Google Music: The Future Home of Independent Musicians?
There has never been one place you could go to find out everything you needed about any band anywhere. Imagine: One resource that operates like an instantaneous card catalogue for current music. Among the many that have tried, none has the potential of Google Music Artist Hub.
Google Music made its full-scale debut last week. How it will affect the way people consume music seems unclear. Its loudest feature, the Android music store works essentially just like the iTunes store, and you can ask Amazon how easy it is to bite into that market. Not that Google backs down from these sorts of challenges (right, Facebook?), but it's hard to get too excited about another place to pay 99 cents for an .mp3.
The other main tenant of Google Music is its cloud storage: You can upload up to 20,000 songs from your own library to Google's servers, where they could then be played from the digital device of your choosing: computer, tablet, phone, server, etc. But with Spotify and other streaming music services getting bigger, faster and free, the Google Music upload seems to appeal to an incredibly small number of people: Obscurists, audiophiles and a certain brand of selective technophobe.
Buried in the myriad bells in whistles of the Google Music launch was Google Music Artist Hub. It's not much now and won't be any time soon, but a year down the road, it could be the first and last place you go to find out about nearly any band.
Others that tried
MySpace was close: it was essentially comprehensive and included a way to listen to music and a place to find information about the next show. But the web site itself was never elegantly designed, it was hard to navigate and it was never really designed with a community in mind - it was a fine landing page for a single band and its immediate band-friends, but that was about it. And, of course, its desperate and ill-advised redesign only hastened its descent. Have you been on MySpace recently? It's like a vacant shopping mall in a depressed suburb.
Facebook seems like it should have been the obvious answer. As MySpace's successor and superior in nearly every way for the individual user, its band interface should have followed. But it never did. The band profiles were designed to be used like corporate profiles or even individual profiles, but no thought ever seems to have been given to the unique needs of a musician. So it's a little hard to tell when the next show is, harder still to listen to the music and impossible to send a message directly to the band. What Facebook nailed was the community element that MySpace lacked: Events remain, in our opinion, an invaluable promotional tool, and there is some amount of interaction possible with a musician Facebook profile.
There have been endless other players on small levels that perform various relatively niche functions. Bandcamp and cdbaby are sites we particularly admire, and others such as Soundcloud and last.fm have their place. Those sorts of outlets will continue to help artists do specific things. But they will never do the most critical thing here, which is get a useful percentage of the musicians in one place and offer the possibility that they might also get on the same page.