Google 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.