This article first appeared in the June 21st issue of Billboard Magazine.
Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics has spurred a flurry of interest in streaming music services from the world’s richest tech companies. Of them, Google’s intentions may be the hardest to divine.
The search giant already has Google Play Music All Access — billed as “the fastest-growing subscription service in 2013” in a March report by IFPI — though its market share remains tiny. Google, which does not release user metrics, also is readying a paid service based on YouTube, which Google purchased in 2006 (subscribers would get access to a more complete catalog of music videos, among other features).
But speculation has surfaced that Google might be interested in buying Spotify (10 million paid subscribers worldwide and a $4 billion private valuation last fall) or Pandora Media (77 million listeners and publicly valued at more than $5 billion).
In early June, the New York Post reported that Google offered $15 million for Songza. The New York startup employs 50 music experts to program playlists for times of day, activities and even weather. Songza CEO Elias Roman declined comment, as did a Google representative.
One possible hitch: Amazon is a Songza investor, and Steve Boom, its digital music vp, sits on Songza’s board. As Amazon ramps up its own Prime play, and introduces a phone to compete with Apple and Google’s mobile devices, the Seattle retailer might block a deal or buy Songza itself.
With $57 billion in cash and short-term investments as of March 31, and a current market value of about $380 billion, Google has plenty of resources for a music deal. The question is, Where will the 800-pound gorilla land?