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Google Intros Ad-Supported Music Streaming Ahead of Apple Music Launch

Google is getting ready for Apple’s music streaming service by serving up some free music of its own: The company’s Google Play Music service is rolling out free, Pandora-like radio streaming, offering users in the U.S. both playlists curated by music experts as well as automatically generated endless streams.

Free streaming for Google Play Music launched on the web Tuesday, and will become available through the service’s iOS and Android apps in the coming days.

Play Music’s new free streams are supported by advertising, and also available to customers who don’t subscribe to the service’s paid tier. That’s similar not only to Pandora but also some of the free tiers offered by subscription services like Rdio and Deezer. However, it doesn’t go as far as Spotify’s free tier, which lets users pick any song they want when accessing the service via their computer.

Apple Music won’t have an ad-supported free tier when it launches on June 30, but the service will have its own radio components that will also be available to users that aren’t inclined to pay. Apple has hired veteran BBC 1 DJ Zane Lowe to launch Beats 1, a kind of online radio station that features real on-air talent. The company is complementing this with comment-free radio streams that have also been curated by humans.

Apple has made a big deal of emphasizing this human curation. However, almost all music services use humans to curate radio streams and playlists to some degree. Google Play Music’s new radio streams are in large part based on Songza, a playlist service the company acquired a year ago.

Correction 1:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Rhapsody had a free, ad-supported tier.

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