E-music success can make Google a label

Slew of online music stores puts role of traditional music labels into question, observes market analyst, who says Google's new store gives search giant opportunity to become voice of independent artists.

The entrance of Google this week into the online music marketplace has put into question the role of traditional record labels, notes industry analyst who adds that the Web giant, with its experience in search, has the potential to become a valuable voice for independent artists.

Craig Cartier, analyst for ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, said in a report Thursday that an especially interesting feature in Google's new online music service, the Artist Hub, provides a platform for artists not associated with any music label to upload their songs and determine the price of these tunes.

This capability may be what independent artists need to find success in the market, and also questions the value record labels now bring to the table. "Do we really need labels at all?" Cartier posed.

He noted that should Google's Artist Hub function drive the market "beyond its current boundaries", the search giant would be in the best position to sort through the vast amount of music content to and help consumers find what they want.

"Throw in a social recommendation engine [allowing friends with similar interests to recommend content] and Google certainly has the potential to take over music discovery and marketing, at least in part, from the labels," the analyst explained.

While technology continues to introduce innovation in the music realm, he said labels today are still a valuable central system of the ecosystem.

"Even if Google can perfectly nail down the problem of music discovery, which is [still] an unproven idea despite its potential, music labels offer a host of other benefits, like artist development, production, marketing through other mediums like television, and of course, copyright enforcement," Cartier noted.

Google on Wednesday launched its online music store, challenging current market players including Apple, Amazon and Spotify.

Available only in the United States, the music service offers songs from record labels EMI, Sony Music and Universal, and conspicuously excludes Warner Group. The tunes can be purchased through the Android Market and users are offered one free download a day, according to Google. They can also share their purchased songs with their friends online via the Web giant's social networking site, Google+.