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Google scoops Apple with free radio streaming

Google Play Music

Free radio streams arrive just days before Apple's big launch

Just days before Apple is due to launch Music, Google has boosted its own streaming service with free “radio” stations. The curated playlists will be available to all Google Play Music users, whether they subscribe or not, whereas Apple’s radio stations will eventually only be available to paying customers.

Google’s thunder-stealing move comes as competition intensifies in the streaming music market. Google Play Music currently offers a £9.99 per month unlimited streaming service, although customers can upload their own music collection and stream that to various devices for free. Now, Google is bolstering the free offering with playlists that have been curated by “music experts”, echoing Apple’s reliance on human DJs. 

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The free radio stations will be themed around moods, genres or activities, with channels such as “Brand New Music”, “Having Fun At Work” or “Americana”, according to a report on The Verge. Free users will only be able to skip songs six times per hour and there’s no ability to rewind and listen to a song again, nor see what’s coming up next. Paying subscribers get full control over the curated playlists, with the option to save, edit and skip tracks as much as they like.

Even free subscribers can listen to streams at a quality of up to 320Kbits/sec, The Verge reports, although that will require a relatively steady data connection and could quickly chew through your monthly data allowance.   

Google’s offering appears to have appeased the new high priestess of streaming media, Taylor Swift, whose tracks and albums will be available through Play Music’s radio stations, despite her distaste for free music services. Unlike Spotify, Google won’t allow users to pick specific tracks, albums or artists for free, which prompted Swift to pull her back catalogue from Spotify, before this week forcing Apple into a climbdown over the company’s refusal to pay record labels during the three-month trial period of Music.  

Google’s radio service is based on Songza, the curated playlist company it bought last year for an undisclosed sum. 

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