Music storage for as many as 20,000 tracks, available anywhere within range of an Internet connection and all of it available at no charge. That's the kind of thing to make music fans sigh with a kind of mild rapture as they consider the possibilities of an easily-accessed and robust music storage system, and it's just the kind of thing that Google said they were looking to bring to the United States thanks to the expansion of its Scan and Match feature for its online locker service.
The move to open up Google's locker service offers several significant benefits. The biggest of these, for many, is the utter lack of a fee for the service where Amazon and Apple would charge for it. The simplicity of it all is equally compelling for some; those users who have Google Play accounts will be asked if they'd like to let Google scan their hard drives for music. Upon Google receiving permission so to do, they'll scan that hard drive and, upon locating a music file, will search their own records to see if they have it in their library. When a positive match is made, Google will add the song to the user's online collection for later access through any Android device, and no questions will be asked about how the song in question was obtained.
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Normally, such a structure like this--especially one that seems to care little about the origins of the music in question--would seem like lawsuit bait for the RIAA and the music labels. But the plan seems to be greeted with silence, an uncharacteristic response that some are taking to mean that Google is apparently doing this with at least the consent--if not the blessing--of the normally contentious music industry. This is also pointing to something of a change in the overall course of music, with a formerly shared experience becoming an increasingly personal affair, and an affair formerly limited mainly to the home making for easy traveling and much higher mobility.
Fordham University communications professor Mike Plugh described it as, essentially, an evolution in which "the file cabinet (is moved) out of the office, the books out of the libraries, and now the music out of the record stores.”
The growth of mobility in anything we do, from books to music to video, has been readily apparent for some time now. Tablets and e-readers, smartphones and even MP3 players, make it a lot easier to carry around that media which we enjoy so well and thereby makes it accessible from anywhere. This actually represents a significant opportunity in its own right; making media available in more places improves the likelihood that it will be viewed. Improving the likelihood of viewership improves the potential for advertisers to reach a market, and when that happens, everybody benefits.
It's going to be interesting to see how many people take Google up on their free storage offer--especially with the whole "scan the hard drive" thing in place--but chances are there will be plenty who jump at the chance to have easy access to at least a version of their music no matter where they are.