Google is expanding its Play Music All-Access streaming service to Canada on the eve of this year's Canadian Music Week, the annual summit, concert showcase extravaganza and music business conference focusing on the music industry.
Coming about a year following a major launch in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Mexico, the expanded Google Play Music streaming and subscription service is being touted as a potential game-changer to how consumers listen to music digitally.
"Canada you have spoken and we have heard you loud and clear. I could not be more thrilled to announce Google Play Music is launching in Canada this afternoon," Zahavah Levine, Google's director of global music partnerships, announced in Toronto on Monday.
For an introductory price of $7.99/month ($9.99/month afterwards), users will have all-you-can listen access to 25 million songs, digital radio channels featuring different genres and playlists curated by experts, both via web stream or offline.
Users can also buy music from Google's online store and upload tracks or an existing digital music collection (up to 20,000 songs) into a cloud storage "locker." Tracks can also be shared once with friends through Google Plus.
With this rollout, internet giant Google (with its wide-reaching Android operating system on mobile devices) is taking a bigger step into a realm already populated by existing subscription music services such as Rdio and Spotify as well as free music streaming services such as Pandora (in the U.S.) and Songza and CBC Music (in Canada).
Streaming music online (versus listening to purchased digital tracks) via personal computers and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones has grown in recent years. Industry watchers have likened the shift to the also growing use of television streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Go.
Music streaming spreads slower in Canada
However, many music streaming services have been reluctant to venture into Canada because of tricky negotiations over rights and royalties. Apple has been the reigning digital music leader with its iTunes Store since 2003. Meanwhile, Amazon is also said to be working on a music streaming service as well.
"Google is bringing name recognition to a category that's already fairly oversubscribed. Everyone and his dog wants to get in onto the streaming music business. Google's only the latest player, but of course we all pay attention because they are the 800-pound gorilla," technology analyst and journalist Carmi Levy told CBC News.
"What it means for consumers is they have another choice, but the truth of the matter is we haven't been buying these services en masse. I think we're still at the very early stages of streaming music. Everyone's standing around the edges waiting to see what shakes out ... it's almost like the early days of the VHS versus Beta war: nobody really wants to buy in until people are sure who the ultimate winner is going to be," he added.
That Canadians pay so much for internet access in general is also holding many back, Levy noted.
"Canadians pay among the highest online rates for internet subscribers on the planet: the last thing you want to be doing is running a streaming service on your internet device, your mobile device, 24/7. You won't be able to afford the bill when it comes in at the end of the month."