Cloud online streaming and downloadable music service Google Music may have received mixed reviews from critics, but its Artist Hub platform hopes to offer bands major advantages over Amazon and iTunes. Letting indie acts digitally sell songs directly to fans via the Web and Android Market, and keep 70% of the profits, its clever economic model could give rise to a generation of performers that increasingly parallel app developers.
Letting unknown and unsigned acts distribute albums and individual tracks straight to listeners sans help from sticky-fingered agents, musicians can create a custom profile for the one-time fee of $25. Once configured, artists enjoy the option to upload songs, set a price for each track and promote corresponding clips and videos. While Google does take a 30% cut of all revenues, creators gain the advantage of being able to control pricing, retain ownership of their catalogue and eliminate middlemen. Functioning similarly to the way app stores operate for software developers, the service threatens to let emerging voices from the underground effortlessly enjoy a direct conduit to customers, and keep the lion’s share of revenues.
While existing high-tech services such as CD Baby and Tunecore already offer independents direct-to-market digital distribution channels, many come with higher costs, recurring expenses and limited visibility. In addition to extended reach and smaller up-front setup costs, Google Music also offers the added benefit of free song sharing and promotion via integration with the Google+ social network. Beyond ready availability on over 200 million Android devices, users will further soon be able to purchase music right from bands’ YouTube pages via the introduction of new upcoming features. Taken in tandem, it adds up to what appears to be a more convenient, lucrative and approachable solution for breaking acts, especially those with an established following, DIY ethos and/or knack for self-promotion.
Providing a workmanlike tool for bands to distribute, promote and sell music without the usual retinue of managers, execs and assistants, it also offers everyday enthusiasts a potentially game-changing upside. Specifically, the ability to expand one’s musical horizons from a multitude of high-tech touchpoints and, more importantly, means to comfortably support starving artists at that most fragile point in their struggle to achieve headlining status.