Google has given the music industry a big push forward with the launch of its expansive new music search capabilities. The connection the new search makes between consumers and content owners - finding and listening to music has never been easier - may prove to be invaluable. But the various stakeholders must be ready to capitalize.

The three keys:
1. Google has reduced uncertainty and what little friction stood in the way of people and online music. If people didn't previously know where to find music, they now have less of an excuse. If they had never heard of Pandora or Lala, for example, they will learn about these services. And they will have numerous options to suit their level of involvement - from Pandora for passive listening to Lala for more involved discovery and purchasing. It's up to the partners to seal the deal with consumers by effectively converting users' curiosity into commerce. But at least Google has swung the door wide open for them.

2. In bringing millions of users to a select group of legit startups, Google has a say in which music services have the best chance for success. An incredible amount of listening already occurs via Google. Now much of that traffic is going to be routed through a small ground of partners. Some of these services are obviously favored by the music industry - all four majors have equity in MySpace Music, and Warner Music Group has a stake in Lala and Imeem. For companies that rely on economies of scale, the legitimacy and influx of users Google brings will finally put their business models to the proper test. Integration with Google may provide the kind of numbers a service needs to survive. It's quite a competitive advantage that could help quicken the eventual market contraction in which underperforming services die off and yet-to-be-launch upstarts are dissuaded from doing so. But keep in mind these are only partnerships. Microsoft's Bing, for example, is free to make its own partnerships with competing services. Social networks may become a prominent place of music search and discovery. Over time, partners will come and go. So while the competitive advantage gained is tremendous, it is not permanent.

3. Google has helped people rethink the role search plays in entertainment and business. Because of these partnerships, consumers will grow accustomed to free listening and an easy path to acquisition. These facets of search engines will become a basic part of their Web experience. Over many years, this basic expectation could prove to be a major factor in keeping younger generations from illegal services. A new generation will grow up knowing they can find most any song through Google (or a competing search engine, or a social network). While these partnerships are a step in a positive direction, they do not represent a cure for piracy. Even if Google is very successful at turning search into legitimate music experience, some people will continue to illegally share files. As research by Will Page of PRS For Music and Eric Garland from BigChampagne indicates, people have a preferred venue for music acquisition and will continue to use that venue in spite of viable legal alternatives. "Popular music is popular everywhere it's popular," they wrote. But as piracy will still exist, legal alternatives have a chance to flourish.

Other news:
Google Unveils New Music Search Capabilities
Analysis: What Impact Will Google's Music Search Have?