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Over the past 48 hours there has been a lot of speculation on Google’s new music streaming platform, Google Play Music All Access. I’m surprised, however, that very few speculations have gone beyond the like-for-like comparisons with other music subscription platforms.
Given my background in search, I’ve been trying to think about the bigger picture of why Google, principally a search engine, are launching GPMAA. Why would Google want to operate in the music streaming space?
I may be wrong, but I think that GPMAA is largely about improving Google search results for music-based queries, and capitalising on the 25,000,000+ music download related searches that come from Google on a monthly basis.
In the same way that Google has entered the credit card, real estate, and air travel niches over the years to help people find what they’re looking for faster, I believe that Google is trying to pursue their mission of delivering the most relevant results to the user as quickly as possible – this time with music.
According to Google’s keyword tool, over 245,000 people search in Google for queries containing “buy music” per month. This jumps to 24,900,000 for terms containing “download music”. Of course, there are likely tens of millions of searches around artist, track and album names that wouldn’t be included in this figure.
With such a huge volume of people going to Google in search of music, combined with the government pressure to stop directing traffic to illegal download sites, this seems like it may be Google’s belated response to tidying up search results for music queries and capitalising on the opportunity.
Google’s big problem with music related searches
When I go to Google in search of music, it’s fair to say that the results I’m served are exceptionally poor.
In this instance, the results that Google serve me do not match my search intent. I want to download Incubus’ album – but instead Google is pointing me in the direction of illegal download sites, music videos, and a streaming platform.
To paraphrase Google’s mission statement, they want to offer me the most relevant result in as few clicks as possible – and at the moment there are no legal and relevant results within 3-4 clicks away. Surely Google can do better?
So here is where I think we’re heading. Please note that these are photo-shopped images, and not actual screenshots.
While I have photoshopped the +1 engagement and the #1 ranking, none of the rich snippet markup has been edited. Google are already using Schema.org markup heavily to deliver attractive rich-snippets in search results surrounding music-related queries.
So what about if I were to search for a single track? What could Google do to reduce the time it took for me to get what I’m searching for? What if I could stream / download / buy directly from the search results?
Again, this search result is heavily edited to display what I think Google could potentially do (it’s not a real result). There’s really no end to how Google could integrate GPMAA into search results – and it would be objectively and genuinely useful to the user if they did implement this. When I search for ‘The Gaslight Anthem 45’ this is exactly what I want to come up.
Are Google filling a much-needed gap in the market?
In my opinion, Google aren’t trying to eat the other streaming platform’s lunch. They’re just trying to fill a gap that the other music subscription services have been very slow to respond to – offering high quality and search indexable music content for the tens of millions of people who search for music in Google. Most music-subscription platforms have gated their content off from search engines, due to a combination of technical and licensing reasons.
GPMAA’s content is not only indexed, but it’s specifically marked-up to be highly clickable from the search results. If that’s not a sign that this has a lot to do with search then i’m not sure what is.
I’d be sincerely interested in discussing this with anyone who has any strong opinions on my take. Feel free to leave your comments below, or if you’d prefer to discuss in private, you can email me at marcus (at) ventureharbour (dot) com.