"Audio Preview" Is A Bad User Experience
I read the Google blog post announcing their enhancements to music searches this morning. I think it's terrific that Google has made these enhancements but there's one thing I don't like.
Now, when you enter a music-related query — like the name of a song, artist or album — your search results will include links to an audio preview of those songs provided by our music search partners MySpace (which just acquired iLike) or Lala. When you click the result you'll be able to listen to an audio preview of the song directly from one of those partners. For example, if I search for [21st century breakdown], the first results provide links to songs from Green Day's new album. MySpace and Lala also provide links to purchase the full song.
I really dislike the "audio preview" experience. It's been available for years in the iTunes store and I never use it. A 30 second sample of a song is an awful experience in my opinion.
When I want to search for music, I'll do an mp3 search on the Internet or go to the hype machine and do the search there. I almost always get the result I want with one of those two approaches and I can listen to the entire song.
Of course, it is not Google's fault that they are being limited to an "audio preview", it is the fault of the rights holders who won't let Google offer a full song sample. But as we've seen again and again, this only drives users to the "gray market" where they can get a full song sample which is often just a right click away from an illegal download.
A smarter approach would be to allow Google to offer a full song sample (one play per person based on cookies or some other approach) and then a link to purchase. That would allow Google and the music rights holders to take share back from mp3 search engines and encourage music purchases instead of illegal music downloads.