Goodbye Pandora: I am sold on Google Music All Access

google music all accessI am a long time Pandora customer. The simple $3.99 monthly fee is a small price to pay for my unlimited, ad-free streaming, which gets me through my workdays. I have tried alternatives such as Spotify, Rdio and Last.FM and found all to be solid, but paying more multiple services monthly was not what I was looking for.

With a combination of all of my music stored in the free Google Music cloud, and hand-crafted radio stations within Pandora, I considered myself set. Sure, I wanted the ability play a particular song or album that I did not own, but paying for another service was not worth it to me.

Then Google I/O 2013 occurred and things changed. My Google Music app suddenly had Spotify capability. It gained Pandora functionality. Plus, it still had my 80-plus gigabyte music collection. If all of that was not enough, the price was only a few dollars more than I currently pay. Google Music All Access is the best of every world.

I am paid up on Pandora at the moment, but I do not plan to stay there. With All Access I can not only add my Pandora stations and still have all of my uploaded music, but also play any song or album at any time. Could this get any better?

Amazon Takes on Google in the Cloud Music Market, Doesn’t Impress

Amazon came first with the cloud music storage service, but Google tried to trump them.  While I never tried out Amazon Music because I just didn’t find it compelling enough, I have been test-driving Google Music for a couple of weeks now.  Why did I find it more alluring?  Storage space!  Now Amazon is upping the ante, though.

While Google has no paid plan and no space limit, simply offering 20,000 songs of storage, regardless of file size, Amazon now has a different, but  also intriguing, plan.  It does come with one important, and potentially deal-breaking, caveat – you have to buy the music from the Amazon MP3 Store.  The unlimited storage they are advertising is for music you buy FROM them.  Although, if you already have an account, and have uploaded a bunch of non-Amazon purchased music you will also have unlimited storage….for a limited time.  How limited remains to be seen.

If you are wondering just how much space 20,000 songs takes up, well, I can’t say for sure, it varies based on your file type and encoding.  However, I can say that my 11,000+ songs (most at 256 KBPS) total approximately 90 GB.  That’s only slightly more than half of the number of songs that Google Music is willing to store in the cloud at no charge.

I am a big fan of Amazon and a regular customer, but for now I am happy with my choice of Google Music.  Amazon will need to go a bit beyond today’s announcement to sway me.  With this market still being new and just starting to heat up, though, I expect that they will be forced to compete with, not only Google, but the upcoming Apple threat as well.

 

 

 

Install and Run The Google Music Android App

With my invitation to Google music secured, the Google Music Manager installed on my PC, and 90 GB of music slowly making its way to the cloud, there is one final hurdle to overcome.  That is installing the Google Music app on my Droid X.  After all, what good is all of this if I can’t have my music on my mobile device wherever I go?  So, that is what we are going to walk through now.  We will install and explore this service together as novices.

Start off by searching the Android Market for “Google Music”.  The official app should be the very first result.

Click to download and install the app.  It’s a small file and should take less than one minute.  Once it has installed you can launch the app for the first time.  Oddly it shows up under the simple name of “Music” as opposed to “Google Music”.

Once launched, the interface was simple but it also told me that there were “no music files available”.  I had assumed I would need to log into my Google account, but there was no option to do so anywhere within the program.

As it turns out, the install should prompt you to associate an account with the app – mine had not done that.  I uninstalled, re-downloaded, and installed again.  This can actually take some work and Googling to get it working.  There are some crazy solutions out there, some of the them are pure voodoo.  But, voodoo isn’t real, and I can’t say exactly how to get it to work, all I can tell you is to keep  trying.  This can prove to be frustrating and different solutions are probably available for different model devices.

(Yes, I know I didn’t remove my email from the above screenshot, I will just trust all of you not to spam me, and welcome you to contact me with questions or comments).  So, now we are in business.  Since I only have one account associated with my phone I did not have to choose it, but was automatically linked.  At this point you receive a welcome screen – and my congratulations for persevering through all of the crap that Google is putting their Music beta testers through on Android.

And now, finally we arrive at the finish line.  The player is open and shows all of the music that uploaded from your PC to the cloud.  Press the menu button and you get the options seen at the bottom of the following screenshot.  Scroll across the top of the screen menu and you can choose from artist, album, genre, etc.

You may have a LOT of trouble getting here, but once installed, Google Music is pretty darn cool.  If you haven’t yet signed up for the service then you can request an invitation at Google Music.  Expect a delay of at least two weeks before hearing anything.  Consider that your patience warm-up to installing the Android app…

Google Music Beta

Google Music BetaI received my Google Music Beta invite late Monday afternoon. After downloading the Music Manager I started to up load my music. My music is stored on an external drive to upload it into the music player I simply hit Other and then added the folder. It took between 15 and 16 hours to upload 1,836 songs. Any song that has DRM on it (i.e. purchased in the iTunes store) or in a non supported format was skipped. Google was able to upload the meta-data for most of the songs and albums. It had the most trouble with compilation CDs or CDs that were parts of a series. For example I have the Blues Master Series which consisted of 18 CDs which I had ripped on to my external drive. The Google player matched the meta data on some of the songs and not on others. I have noticed that so far though it hasn’t matched anything incorrectly, if it’s not sure it doesn’t guess. I also noticed that songs from the same album would get slightly different metadata and therefore create two or more separate albums folders within Google Music. You can correct or add information by clicking on the arrow in the lower right hand corner of the album. Then click on edit album or song information and fill in the information. However I haven’t figured out a way to merge folders yet. If you want to add album art you have to add it from your computer. I wish you could add an image by url, it would make it a lot easier. Under the same arrow, you can play a song, add a song to a playlist and create an instant playlist. You can also add a song to a playlist by dragging the song to the playlist. Another way to create a instant playlist from a song you can also thumbs up a song and then clicking on the plus button next to the instant mix.

It does work on the iPad through Safari awkwardly. You have to click on the triangle next to the song, album or playlist then click on play, then at the bottom of the screen click on the play button twice and then wait and after awhile the music will start to play. At first I kept pushing the play button thinking it wasn’t working and the song would start and stop however I soon figured out there is a delay between when you push a button and it reacts. If you use it within Safari it will continue to play in the background if you open another application. However it doesn’t go to the next song until you go back to the Safari browser. The Google Music player also works in the Mercury Browser but not in the background. For some reason the player worked fine within the Mercury browser at Borders but would not work within Safari at Borders, the web page would come up, but none of the songs would appear. I wonder if anyone else had a similar problem? I suspect that the problem maybe with the Border’s wifi and not the Google Player. I haven’t figured out a way to fast forward or rewind through a song on the iPad. Also the on screen volume button doesn’t work, you have to use the volume rocker on the iPad.

All in all I think the Google Music player is a good start, but it does need some work. First it needs to do a better job at adding meta data so that songs from the same album don’t end up in multiple album folders. Second there needs to be away to add album art directly from a URL rather then uploading a file. Also right now there is no way of sharing what song you are playing on Twitter or Facebook or even Google Buzz from the Google music. The only way to rewind or fast forward a song is by scrolling with a mouse, there needs to be a keyboard shortcut. I was actually surprised that it worked at all on the iPad. I would like to see them shorten the delay from when you push the play button in Safari on the iPad and when it starts playing. Also there needs to be a way to go to the next song automatically while running in the background. I already have the Amazon player and because I live in a Mac world I will also be trying the iCloud at that time it comes out. I hope to compare them all at that time.