Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review of Google Music

I was one of those people who jumped on the Google Music bandwagon as soon as it came out in beta. Now that I've been using it for a few months I thought I would post a review of it for others who may be interested.

Google Music is amazing. I love it so far. I have completely switched away from Apple iTunes and have no regrets. My switch was forced upon me, though, because my MacBook Pro died on me and so I had to think about whether to buy a new Apple product or to switch to a Chromebook. I made the choice to flip over to Chromebook (which I will review separately) and then decided to go whole-hog into the world of Google. I was already using many other Google services, so iTunes was a sore thumb sticking out from a mess of Google stuff.

Here is what is great and beautiful about Google Music:

  • Excellent integration with my Android phone (Motorola Droid Bionic). The user interface is so easy to use, so intuitive. It takes the old iPod interface up a level. If you have an Android phone, I strongly suggest you get rid of iTunes and switch to either Google Music or Amazon Music.
  • Very easy to buy music on the Website (no desktop app needed)
  • Being cloud-centric. I am so happy that Google Music sits in the cloud. It is so cool to buy a song but not have to download it anywhere. Certainly my Chromebook would not know what to do with an mp3 file, but, amazingly, downloads to my phone are also unnecessary. Songs stream instantly to my phone, thanks to 4G networking. Also, I can mark a certain playlist as "available offline" and Google takes care of the rest behind the scenes. Cloud support as an add-on or a clumsy syncing activity like iCloud is so retro compared to this.

  • Here are some things I don't like about the beta:

  • The store is still missing a lot of music. Universal Music Group hasn't signed on yet, plus many of the independent artists have not uploaded their songs here yet, they are assuming that iTunes is all they need.
  • The search is actually kinda sucky. C'mon Google, search is your thing! Certainly, if you put in an artist name or song name it will come up, but it seems treat the clutter the same as the real thing. For instance, you'll see a bunch of karaoke and K-tel-type remakes of your song and then the actual original song will be somewhere among the mess. And, of course, since Google doesn't have every popular artist, lots of searches end up with nothing but karaoke and K-tel.
  • Shopping for music on Android is terrible. When you click "Shop for this artist" you'd think you would go to Google Music, right? You don't. You go to Google Shopping, which gives you the 24 online sites that have music by that artist. Whaaa?
  • There is no choice of where to store your "available offline" songs. You should be able to put them on an SD card, but I'm only able to store them in my limited phone memory. Apparently, some Android users have the opposite problem, only able to store songs on SD but can't switch to internal memory.
  • Since Google's music store doesn't have all the music I want, I often go to Amazon's amazing music store and pick it out there. Transferring the music from Amazon's cloud to Google's cloud is a true pain in the ass. Google's music uploader does not work on Chromebook (Ugh!!) so I have to use my wife's Mac Pro to get the whole job done.
  • Now, people like Leo Laporte are saying Google Music is too little, too late. Why would someone want to "own" music when they could use streaming services like Pandora or Spotify? he asks.

    Sorry, Leo, but I ain't buying it. If you are a person who puts on music just to have noise going, then I'm sure streaming services are fine. But I am a more serious listener. I don't like to hear the same song twice in one week. I like independent artists, which are not well-represented on streaming services. I love mashups, which are totally missing from all streaming. I'm just very fussy about my music. I am a paying customer of Pandora and do listen occasionally, but it could not be my primary source of music. I like to have music that I own, I just don't want it to be on my machines (still smarting from my MacBook Pro crash...yes, it was backed Google Music and Amazon Music coincidentally).

    As a sidenote, I've found a wonderful music discovery streaming service called EarBits. They have a lot of independent artists and they randomly stream them on various genre channels. Most wonderfully, they have some curated channels like "Scott's Chick Singer Channel" which are excellent. The whole service is free (for now, I guess) with no ads whatsoever. I don't know how they make money.

    The biggest thing I like about Google Music is that I feel like I'm using the next generation of music playback. Never worrying about downloads, syncing, duplicate copies of songs (iTunes was horrendous for this), and hard drive crashes.

    My prediction is that consumers flock away from iTunes in the coming years and half of them move to streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, while the other half move to music systems like Amazon Music and Google Music (which are almost identical, by the way). "Managing your music" can and should be something we don't have to worry about anymore. These new services make it possible, friendly and even fun to listen to your music again.