I’m here at Capitol Records in Hollywood, California for a special media event where Lala, MySpace, iLike, Google and others are officially announcing the launch of Google’s Music Onebox — a special new kind of Google search result that will let you instantly stream songs directly from Google’s results page. We first broke the news of the feature’s impending launch last week, though none of the companies involved have been willing to comment on it until now.
Here’s how the new feature will work: Onebox will let users stream songs directly from Google’s search result page, and will also include additional content like tour information and music videos (the actual content shown will vary depending on the partner — more on that later). Enter a query for “Use Somebody”, and you’re going to see a small ‘play’ button in your search result that lets you stream the Kings of Leon song in its entirety, or buy the song. Clicking on the play button will bring up a small browser window that will immediately start streaming your song. If you enter the name of an artist rather than a song title as your search query, Google will present a handful of popular songs by that artist with multiple ‘play’ buttons.
Here’s what the results page looks like, when multiple songs are being presented:
The new feature is being powered by two entirely different services: Lala, the innovative music site that lets people buy ‘web songs’ for ten cents, and iLike, the popular streaming music and artist hub that was recently acquired by MySpace. In an interesting twist, iLike’s appearance in OneBox will be short-lived — MySpace branded widgets will soon be taking their place. This is an important step in MySpace’s transition to being seen as a media/content hub rather than a pure social network. MySpace is also leveraging some of the new features it has recently rolled out since the iLike acquisition, including its artist dashboard and extensive library of music videos — you’ll be able to jump to a music video for a song directly from MySpace’s Onebox results (this is impressive given that the site only launched those services a week ago).
Likewise, this is also a massive win for Lala. We’ve been big fans of Lala since the site relaunched back in October 2008 with a unique business model that lets users build their music libraries in the cloud for cheap — you can purchase an entire streaming version of an album for around 80 cents, or 10 cents per song. The service’s only problem has been establishing traction, and this will certainly help with that. Expect the service’s userbase to see a big jump as millions of people on Google are exposed to Lala for the first time.
The joint partnership comes with a few quirks. Google will basically be doing a coin toss with each eligible query to determine which service will be serving up the widget. That will help the service distribute load and perhaps leaves the door open for Google to include multiple other music services, but I’m not sure it will provide the best user experience — some users may get confused when a feature in one widget isn’t available in the other.
Google VP of Search Products and User Experience kicked off the event,talking about how Google has expanded its search offerings over time, with Images (2201), Book (2003) and Maps (2007). “Music” is one of Google’s top ten searches of all time, as is “lyrics”. But it hasn’t always been easy to actually find music, which is why Google is looking to offer full song streaming directly from Google.
Google has also partnered with Gracenote to provide full lyric search — if you type in the lyrics from a portion of a song, they’ll identify the song. Song purchasing partners include imeem, Rhapsody, and Pandora, who will help with music discovery.
Google passed the baton off to MySpace, with MySpace Music President Courtney Holt outlining how much growth MySpace Music has seen and how happy the site is to be working with Google. Ali Partovi, iLike’s former CEO (and MySpace’s current SVP Business Development) took the stage, first taking the time to congratulate MySpace on acquiring iLike. He was joking, but what he says has some truth to it: MySpace made an offer on iLike before iLike could talk about the Google partnership, which iLike had been working on for a long time. In other words, MySpace lucked out with the deal.
Lala’s Bill Nguyen next to the stage, saying that Lala has always been about finding music, and then discovering more that you might like. He says that for the last ten years, music has been about business models, not discovery. Once you wind up on Lala, you can follow other users and see what they’re listening to.
The new feature will be gradually rolling out to users, with a small percentage (1-5%) having access today and rolling out gradually over the next couple days to everyone in the US.
Here’s the Lala player:
Here’s MySpace’s widget (you’ll be seeing an iLike widget temporarily, but eventually they’ll shift over to look like this):