Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

Summary: Is Google Music perfect? No, far from it. But, for the price, zero, it's great.

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TOPICS: Google, Storage
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Google Music lets you put all your music a cloud-touch away.

Google Music lets you put all your music a cloud-touch away.

I've been using Google Music since it was in beta. At first, it didn't interest me that much. Yet another way to save my music to the cloud? How much good really was that? Well, after using it for several months, and now that Google Music is open for everyone in the US to use, I'm here to tell you that Google Music has proven to be a great way for me to listen to my music wherever I am with whatever computing device I have at hand.

Why? Well, let's start with the basics.

Google Music enables you to you store your music on the cloud. While Google will now let you buy music from the Android Store, it's really more of an online music storage locker than a competitor with Apple's iTunes Store.

Unlike other cloud music and storage services, Google doesn't give you a fixed amount of storage space. Instead, you can it to store up to 20,000 songs. On the Google Music Web page, Google provides a counter to let you know how close you are to hitting your limit. At an estimated 5MBs a song that works out to about 100GBs of storage. The cost? Not one red penny.

Free. I love the sound of that. I especially love the sound of free since I currently have 13-thousand plus songs in my library.

Google Music: The start of a beautiful Internet music service (Photo Gallery)

While many other services offer cloud-based music storage libraries, Apple's iTunes Match, part of iCloud; Amazon's Cloud Drive and Player; and the pioneer of online music storage MP3tunes, no one else offers so much storage without restrictions for free.

To file music into your Google Music library, you need to use Google's Music Manager. This program is available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. You can use Music Manager to load files from iTunes, Windows Media Player, or directly from directories. You can load your entire music collection-up to the aforementioned 20,000 songs-or just certain play-lists or directories.

You can upload your MP3, AAC, ogg, and FLAC encoded songs into your Google Music library. You can not, however, load Digital Rights Management (DRM), AFLAC (Apple Lossless), wac, aiff, or ra files. You can load Microsoft's WMA files if you use the Windows version of the Music Manager. Once there, FLAC, ogg, and aac files are transcoded into Google Music's default 320Kbps MPS format.

How fast it will take you to upload your music depends on your Internet speed and the size of your music files. In my experience, with mostly 256Kbps encoded songs and a 60Mbps Internet connection I was uploading about 100 songs an hour. What I did was I just let Music Manager run in the background and in a few days almost all my collection was up on the cloud. I couldn't upload all my music at first. The troublesome songs turned out to be almost entirely songs I've purchased from iTunes when Apple still encrypted music with DRM. Once, I replaced them with copy-protection free files I was able to place them in my library.

You can also upload music from multiple PCs. While I haven't tested this, Google states that "Google Music will automatically combine duplicate albums if the metadata is identical, so you can prevent duplicate albums from appearing." For my friends with messy music collections I can see how that would be really useful.

Unfortunately, unlike iTunes Match. Google Music requires you upload every last bit of your tunes. It can't confirm that there's a good copy already available on the cloud and simply duplicate that song into your personal libary.

You can play your music using a modern Web browser on any PC. Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 7 and higher are specifically supported, but I was able to play music on Opera as well. You also need to have Adobe Flash Player up and running. If you're not running Google Chrome, you'll also need to have JavaScript enabled

On Android devices, you can listen to your music with the Google Music App.. This requires Android 2.2 and above with OpenGL2. If your smartphone doesn't meet those requirements you can still listen to you music via the Web browser once you have Adobe Flash installed. Curiously, you can also listen to your music on iPhone, iPads, and iPod Touches running iOS 4 or higher via their built-in Web browser without Flash.

That's actually one of my favorite Google Music features. I don't need to have a particular device or even run a particular program. So long as I have something that runs a Web browser, I've got my music. Nice.

You can play your Google Music tracks on any number of PCs and up to eight Android devices. However, you can only listen to them on one device at a time. So, forget about the idea of 'broadcasting' to friends to family. In my experience, and I've listened to my music for months now on a wide variety of Linux, Windows and Mac OS X PCs and, on portable devices on my mark 1 iPad and my Motorola Droid II smartphone. I have yet to run into any playback trouble.

