Google last week revealed that it is expanding its Google Play Music service in South Africa, marking the first time the streaming service is available on the continent.
This is the fourth Google Play service to be available in South Africa, where users already have had access to Books, Apps and Games. Other African countries have access to Movies, as well, but that service has yet to launch in South Africa.
Luke McKend, Country Director, South Africa Google on Tuesday 8 December announced on Google’s Africa blog: “Starting today, Google Play Music will be available in South Africa! Google Play gives you an unlimited pass to a huge library of music on all your devices — from all the major record companies, as well as top local and independent labels.
"Google Play Music lets you create an ad-free, interactive radio station from any song or artist you love. You can add, remove or re-order your station and see what’s coming next. Or you can browse recommendations from our expert music team and explore songs by genre. The ‘Listen Now’ tab puts artists and radio stations we think you’ll like front and center so you can start listening the minute you open your library. And when millions of songs just aren’t enough, Google Play Music lets you combine our collection with your own collection. You can store 50 000 songs for free online, and listen to them alongside the All Access catalogue. You can even ‘pin’ specific albums and playlists songs so they’re available when you’re offline."
McKend added that with this latest launch, “Google Play moves one step closer to becoming your ultimate digital entertainment destination, where you can find, enjoy and share your favourite apps, games, books, movies, magazines and music on your Android phone or tablet.” He encouraged users to “start discovering a whole new world of music today!”
Google Play Music is available in South Africa via Android, the web, and iOS. It offers three main ways to listen to tunes. Anyone can upload up to 50 000 songs from their personal libraries for free, and they can also buy tracks and albums to download and keep permanently. The third option, a music subscription, is akin to Spotify or Apple Music’s monthly membership, and normally costs US$9.99 per month. For the South Africa launch, Google Play Music will be available for R49.99 a month, which is roughly the equivalent of US$3.50. If you sign up after 26 January, the price will reportdly be R59.99 per month.
Significantly, Google South Africa says it has worked with both the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) and the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) to “ensure all artists are fairly compensated for work featured in the Play Music store”, according to a recent article in Fin24.
The launch has been welcomed, after Google Play Music has reportedly been hindered by the lack of countries in which it’s available. Besides South Africa, the service has also just been launched in Serbia.
Today’s launch comes three months after ‘carrier billing’ arrived for Google Play purchases in South Africa. This allows consumers to add all purchases directly to their mobile phone bill rather than paying separate subscriptions or one-off fees.
The new arrival will compete against Apple Music (which launched in June 2015), Simfy Africa and Deezer. According to research by MyBroadband, while the services are similarly priced (all at R60, after the end of the introductory offer), the platforms are quite different from one another. Simfy and Deezer don’t sell music, and have agreements in place with mobile operators to offer discounted subscriptions and carrier billing. Apple Music includes features such as Match, which lets you access any song in your collection through iTunes – even if you didn’t buy it from Apple. Google took a different approach, offering its users cloud storage for up to 50 000 songs for free. However, the trade-off is that you have manage the metadata of the song you upload yourself.