Free Music Service Launched Today in China

In an effort to monetize an un-monetized music market in China, Google launched a music service available only in China today. The main objective is to draw Internet users from "China's Google," Baidu to, well, Google. With an effective deal between and over 140 labels, including the four majors (for now), EMI, Warner, Sony and Universal, Chinese can search music, stream and download any songs in the licensed catalog. If the song is not licensed, the users have access to lyrics and a clip of the song, and then are lead to a link through which they can purchase the song. The businesses will make money through advertising.

The attempt to monetize such a massive market wherein an estimated 99% of all downloads are illegal is major step in profitable global music revenue streams, though EMI did launch a similar service in conjunction with Baidu in mid-2007 where Chinese-music streaming only was available for free and downloads were available for a small fee.

There has been little mention of the effects of free access searching paired with a communist government, but this must be something that was discussed between Google China President Kai-Fu Lee and all other involved parties. In a Yahoo! News article, Lachie Rutherford, President of Warner Music Asia, said that, "When you're in the music business in China, you know you have to follow regulations. We wouldn't give files to people in China where a song has been banned."  

I don't know how substantial is this list of banned songs. Then again, I guess we should battle one issue at a time. First Google must gain a profitable foot hold in the market, then they can fight for Chinese free speech rights. That seems like a fair course of events to me (For once, that wasn't sarcasm). It is much easier to be heard when you have a voice in the system. Though, I'm not quite sure that is in Google China's business plan.