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Google Adds Free Web Radio to Its Music Subscription Service

Everyone wants to sell you a music subscription service. But everyone wants to let you listen to free music, too.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple launches its new streaming music service on June 30. So if you’re a rival streaming service with something to say, you better get it out now, before the news cycle is swamped.

What’s that? You say Google is launching a new, free music offering today, which it describes as a complement to its Google Play Music subscription service? What a coincidence!

Timing aside, here’s what you need to know: Google is bolting on a free, Pandora-like Web radio service to Google Play Music for U.S. users. Like Pandora, the service will give users the chance to pick bands and genres of music they like, but won’t let them order up songs on demand; it will be powered by the people behind Songza, the Web radio/playlist startup Google bought last year.

Also like Pandora, and Apple’s upcoming Beats 1 radio station, and Spotify’s free ad-supported version of its service: Streams from Google’s radio service won’t generate as much money for rights holders as streams from its paid service.

And like Apple and Spotify, Google is arguing that the free service is designed to get people to buy its paid service. Until now, “millions of people open the Google Play app, and many close it immediately, because the first thing they see is a request for a credit card,” said Zahavah Levine, who heads up Google Play’s music business. “The key is that this radio tier is part of a holistic range of offerings.”

Bonus reminder: Because Google is Google, it plans to have two different music subscription services out this year. The second, YouTube’s Music Key, has been in beta since last fall, but YouTube keeps insisting it will get a grand opening sooner than later. Industry observers think the company will bundle the offering with another YouTube subscription service that offers ad-free videos.

This article originally appeared on

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