Most music blogs operate on a shoestring budget. Not so Google Magnifier, unveiled by the search advertising giant on Wednesday afternoon to help music fans discover music, learn more about the bands they like, and add free tracks to their Music Beta by Google lockers.
Yes, Google has entered the content business. While it has collaborated with Arcade Fire, Danger Mouse, and others on HTML5 videos, and with U2 and other bands on YouTube concerts, Google Magnifier looks to be a straight-up music blog — albeit with a few Google-y twists.
Edited by digital music veteran Tim Quirk — the former senior vice-president of Rhapsody and current head of global content programming for Google Android – Magnifier will deliver “great music and the people who make it, including videos of live performances, interviews with artists, explorations of different musical genres and free songs that you can add to your Music Beta collection.”
Today, visitors to the site can grab two free tracks from My Morning Jacket — similar to the way MP3 blogs offer songs for free, except you can sideload every track on Magnifier directly into your Google music locker without the hassle of downloading and then re-uploading the tracks. You can stream everything in your account to up to eight devices, including Android smartphones and tablets and Google TV, for free.
Magnifier also plays nicely with another new Google product, the Google+ social network. Readers won’t notice any of the usual Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons. Instead, the only built-in sharing option is to rate a post “+1″ on Google+. In a sense, this fills in the missing social piece of Music Beta by Google, which the company confirmed last week had no ties “yet” to its social network. The two are connected now, sort of, because people can share tracks with friends as they add them to their lockers.
We did a double-take upon learning that Google — a company that just more than doubled its size with its purchase of Motorola — was starting, of all things, a music blog.
But the move makes sense on at least two levels. People looking for great free music handpicked by Quirk — who really is an expert, having programmed music for Rhapsody back when it was still called Listen.com — and his team will find that in order to stream that music, they’ll need to create a Music Beta by Google account. This will encourage people to sign up for a free account, which can store up to 20,000 songs.
This music blog also adds a valuable discovery layer to what would otherwise be a generic music locker, just like the others. The danger with any service like Music Beta by Google is that plenty of users — possibly even the majority — might register for the free version and never return, but Magnifier gives them multiple reasons per day to use it — as opposed to, say, Apple iCloud or Amazon Cloud Player.