Google quietly matches Spotify artist-shuffle feature

g update 2In last Wednesday’s Spotify media event, the most important announcement was the launch of an expanded free service on smartphones. In framing that product, which dives non-subscribed unlimited listening (though not downloading), founder Daniel Ek cited radio as a benchmark of convenience. You turn it on, and it plays. Spotify’s new mobile feature lets you call up a band and hit Shuffle — the app then goes on a rampage through that band’s entire discography in a randomly sorted playlist.

Shuffle” was the buzzword of the day for Spotify.

The next day, without fanfare, Google updated its Google Play music service for Android, with this notation: “Added ability to shuffle all songs from an artist in All Access. (All Access is Google’s subscription music service.)

This maneuver does not bring Google All Access to parity with Spotify — Google’s platform does not offer a free tier at all; it is subscription-only. But introducing artist shuffle is an example of how music service copy each other to stave off membership churn. Apparently, Google though Spotify’s well-publicized Shuffle feature might be attractive enough to lure Google users to kick its tires — especially since it’s free. Google probably should be somewhat worried, and so should subscription-only Rhapsody. These services offer good value, but as consumer choice expands and competing brands re-position their features to attract audience, the pay-to-stay platforms have to keep their products up to date with user expectations.

Brad Hill