The music quality, whether I was at home, using a coffee-house Wi-Fi signal, or Verizon 3G, has always been good. Of course, there was times when I was away from any Internet connection. For those times, I used the Android application to download music to my smartphone so I was never music-less.

So far, this is great, but Google Music is no Apple iTunes killer. It can't rip music from CDs. You'll still need a local program to get your music off all media into your computer.

The Google Music store is also nothing to write home about. The store has the basic features but not a lot of selection on its virtual shelves yet. While Google has signed distribution deals with three of the big four music companies, they couldn't come to an agreement with Warner Music Group. That means you won't be buying Led Zeppelin or Green Day from Google anytime soon. On the other hand, any music you do buy online from Google can easily be downloaded, without DRM and in 320Kbps MP3 format, to your PC with the Music Manager.

Another nice feature about the Google Music store is you can share any music you get via the store with your friends on Google+. People in your Google+ Circles can listen to entire songs or albums.

So, why do I like Google Music so much since it's certainly no iTunes killer and other programs offer similar services?

Well, I like it because 1) It's free; 2) It offers an incredible amount of music storage; and 3) and it lets me listen to my music anywhere I go. It also doesn't hurt any that, unlike many of the smaller musical storage lockers, I'm reasonably sure Google will still be here next year. Sure the Spotify and Pandora, Internet streaming music services, are great in their own right, but if you want free access to your music whenever and wherever you want it on any device, you can't beat Google Music.

Related Stories:

Google Music opens to public for free; 200M Android devices sold

Google rolls out music service to masses (video)

Google Music Beta: Cloud music done right

iTunes Match is live: Confessions of a cloud hog

A Quick And Extra-Dirty Music-Lover's Google Music Review

Topics: Google, Storage

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23 comments
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  • Wow they really need to kill of the Flash dependency for non iDevices

    That's a total fubar. WTF?
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

      @Johnny Vegas In my think of view the best cloud based app is Razer synapse if you won't beleave me check by your self here: http://www.technologyfazer.com/the-razer-cloud-based-synapse-2-0.html
      nomikhokher
  • I don't have the time to maintain a music portfolio in the cloud

    Which is why for me on demand music streaming works best.
    Grooveshark.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
  • No thanks

    I haven't touched Apple and it's proprietary crap, bloatiness and buggy iTunes and I'm not about to do the same thing with Google Music. I'm sure in a couple of years you will be getting a nice in your inbox saying that Google has decided to scrap the service because of bugs, outages, security issues, piracy issues and whatever else. Google has a history of scrapping applications and services [something like over 6 of them in the last few months]. So why is this different?

    I'll assume the record labels know about this feature that allows you to share music with other Google+ users without them paying anything. So in theory, i could buy the latest album from Dream Theater [assuming Roardrunner albums were sold at Google Music] and everyone I know using Google+ can download the music at no cost. Yikes.
    Gisabun
    • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

      @Gisabun - you have to have a Google Music account to listen to a shared song, and you can only listen once. They clearly are hopeful it will drive sales, as a recommendation from a friend, plus a courtesy listen, is a pretty good sales tactic. Of course, if you tap your audio stream, you could be scraping ... but you can do that with anything that plays music on your PC.
      daboochmeister
  • I'm Liking it too, but...

    There are two "missing links" for me, which I was hoping would be addressed before the public launch, but weren't (I was a beta tester, too).

    You hit on one... The fact that it cannot directly rip from a CD is no big deal for me, using an external ripper, but mention doing that to "Joe average user," and you'll just get a blank stare. A lot of people "just expect" to be able to slip-in a CD, and have it added to their collection, thanks to iTunes.

    However, the one that is bothering me is that while it's really great to be able to listen on any computer, or on my phone, and while that's great while typing, or working out, I want to listen on my stereo, too!

    I mean, honestly, I spend a lot of time reading in my living room while listening to music on my high-end home entertainment system. I want my music to play through my Yamaha gear!!

    Now that wouldn't be a problem, since the system is connected to a Roku streaming media player, but to my amazement, there is no Google Music app yet for the Roku box?

    By skipping that (comparatively easy) step, they (Google) have relegated the service (for now) to those who don't mind lousy computer speakers, or tinny earbuds... With that one simple addition (a Roku app), they could have empowered everyone to listen to music wherever and however they want.

