Google continues to be pilloried in some quarters of the music industry for its anti-piracy policies on its search engine and Google Play store, but the company has also been forging closer relationships with rightsholders for its music services.

The latter was emphasised yesterday with its announcement that its Google Play music store is launching in five European countries this month, complete with scan-and-match features for the company’s cloud music locker service.

“This will be available in Europe at launch on November 13 and is coming to the U.S. soon after,” wrote Google’s SVP of mobile and digital content Andy Rubin in a blog post. “This will all be for free — free storage of your music, free matching, free syncing across your devices and free listening.”

Did he mention that it’s free? Oh yes. Google is clearly keen to hammer home ‘free’ as its advantage over rival cloud services from Apple and Amazon. Rubin also dropped in the news that Google finally has a deal to sell songs from Warner Music Group’s catalogue in its music store, giving it a full set of major labels nearly a year after launching Google Music.

All this, alongside some new Google-branded Android devices – the Nexus 10 tablet and Nexus 4 smartphone, made for Google by Samsung and LG respectively – and the fact that 1.3m new Android devices are being activated every day  positions Google to have a more meaningful impact on legal digital music sales in 2013.

Although note: Google Music is still very much focused on ownership of music. While customers can stream it, the music comes from their cloud collections, rather than a wider catalogue of music they don’t own.

With Apple working on a personal radio service, Microsoft palling up with Pandora and the likes of Spotify and Deezer growing apace, Google Music may require more evolution over the next 12-18 months to keep up.

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