China gets free music from Google

According to Reuters, Internet-users in China will be able to download for free approximately 350,000 licensed songs--soon to be more than a million--through Google. Not only will the Chinese be able to search for songs by artist and song title, but they will also be able to find tunes based on beats per minute and musical style.

The music, by Chinese and foreign artists alike, comes from Sony, Warner, EMI, and Universal--all companies that have done deals with Google to open up portions of their catalogues for free distribution to anyone with an Internet connection in China.

China contains the highest number of Internet-users, and a great many of them routinely download music, films, and software illegally. Lee Kai-Fu, president of Google in China, states, "We are offering free, high quality and legal downloads." The hope here is that people in China will be lured away from sites offering access to illegal downloads and visit Google instead. Google will make money from ad revenues, as it does with its sites in any case, and some of this money will be passed on to the music companies.

According to Lachie Rutherford, President of Warner Music Asia Pacific, "This is the first serious attempt to start [monetizing] the online market in China. I can't overestimate how important this is."

Google also hopes this strategy will benefit them in another way: increasing their share of the search market in China. Although Google dominates in most of the world, the Chinese market has been difficult for the company to crack. The majority there use baidu.com, a Chinese web-search service, while fewer than a third at present turn to Google.

Google's agreements with four of the world's top media companies put the search company at an advantage over baidu.com--an advantage Google hopes will mean more and more Chinese turn to its search and other services.

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