Google apparently decided to beat Apple Music to the punch in the streaming music sector. In a surprise move, the tech titan announced on Tuesday, June 24th that it was launching a free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music, it’s $9.99 a month music streaming service. Analysts note that this free version of Google Play Music will compete head on with Spotify and Pandora, and also launches just days ahead of the much-ballyhooed launch of Apple Music.

Free Google Music Launches Ahead Of Apple Music

The news was announced on the official Android Blog in a post Tuesday morning, and Google notes the new, free service designed to give musicians another way to earn money and that the long-term goal is to bring more people into its subscription service.

More on new, free Google Music

Google Music is a direct challenge to Pandora, Spotify and Apple’s iTunes radio (free streaming service). Moreover, Google has the advantage of being able to send those searching for specific songs to its service.

The music streaming service uses the technology of Songza, a playlist start-up Google snapped up a while back. The main idea is playlists customized to your mood and/or different times of day. The blog announcement noted that its music experts will “craft each station song by song so you don’t have to … with whatever you need music for—from working, to working out, to working it on the dance floor.”

Google also emphasized that that although the new streaming music service will be free to users, it is paying artists for their music. This seems like a not so veiled reference to the criticism Apple has received from Taylor Swift and others for their its initial plan to not pay independent artists for the three-month free trial period it is offering to consumers.

Also of interest, Google will allow advertisers in its ad systems to specifically target users of Google Music. That means a massive potential advertiser base for Google Music. Although Google is not reporting how many paying subscribers Google Play Music has signed up so far, the new free version is sure to lead to significant numbers of paying customers over time.