Yup, Google’s streaming free music now: Here’s what you need to know

Google’s jumping head first into the already-widening pool of playlist-providers wanting to provide us with spectacular poolside beats. And we couldn’t be happier to have another new addition to the streaming universe.

Ahead of Apple’s big (and controversial) June 30th launch, Google is making a last minute effort to pull users onto its own platform with a free option. The tech giant just launched a free, ad-supported tier that offers curated playlists designed to accompany every moment of your day. (Check it out and play around with it here.)

These handpicked stations may not be anything new—as you may remember, Google introduced them to paying PlayMusic subscribers last July after acquiring the streaming service Songza, whose claim to fame was that it allowed users to choose stations based on mood. But now even non-paying Googlers are going to be fully covered. Well, musically at least.

The difference between Google and something like, let’s say, Spotify, however, is that we won’t be able to have total control over exactly what songs are playing. Music will be served up via curated playlists that have been pre-assembled by a team of highly-trained “music experts.”

With this, the company’s following in the footsteps of Jimmy Iovine and Apple Music by pushing a more “humans over algorithms” philosophy. So whenever you pick a mood, genre, decade, or activity-based playlist, you can be confident that an actual person programmed what you’re listening to. (Of course, Google does still lean on algorithms for some things, like if you start a new radio station based on a particular artist or song, that’s when things get handed off a computer).

What’s more is that along with “giving [us] a new way to find just the right music,” Google’s also “giving artists another way to earn revenue.” (Their specific policies regarding royalties can be found here). This if particularly noteworthy, especially as it comes days after Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple for not compensating artists during its upcoming free 3-month trials (you may remember she also pulled her entire catalog from Spotify for similar reasons). Sure, Apple may have quickly reversed the decision, but the topic’s remaining a pretty hot one all across the music industry.

As with all good things, there does come a slight catch. Google’s free service handcuffs us to a few restrictions such as limited skips per hour, the inability to rewind or to scrub through songs, or to even see what’s coming up next. People who choose to pay for Google Play, however, will have full control over playlists and can manipulate, edit, rename, and save them for offline playback.

They’ll have the capability of going entirely crazy and making “it [their] own,” as Google Play Music product manager Elias Roman puts it. Basically, the company’s hoping the free service will draw more people to its $10 per month service.

The free version of Google Play Music rolled out on the web Tuesday. It will be released for Android and iOS devices later this week. In the meantime, check out Google’s 30-second roundup of what it’s all about:

(Images via Google Play)