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.

Miles Davis related radio stations on Google Music

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.

When I’m suffering travel frazzle in a hotel room, I put on Ferron or Jordi Savall, and know sleep is just around the corner.

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.


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From: Shrutarshi Basu (Aug 02 2015, at 17:01)

I was wondering if you have a non-iTunes solution for playing music from the desktop? I have a pretty big "owned" music collection too and would like to keep it organized. I'm not ready to have Google Music scan and upload my music just yet and I use Spotify for streaming, so I'd like to have a solid desktop alternative.


From: Fernando Pereira (Aug 02 2015, at 17:31)

For a long while, I was using free Google Music, and then its All Access paid option, to manage my music collection, and discover new related music. But as I switched to locally-stored lossless both for the living room and the home office, I've not used it much recently. Lossless digital recordings played through high quality DACs and analog gear become addictive. At home, I stream lossless from a NAS, when I travel I carry a lossless DAP (iBasso DX90) and good headphones. I don't listen to music at work, but if I did I'd use portable storage (the 200GB microSD card on my DX90 can carry a lot of music), a good DAC and headphone preamp (Schiit Audio makes great, inexpensive gear) and good closed back headphones. Messing around with cloud storage for lossless still feels like too much trouble.


From: Doug K (Aug 03 2015, at 10:12)

I tried the free trial month, but cancelled before the month was up. I don't own a lot of Greek music, and was looking for a playlist. The auto-generated one was fairly terrible, including Romani and Turkish music, which would not have been welcome at a Greek party. To be fair, Pandora didn't even know how to find Greek music. Then tried to create a playlist, but was unable to decipher the UI. At that point GM had my CC number, and I couldn't tell if I was buying music or just adding it to the playlist..

Then chalked it up to yet another brave attempt to build a software music interface that isn't confusing and opaque, which never does quite what you expect or want: and went back to manual organization.


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