As promised, Google officially launched their music service yesterday (November 16) in front of an invite-only audience, making their first move to becoming iTunes’ largest competitor. And not only has Google Music upgraded their original beta cloud, they’ve also announced the addition of their music store and the “Artist Hub” service.

Google Music’s new online store is being integrated into the Android Market and their social network Google +. Like iTunes, individual songs cost around 99 cents, while albums range around $10. However, Google Music is also offering users a lot of free songs from a variety of artists (we saw songs from System Of A Down, Corrosion Of Conformity, Alice Cooper and many others being offered for free). Plus, users are given the ability to share their purchases with friends via Google +, letting others listen to songs and purchases in full before buying. Another interesting addition is that T-Mobile Android users can buy music without entering payment information, letting downloads be charged to their cellphone bills instead. The one catch, though, is that Google Music sells music from everyone but Warner Music Group (the remaining holdout). For metal fans, that means imprints like Roadrunner Records and Reprise Records are missing from Google’s music store.

That’s where the cloud comes in. Though Google launched an invite-only beta version of the cloud earlier this year, Google Music’s updated cloud is available for everyone and allows you to upload up to 20,000 songs for free. That’s right, FREE. That’s certainly a major response to Apple and their iTunes Match, which just went live earlier this week but now is limiting their uploads to 25,000 (despite originally promising unlimited uploading for $24.99). Furthermore, Google Music provides streaming capabilities for computers and Android smart phones.

In addition to revealing their online store and cloud capabilities, Google launched a new service for unsigned artists called the “Artist Hub”. For a one-time $25 payment, bands can upload and sell their music directly via their own Google Music artist page. Furthermore, the musicians have control over how their content is sold (including an option to sell directly via YouTube) and for how much. In return, Google asks for 30% of the profit, while the bands keep the remaining 70%. In other words, Google is helping unsigned bands cut the middle man out in the digital market.

While the launch of Google Music is certainly exciting, it still has a long road ahead of it. If anyone can battle iTunes, Google certainly has the best shot. However, it’s still iTunes (for 70% of the market for digital song downloads) and their iTunes Match service is still gaining a lot of buzz. We hope to have reviews of both Google Music and iTunes Match on Metal Insider soon.

[via Los Angeles Times, Wired, and Digital Music News]