Google launches music search with Lala and iLike

Google yesterday partnered with web services Lala and MySpace's iLike to give music fans an easier way to find, sample and buy songs on the Internet, expanding its music industry footprint.

The global web search leader will provide users who want to sample a song with a pop-up box that will play at least a 30-second segment - in some cases the entire song - provided by iLike and Lala, which will then offer links to purchase the music.

Google has also teamed up with Pandora, iMeem and Rhapsody to incorporate links to those music sites, to help consumers discover music related to search queries. Google will begin rolling the feature out to users across the United States on Wednesday.

The move will help cement Google's role in the music industry, which is struggling with plunging sales amid the rise of Apple's iTunes and other sites, and fewer media outlets to break new acts. Investors hope that streaming songs or video clips online will help stem the fan-base losses.

"Every day we get millions of search queries about music. You want to know more about your favorite artists, find that new album or that iconic song, or figure out the name of that tune stuck in your head," Google said on its blog.

The new capability will help listeners find songs by entering a search by title, album, artist or even with a line or two of lyrics.

Google said it did not work directly with any record labels - contrary to reports that it had forged ties with the likes of Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group - but had the industry's full support.

"Everybody's been very supportive. Indeed, our business model is to improve the search experience with the help of streaming partners, which offer interesting business models of their own," said R.J. Pittman, director of product management for Google.

Popular social network Facebook last week also expanded its musical offerings through a deal to integrate Lala into its gift store. Google's own Youtube video site -- already a major discovery avenue for music -- is separately partnering with Vivendi's Universal Music Group and Sony Music to create Vevo, a music video service expected to launch December.

iLike was recently acquired by News Corp's MySpace social networking site.

The Lala-powered music service allows users to stream any song in its catalog of 8.5 million tunes once for free, and then sells unlimited streams for 10 cents per track and MP3 files, starting at 89 cents.

Lala founder Bill Nguyen said he expects the new alliances to significantly expand its business.

"We'll see a thousand percent increase in our business. We have about 100,000 customers and the majority or about 60,000 of them are active, which generate about $67 per year," he said.

Nguyen said his company's revenues now total less than $10 million, but expects to be much larger by next year.

"We expect to be one of the largest retailers of online music within one year after this deal," he said.

He expects artists will start releasing music just for this platform.

"There's always so much discussion involving business models and the industry's fixation on pricing, which has overshadowed the importance of discovery," he said.

"This is going to be very profound for the industry," he said. Lala also soon plans to release an Apple iPhone application.