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Google Music debuts, letting users share tunes via Google+

The Web giant taps its Google+ social network to help users discover music, with three of the four major record labels participating in the service.

Google today launched Google Music, letting consumers tap into a service that was limited to 1 million customers since the beta was launched this spring.

The service takes advantage of Google search technology as well as its ability to tap the tastes of a user's friends to recommend songs. With three of the four major record labels now participating in the service, users will also be able to buy music.

"Google Music is about artists and their music and new ways to connect them to their fans," said Jamie Rosenberg, director of digital content for Google.

Google's Jamie Rosenberg Google; screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The beta version of Google Music, which debuted in May, didn't include the ability to buy songs from labels. But users could upload their entire music libraries to Google's servers, making those tunes available to stream from any browser or Android-based device, such as a phone, a tablet, or Google TV. Google will now open that service to anyone in the United States.

"The service will continue to be free," Rosenberg said.

Users can upload up to 20,000 songs.

Google is also adding music to the Android store, where it already sells movie rentals and books. And the company has added a recommendations engine, using friend's selections, to help make music discoverable.

And Google is integrating the service with its Google+ social network. Google+ friends can stream music from one another for an entire album, from start to finish, for free. They can only share a specific track with a friend once.

Google dubbed today's event "These Go To Eleven" in an e-mail invitation sent to media and analysts. Of course, that's a reference to the classic film mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap" and its lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, who had an amplifier with volume knobs that went to 11.

Right up until the event, it was unclear if all four major labels would have licensing deals with Google Music. As late as last night, Google was still working to ink those agreements. Google said that three of the four would participate: Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music Entertainment. Warner Music Group is the only holdout.

Google also worked hard to create an advantage with independent artists, giving them significant control over how their music is sold. It's created something it's calling Artist Hub, a place where bands can distribute their own music and set their own price for songs. Artists create their own pages for $25, and they keep 70 percent of the revenue from each sale. There are no annual fees and no per album uploads.

Google is also offering six never-released live concerts from the Rolling Stones. The first one is available today, with the others arriving in 2012. Coldplay is giving Google an exclusive concert as well. And Busta Rhymes has a single available for free from Google Music today.

Google is also launching the service with a partnership with T-Mobile. Customers of the carrier will be able to get billed for songs on their monthly mobile bill. T-Mobile customers will also receive free content from Drake, Maroon 5, and the aforementioned Rhymes.

Updated with additional details and analysis at 2:50 p.m. PT.