    At least iTunes lets me burn CDs to play in the living room.

    Hope to see Roku playback in the near future!
    Tom92024
    • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

      @Tom92024 MP3tunes has support for Roku - no need to wait for Google. Give MP3tunes a try!
      mp3michael
    • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

      @Tom92024, just use airfoil on your pc and if your receiver is on the wan you can push tunes out to it. I have a pioneer vsx-1021 and push out tunes using music-bee, media-monkey, Verizon media manager, and songbird with no issues.
      gilesjp@...
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Great Ad! I don't buy any of it though!
    google is the master of free betas that get scrapped
    or like for google maps: free until you are locked in and then they change the terms and conditions.
    I prefer all local and keep a non saturated Internet connection for what matters.
    Drakkhen
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Amazing well written in depth. What i believe is that Amazon and iTunes gives music lover international usage which makes it incredible. Android being the top smartphone OS should be googles priority to expand music service abroad

    see the in depth video tour of Google Music
    http://thetechnologycafe.com/google-music-in-depth-video-tour/
    samzbest@...
  • It may be free,

    but it is just another advertising avenue for Google.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • Rhapsody user here...

    ...and if Google will develop a streaming service comparable to Rhapsody/Spotify/Mog at the $10/month standard, I will be interested. Otherwise, like others have mentioned, I've already made the jump to streaming music...about 6 years ago...and have no intention of going back to the future...
    morrisp@...
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    I like the concept and will likely give it a try. It seems pretty close to everything I liked about LaLa before it was bought and dismantled (shame on Apple for not incorporating music streaming rather than forcing downloads, especially when they don't include expandable storage options in their mobile devices!).
    I'm left to wonder at this point if this will sync with directories with automatic updating for when you add in media using sources other than Google Music. Or are we forced to implement our own strategy as our libraries continue to grow? And how is management of cloud storage handled when we hit the file limit (I'm not too far off)?
    Hellking
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Stuff uploading all that, especially considering it hasn't hit Australia yet. I use Audiogalaxy. That way I can access ALL of my 32480 (2100hrs approx.)songs on any of my mobile equipment and/or a friends computer.
    Warinpiece
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    iTunes Match is only 25 bucks a year and offers 25,000 songs, although it has no web brower music feature.

    Spotify is my main source of music but I too use Google Music (I'm not paying for two services). I rarely use it but it's nice to know, if I'm ever on a computer that's not got Spotify installed, I can listen to my music.

    If it's something I've not added (increasingly common since using Spotify) I can go to Grooveshark.

    It would be nice if you could download the music you've uploaded. That way you could also use it as a backup service. They're already storing your songs anyway.

    p.s - It's spelt cannot :-).
    bradavon
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review) hell no it is unsafe you want to have some one steal your info go but me no no noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    ttx19
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Google Music is a bit of a novelty to me as I have my whole music collection on my Mac in iTunes and on my SD card for my HTC Incredible. But I thought I'd give it a try. I was disappointed, but not completely surprised, that they chose MP3 as the purchase format. What did surprise me though was that they transcode AAC files that you upload to MP3 format. I don't like that. Most of my collection is AAC.
    scottwsx96
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    "I???ve been using Google Music since it was in beta"

    is anything with Google not a beta, I mean they leave the beta marker on anything just so they dont have to polish it and finish it (btw i am using chrome).
    dave@...
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    13,000 plus songs in your library, Stephen? Doc thinks you need a pretty big cloud and maybe to refine your tastes a little bit to get that number down to a more manageable figure. Me, I have a total of 10 songs in my library and that would be all of the ones on Bruce Springsteen???s Darkness on the Edge of Town album. I mean really, what more music do you need than that? So all the more reason I need to access my song collection from many devices ??? going without Bruce for even a few minutes gets me seriously down. Thanks for the update on Google Music. I think I???ll give it a try the next time I???m hiding on the backstreets on my way to Candy???s room out ???neath Abram???s Bridge while searching for the promised land in my 69 chevy with a 396, fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor.

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/doc
    DocuMentor (Doc)
  • RE: Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

    Nice overview. When you say the storage is limited "per song", does this mean per file? I guess music files using cue files aren't supported then!
    Dan Gravell