Google Challenges Apple, Amazon With Music Deal in Europe

Google brokers a deal with several European licensing groups to add 5.5 million musical works from 35 nations to its Google Play service as Google works to attract customers.

Google continues to take on Apple and Amazon in pursuing customers in the online music business after securing a licensing deal to add 5.5 million musical works from 35 countries around the world to its Google Play music download service.

"The accord with Armonia, the alliance of French, Italian and Spanish licensing groups, is billed as the broadest of its kind," according to a Nov. 19 report from the Associated Press.

That means that Google will now be able to offer and sell songs in more countries from artists such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna, as well as from the British and American catalogs of Universal Music Publishing and from Sony's Latin music holdings, to customers through an umbrella licensing deal, rather than through individual deals in each country, according to the report.

"We're thrilled to have reached an agreement with the Armonia societies," Sami Valkonen, head of music licensing at Google, told "Licenses such as this are important in ensuring that artists and rights-holders are rewarded fairly for their creative endeavors, and digital service providers are able to bring innovative services to market for the benefit of European consumers."

The deal with Armonia is "a welcome development in the on-going reform of pan-territorial licensing in Europe in helping simplify and speed-up the music-licensing process, which is crucial in fostering ongoing rapid innovation by digital music service providers," Valkonen told

For Google, the addition of 5.5 million songs to its expanding Google Play music library is crucial as the company continues to try to add critical mass to its content offerings for customers. Apple and Amazon both had considerable head starts with their content stores, so Google is apparently continuing to make serious strides to get the attention and purchasing dollars of device owners when they buy new music.

In September, Google's Play Store hit an impressive milestone when it reached the 25 billion download mark for content purchased through the store—after only six months of sales.

Google Play was created in March to combine what until then were separate sites where Android lovers could buy their favorite apps, music and ebooks. Before Google Play, users had to shop through the individual Android Market, Google Music and the Google e-Bookstore sites.

According to Google, the 1 billion Android app download mark was reached in mid-2010, while the 2 billion app download mark was hit in mid-2011. That number soared to 10 billion by the end of 2011, then to 15 billion in early 2012, before soaring again to 25 million in September.

Google Play hosts about 675,000 apps and games today, up from about 450,000 in March, according to Google.

The move to create a one-stop Google Play store is part of a Google company-wide effort to consolidate its services.

Apple's App Store just celebrated its fourth birthday in July and now includes more than 567,000 applications for the iPhone and 236,000 for the iPad, as of June. The App Store started with 500 apps in July 2008 when it was launched.

Google Play has been Google's answer to the App Store as both companies are locked in a fierce battle for the lion's share of the mobile-device market. Google also faces a rising threat from Microsoft, which launched its Surface tablets In October.

The latest worldwide mobile market share numbers from IT research firm IDC show Android with 68.1 percent and Apple with 16.9 percent. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry has a 4.8 percent share, down from 11.5 percent a year earlier, while Symbian (mostly used by Nokia) holds a 4.4 percent share, down from 16.9 percent a year earlier. Windows Phone holds a 3.5 percent share, up from 2.3 percent a year earlier.