Google goes freemium: Play Music gets ads

Google Play Music free playlistsGoogle has unveiled a new free version of its Google Play Music streaming service. This ad-supported tier will offer a more limited lean-back experience compared with the paid subscription to its platform. The free level offers curated playlists designed to pair with specific genres, moods, or activities. These playlists are also assembled by real people rather than computer algorithm. In exchange for free access, listeners can only skip six songs per hour and they can’t see what tunes are up next in the list. There’s no rewinding or scrubbing through a song, only pausing. The free tier is rolling out first on Android and web, with an iOS update due soon.

The new launch appears to be an intriguing combination of music business philosophies. Play Music’s free tier does have a similar freemium model to the one that has caught so much flack at Spotify, but without giving listeners the on-demand control over what they hear. It also has the human curation that Apple Music has been highlighting as a selling point. This blend of features seems designed to lure listeners into the Google ecosystem. Especially given its timing just before the entry of Apple Music at the end of the month, which could shake up listener preferences and encourage experimentation with other platforms, this may be an effort by Google to get a bigger slice of the music pie.

Anna Washenko


  1. What would be different with this compared to Pandora?
    I’ve tried a few different music providers in the past. To me they all seem the same.
    I’ve spent years getting the stations on Pandora to play the music I want to hear at that time.
    What is the advantage of doing this all over again for basically the same thing but a different name?
    Maybe I’m just not understanding how some of these services work. As my wife says I’m not the brightest in the world anyway.

    • It’s pretty much the same set of features. Pandora uses a different music intelligence platform called the Music Genome. Google claims to use human music programmers that came with its Songza acquisition. If you’ve got Pandora working perfectly for you, I suggest you keep using it! 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  2. Google didn’t cannibalize Songza, in fact, that one is still out there, I checked Songza.com this afternoon and saw it was still live and still offering what it had even after the acquisition.

    Pandora also has far fewer tracks, somewhere just over 1 million. Google Play’s people can pull from many times more than that to curate stations.

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