Google has launched its free music search engine in China, in a sector which has seen its fair share of controversies. The users can search for songs by singer, song or album title on Google’s search page and then download licensed music files for free…this will only be accessible to users in China. Some details to this effect were leaked earlier in the year. Back then, Universal Music was on board, and EMI and Sony (NYSE: SNE) were in talks..but Google didn’t announce any label partners with today’s launch.
Google is working with Chinese music company called Top100.cn for this service, and will split the ad revenues three ways with music labels and Top100. Watermarking would be used to track downloads and for stats in selling ads. Interestingly, Top100 is backed by Chinese NBA star Yao Ming.
Other search sites like Baidu (NSDQ: BIDU) have been sued successfully by the major music labels, for linking to illegal download sites in their search results. Unlike these sites, Google has tied up with music labels to prevent these issues. Of course Baidu has a 70 percent market share of China, compared to Google’s 20 percent….those illegal music links may explain some part of the disparity…reports says Baidu’s MP3 searches currently generate around 30 percent of its total traffic.
Updated: Google has also invested in Top100, as part of this partnership, reports Sina (NSDQ: SINA), though exact amount is not known. This is the second round for Top100.cn, coming after a rumored first round, speculated to have occurred in 2005, of $3 million from NBA star Yao Ming and others, this story says.
In related Chinese digital music news, Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA), the big indie music distributor, has tied up with Chinese digital music distribution firm R2G, and will provide its catalog of over one million recordings to R2G, which will then offer it as paid downloads on its Wawawa music story. LAT has more details on the significance of this deal.
For more on the digital music space, join us for EconMusic in London on Sept. 23.