Google launches music discovery service

Google Music promises access to a virtually unlimited trove of tunes. Does it live up to the hype?

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Today, Google officially unveiled Google Music, a music discovery tool which helps users dig up information on their favorite bands. Google Music is not particularly exciting to look at – it's essentially a spin-off of the familiar Google aesthetic – but it does have some cool features, including free access to streaming audio.

"Music is a big part of our lives," a Google employee explains in a video posted to the official company blog. "In fact, two of our top 10 queries of all time are music related. We think it's time to bring the power of our search to the music industry, so that you can not only find but also discover music."

Google Music has integrated a lyrics tool, which seems to work well, if not always perfectly accurately. Here's the idea: You're listening to the radio. You hear a snippet of song. You write down the lyrics – even if it's only a couple words – and plug them into the data field. And voila – you've got the name of the musician, the album, and the song.

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The site is a product of a web of partnerships between Google, a handful of record labels – EMI, Sony, and Universal, among others – and online music tools such as iLike, Pandora, and Imeem. Google Music lets you listen to many tracks in their entirety, although depending on the licensing agreement, you may get only a 30-second snippet. (Clarification: the iLike streaming comes direct from MySpace.)

Introducing Google Music today, Google product manager Murali Viswanathan hinted that more was in the works:

Of course, this is just a first step toward making search more musical. There's a lot of music out there in the world, and in some instances, we may not return links to the song you're looking for. But by combining the strength of Google's search algorithms with our music search partners' efforts to increase the comprehensiveness of their music content, we're on track to answer more of your rhymes with the right rhythms.

Google Music, of course, could find itself competing against Vevo, a music video service founded by Universal Music Group. Vevo, which is expected to be unveiled by the end of the year, will likely run on technology provided by YouTube; Sony Music Entertainment recently joined the project, and Warner and EMI are said to be interested.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Media Company has reportedly purchased stakes in the start-up from Sony and Universal. In a recent interview with Yahoo, Vevo President Rio Caraeff said that Vevo was hiring for approximately 35 new jobs.

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