Google Play Music: a review

On 22 November, I decided that enough was enough. I needed a new music solution.

All of my digital music was residing on my old, largely defunct laptop which I’d replaced in June. It was sitting in iTunes in a library that I was far from happy with, as I’ve documented in a previous post, titled How Apple ruined my music collection.

Now as many of you will be aware, iTunes is the biggest piece of shit ever to grace a PC laptop. I know many of you Apple fanboyz/girlz will wax lyrical about how wonderful it is on a Mac (although I understand that there are even Mac users who hate it). But on a PC, it’s supremely appalling. Dog shit, if you will.

But that aside, the problem with digital music is that it came too soon. People had big music collections. Mine weighs in at a respectable but by no means mind-boggling 5,500-ish tracks. At maybe 4Mb per song, that’s around 20Gb of music.

Computer hard drives could just about cope with such volumes when iPods were first introduced in the very early part of the new millennium. But iPods could not. They started at 5Gb, although they soon got up high enough to cater for my 20Gb.

But then smartphones were introduced. And these came with SSDs rather than spinning discs. This meant that they were faster, quieter and much more worthy of a hug. But it also meant that their storage capacity was limited. And it meant compromise. You were (I was) unable to store your entire music collection on your portable device. So you had to pick and choose.

Even today, over eleven years after the first iPod came out, my Google Nexus packs a rather paltry 16Gb of storage. But that storage is for everything. Currently, about 5.5Gb of it is used for apps, photos and data other than music. A further 2.3Gb I am unable to access (the Android OS, I expect). Leaving just over 8Gb for music, if I so choose. Not enough for my entire music collection.

Over the years, I’ve upgraded laptops a few times, and music has been lost along the way. I’ve restored partial music collections from iPods. DRM-ed music confuses the hell out of me, and I’ve slowly grown to loathe everything that iTunes is about. It could have been so wonderful. But instead it contributed significantly to fragmenting my music collection. (Every time I’ve upgraded my laptop, I’ve struggled long and hard about how to move my music across.)

Now I’ve often thought about buying a NAS. But I don’t really have a N to speak of to which I can A the S. And they sound that bit too scary. So I haven’t.

But then along came Google Music.

Overnight on 22 November, and throughout most of 23 November, my old laptop’s internal fan was in overdrive as the laptop was resurrected to upload 4,705 songs from its music library into the Google Play Music cloud. It was working. And I felt huge relief and excitement. (There are about 400 tracks thereon that won’t upload, but I’m not quite sure why. It may be something to do with DRM. They’re probably those ones with the funny icon next to them in iTunes, an icon that I don’t comprehend and that has no hover text.)

And now it’s there, it’s lovely. I can play it direct from the Chrome browser. No need for installs. Just lovely. Some of the metadata has been maintained from iTunes, including number of plays. (Sadly, the five-star iTunes rating has been replaced with one with only three levels: thumbs up, nothing or thumbs down.)

And while all of the music can be streamed from the Android app on my phone (which over 3G might rack up some big bills), I can also highlight specific music that I want to store locally. And that music has been downloaded to the Nexus to use up some of my spare disk space until such time that available phone storage exceeds music collection.

The only thing I’d like now is the ability to stream to my Sonos player. I’m expecting that’s on its way.

In the meantime, I’m happy. Happy that I again have a definitive music collection, one that is not tied to a device for the first time since I collected CDs.


8 Responses to “Google Play Music: a review”

  1. Simon on December 11th, 2012 01:17

    Sounds awful. No streaming?

  2. Dan on December 11th, 2012 07:08

    Yes, streaming.

  3. Robin on December 11th, 2012 19:49

    Interesting. My predictable solution is spotify, or mog whenever it arrives. For the price of a cd a month, it’s all done. As I get older and lazier yet more curious, I like the themed radio function best.

    That’s not why I responded however. I’m interested in the idea that apple ruined your music collection. Arguably, you ruined your music collection, as anyone who has witnessed you singing along to steps can attest.

  4. Dan on December 11th, 2012 20:20


  5. Andy on February 18th, 2013 14:56


    Just stumbled on this whilst searching for info in how I might make our family’s music library easily available to everyone in the house. It would be nice to enable anyone to listen to anything in the same way anyone can pull a CD off the shelf and listen to it.

    Sonos looks like it might help a lot. I’ve already started ripping the CDs to FLAC in the hope of having a half decent player in the house before too long. The files are currently sitting on a USB hard drive attached the family PC. So far three of us have that library in our g-clouds. 2 accounts on the PC and another on a laptop with a mapped drive to the PC’s music library. I guess a NAS would be a better option but, like you, I’ve shied away from that so far.

    How pleased have you been with the Sonos gear? I’ve read in a few places that the hardware can be unreliable? What sort of guarantee do you get and have you had anything break down?

  6. Dan on February 18th, 2013 15:48

    Sonos is good. Very reliable from what I’ve seen. Not sure what guarantee I have if something goes wrong. Can’t wait for them to support Google Music though.

  7. Andy on February 18th, 2013 16:13

    Re. Sonos support for Google Music – won’t most people have their library stored more locally in the home and possible in a higher quality format?

  8. Dan on February 18th, 2013 16:59

    I don’t. My music is now all stored in the cloud on Google Music. I don’t want to bother having a NAS or a dumb server idling away while I’m at work on the off-chance that I want to play some music. Everything I do is from my laptop, but I’d like to be able to play my music from my phone (through my Sonos device(s)) whenever I choose, without turning on my laptop.

    As for quality, I’m not that bothered. I spent my 20s listening to people talking about musical perfection in terms of musical quality. I can’t be faffed with it. Streaming music is sufficiently good for me.

    You could argue that I should move to Spotify. But I still like the concept of “my” music.

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