Music search is Google's newest tune
Already the far-and-away leader in search, Google wants to be a big player in music discovery, too.
The search giant teamed up with News Corp.'s MySpace and streaming service Lala for the Wednesday debut of the new Google music search feature at the historic Capitol Records building in Hollywood. With the new music search, which had been internally code-named "OneBox" when news of the project broke earlier this month, search queries pertaining to something like a song, artist, lyrics, or album will bring up links to streaming songs from iLike and MySpace, as well as links to artist information on Pandora, Imeem, and Rhapsody. The lyrics search is provided through a partnership with Gracenote.
"It is directly embedded and integrated into Google search. There's no special button to push," R.J. Pittman, director of product management for search properties, said in a phone interview with CNET News. Currently, due to licensing and availability issues, the music search is U.S.-only.
There also won't be direct download links in Google: those will be handled through Lala and MySpace. "We push all the music engagement and commerce down through the partners," Pittman said.
Additionally, if a relevant music video is available, the MySpace window that pops up when someone clicks on the "play" button in search results will display a link to that video through MySpace's new music video portal. That's interesting, considering music videos are some of the most popular content on Google's own YouTube--but YouTube video results will continue to show up independently of the new music results in Google searches.
Financial terms of the partnerships aren't yet clear. "Everyone's keeping their own revenues and we're not messing with anything," Lala founder and Chairman Bill Nguyen told CNET News. But MySpace Music President Courtney Holt was a bit more tight-lipped, saying "we're not discussing the financial details."
The MySpace deal is a little more complicated to begin with, though. Google had been in talks with music start-up iLike about integration into music search, but then iLike was acquired by MySpace in a deal that closed earlier this month. Indeed, a statement from Holt says that "this relationship was secured and implemented by the iLike team." But iLike founder Ali Partovi (who's currently on board MySpace's music team) explained that the partnership now has "MySpace branding, (and) MySpace content licensing." Through the integration of iLike's technology, it'll also have concert notifications if someone searches on Google for a band that's currently on tour.
"I think MySpace, along with (Apple's) iPod, is one of the most trusted brands in music, one of the most resonant to consumers," Partovi said. MySpace is also reported to be in talks with Microsoft to power a music feature on MSN.
Music search is something that Google could really dominate. According to traffic firm Experian Hitwise, 6 percent of Google's top 1,000 search-related terms deal with music, and already 30 percent of traffic to sites that Hitwise classifies under the "music" umbrella comes from Google.
Considering Google's reach, it's a big win for both MySpace, currently struggling to redefine itself as a pop culture powerhouse rather than a social network through its MySpace Music service, a joint venture with major and independent record labels, and Lala, which also has a new song-gifting deal with Facebook. "We think (Google's music search) going to have a thousand percent increase in our sales, an order of magnitude more," Lala's Nguyen told CNET News.
This also means that music-related search results are getting a sheen of legitimacy on Google. With official partnerships, Google's most prominent music search results will be from sites that have licensing deals in place with the major labels, rather than potentially pirated content. Google's history with the music industry is spotty at best: it's had to strike its own deals with the major record labels, and relations haven't always been positive. Music search puts it all into order, partners in the deal say.
"Instead of ending up with a pirate site and a page with a bunch of ads or random lyrics sites, you wind up with a play button," Nguyen said.
Updated 4:30 p.m. Just after Google and Lala made the announcement official (in what was probably not a conincidence) Yahoo released a blog post designed to point out that they've been offering this kind of music search for a while. "We've made it easier to find music videos, artist information, and play full length songs from within the search results page. This is just one of the many ways Yahoo! is enhancing the search experience for music lovers," said Larry Cornett, vice president of consumer products for Yahoo Search.
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