Google has launched a music search engine in China that will give users access to free downloads of licensed songs.
After months of negotiations, Google announced last night the new service would be supported by advertising revenue that would be split between the music industry and Chinese music download website Top100.cn.
Google's first music search service will allow internet users in China to search for songs on Google.cn by singer, song or album title and then download and stream licensed music for free.
If successful, the venture could curb the rampant culture of illegal music downloads that has been crippling the growth of the legitimate digital music industry in China, the country with the world's largest number of internet users.
"We believe this partnership will help foster a thriving and legitimate music business in China by providing music labels and publishers with a new channel to distribute, promote and monetise their valuable music content," Google said.
The Google Music Onebox service, which will not be available to internet users outside China, could help the company's efforts to overhaul the country's leading domestic search business Baidu.com.
Google added that it had no plans to develop its Music Onebox feature in other markets.
Despite dominating search engines internationally, Google plays second fiddle to Baidu.com in China.
According to iResearch, Baidu holds almost 63% of the Chinese search market share while Google has only 26%.
Kai-Fu Lee, president of Google's greater China operation, announced plans in April for the company to hire 200 extra staff this year – increasing the operation's workforce by 30% - as part of its push to be number one in the country.
Google has set a target to become the dominant player in the Chinese internet market within five years.