a market in a stage of growth, revenue is supplemented by investment and user base crowds out problems in profitability when gauging a platform’s attractiveness. The pie isn’t big enough to split amongst all the emerging platforms; each contestant must work to become the most logical option for those looking to stream content.

      While a profitable business model is absolutely a key to success, that model is hinged on a service’s ability to attract, maintain, and fulfill the demands of users. People who stream music don’t care whether a platform is making money, they care about getting what they want. If they aren’t getting what they want, they’re going somewhere else. If a platform suffers user flight, it’s not profitable and it’s not going to last.

      We’ll all see what the future brings!

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