Google launches music service without labels

NEW YORK Tue May 10, 2011 3:06pm EDT

1 of 6. The cloud-based music player 'Music Beta' is unveiled during the keynote address at the Google IO Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, May 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Beck Diefenbach

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google launched an online music locker service on Tuesday that allows users to store and access their songs wherever they are, similar to one launched by Amazon.com in March.

And like the Amazon Cloud Drive player, the Google music service is being introduced without any prior licensing deals with major music labels, following months of fruitless negotiations.

Google unveiled the 'Music Beta by Google' service with a demo at a developer conference in San Francisco.

The new service will allow a user to upload up to 20,000 songs on to the service and the demo showed a range of music player features for managing songs in a user's library.

Music Beta will be available for free for a limited time to users who request an invitation in the United States.

Google has been working on a music service as a feature of its Android mobile operating system to better compete with iTunes. The Google music service comes alongside a licensed movie service which allows YouTube and Android device users to rent movies from $1.99.

Amazon's service caused a furor in the music industry because it had not reached any licensing agreements with major music companies.

The online retailer defended itself vigorously against suggestions by some music sources that Cloud Drive service infringes copyright.

Since the launch, Amazon executives have met with label owners to negotiate for a more advanced music service.

Several music industry sources privately expressed concern at Google's music plans but said they hoped the search giant would continue negotiating for a service with more features than storage and personal streaming of the songs.

Reuters sources said last month that Apple is at the final stages of reaching a deal with at least one label for a licensed online music locker and others are also close.

"If Apple launches a legitimate licensed cloud service and Google launches a dumb locker there's no question who will be the winner again," said one executive who asked not to be named.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney and Tim Dobbyn)