Google to launch free music service in China

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Google is launching a music service aimed at providing Chinese listeners with free, legal music downloads, it said Tuesday.

Users can search for musicians they like from Google China’s main page. Popular artists will be represented by a dedicated listing in the search results. If the artist or artist’s record company are part of Google’s licensing agreement with Chinese music site Top100.cn, then searchers they may download a selection of songs for free. If not, then they will be able to hear a sample of the artist’s work, or view song lyrics.

The user does not need to download new software to listen to the songs, Google said, referring to the service as an “experiment.”

Attempts at building legal music download services have met with varying success. Motorola’s Chinese paid-for music service, motomusic.com.cn, has sold over 2.5 million songs and ringtones, the company said Wednesday. However, digital music heavyweight Apple has yet to open a Chinese store.

Forty-six percent of total legal music sales in China are digital, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), but over 99 percent of all music files distributed here are not legal, the group said.

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