I use iTunes at home, and otherwise Google Play music, which really isn’t terrible. Since the Net is echoing with screams about Apple’s cloud-music problems, now might be a good time for a few words on the subject.
But first, I should say that GMusic is probably only interesting if you’re the kind of person who buys music sometimes; there are loads of options for people who’ve migrated to an all-streaming life, and I have no idea if Google’s is competitive.
“Buy music” you say?! · I strongly approve of it. First, more money goes to the artist. Second, there are times when I really want to hear that particular non-mainstream track from ’99 or ’77 or ’55, or all the tracks on that non-mainstream album. Third, when you buy music you get all the bits; I’ve explained at length elsewhere about why I think avoiding compression is a good idea.
How it works · I buy music on vinyl, on CD, and (when I can get it uncompressed) via data download. I load it into iTunes, which I hate but can (usually) make do what I want, in Apple lossless encoding. I have a big beautiful high-end audio system at home that, when I’m not listening to vinyl, I drive with iTunes.
I have 11½ or so thousand songs, last time I checked.
GMusic has this thingie where it auto-magically scans your iTunes folders and uploads all the music into the cloud. So what’s up there keeps in sync automatically with what’s on the big music box.
There are mobile apps — the Android one is decent, dunno about iOS — and an OK Web interface too.
You can play an album, or do a search and play the results, or make a playlist and drop songs or albums onto it. Unfortunately, there are no search-based “Smart Playlists”.
There are also a kazillion radio-stream thingies, one or more for every artist you can think of, which cleverly combine tracks you have with others that you don’t from the cloud.
Here are some Miles-Davis-related stations. The music on these isn’t all Miles, but includes other tracks that GMusic thinks are related. It’s usually right: You get Chet Baker, Herbie Hancock, Coltrane, and so on.
Case studies · When I’m working in my office at Amazon, I like to have soft music pulsing to combat the cubicle buzz outside, and it seems to help me think. I’ve used those Miles stations, Arvo Pärt radio, J.S. Bach radio, and old-school-Dub radio, all to good effect.
When I’m driving back and forth to Seattle, I want high energy and alertness, so instead of radio I usually put on “shuffle everything”. Somehow this seems to include Google-provided music I don’t own, so you get a lot of surprises: I Will Follow You Into the Dark followed by Free Bird followed by a Stokowski Bach transcription.
It’s not perfect. To start with, it’s not a backup service. There are sometimes ads (which you can make go away with the paid version, something I keep meaning to check out). But mostly it Just Works, no surprises.