On stream

Bill Gates foretold the success that digital would create as the fastest growing segment of the online entertainment industry. Gates said it, Google listened, then Google announced the other day it will launch a paid streaming music service – All Access music - for $9.99 after a 30-day free trial, in direct competition with Pandora and Spotify and others from the retail and the social networking worlds.

The new app is designed to work on smartphones, tablets and browsers, virtually any mobile platform, and will allow users to search for music – search being Google’s sweet-spot - so you’d expect that they’d get that part of the service right; but there’s more! Users will also be able to customize selections from different music and performer genres, and stream playlists or listen to curated streams. It’s been reported that Google has already made licensing agreements with Sony, Universal and Warner Music Groups.

Does this new service move Google closer to – or even ahead of – Apple in this burgeoning category? Apple pioneered on-line music sales via iTunes and it’s been rumored that they are looking to create their own subscription service. So, not only are Pandora and Spotify, who are pushing to expand their own audiences, but social networking brands like Facebook and retailers à la Amazon, are all competing for streaming music customers.

Is this wild, wild musical West open to all? Given the accelerating growth of mobile platforms, it seems a no-brainer as regards customer engagement, what with entertainment and mobile technology and business so inextricably connected. Perhaps more so for the Apples and the Googles and the Amazons of the group, who are looking for emotional engagement to fill out their brand loyalty equations and attendant profit streams to fit their mobile product lines.

Can they all succeed? Production and financial wherewithal is never enough to guarantee absolute success. You need an engaging brand within the category from which streaming music will flow. Organic design, optimized search, and same-day delivery do not make one into a leader in streaming music.

Like the legendary music that streamed from Orpheus’ golden lyre, with his power to raise the spirits of Jason and the Argonauts, for streaming music brands, the ability to not only raise spirits, but brand engagement, loyalty, usage, and – as this is the business of entertainment – means profits.