Nearly four weeks ago, I signed up for Google Music Unlimited to give it a try. I was about to start a new website project, so there was no better time to test out a music streaming service than now. Reading about Google Music from their signup page makes it sound great compared to Pandora. You are able to seek through songs, perform as many skips as you would like, and you can even play any song you want. It’s pretty much like having an unlimited music library.
With all websites and services, appearances matter, not only to make it pleasing to look at and navigate, but also to show you information you will want to know about. Google Music does a relatively well job at this. Without much time fiddling around with their website, I was able to create radio stations, make custom playlists and listen to whatever music my heart desired.
There are some annoyances with their design though. For instance, your music queue takes up nearly the entire page when it’s opened. Closing it is simple enough, but they could of made the music queue into a fixed sidebar instead of an inline popup that takes up the entire page. Google Music also has an area at the top of the page where it shows a few categories to generate radio stations depending on the day, such as “It’s the weekend, play music for Parties / Friends / etc”, this is a nice feature but there is no way to see all the categories. I work a lot at night and like listening to the random “Work” stations, but those only appear during the day.
Once the appearance grows old, you now have to focus on if Google Music is actually a well made service and if the features it provides are worth the $9.99/month price point. That is more than a Netflix subscription. But with Netflix you can’t download movies to watch offline. Google Music has a really neat feature that allows you to create Playlists and then download the playlist’s songs to your phone or tablet to listen to when you’re not online. You are unable to download them to your computer though. The downloaded songs are only able to play through the Google Music app since they are encrypted to prevent piracy. This is perfectly fine with me though and I actually really enjoyed this feature. Having to no longer be limited to my small music library and my lack of a phone data plan is fantastic.
Other than the downloading feature, Google Music has a few other features that are nice. With the Ultimate plan, you are able to upload 50,000 of your own songs to Google Music which you can download to your phone for offline use or you can stream them along with Google’s really large music collection. This is a feature I quickly tested by uploading 20 songs to see how it works. Google uses the already existent ID3 meta tags in mp3s for the song information. If some information is missing though, Google will try to figure out the correct information and add it. Even if the uploaded music has zero information linked with it, Google will try to figure out the song title, artist and album. I decided to test Google and upload a few songs without any information. Google had trouble getting the correct information of some techno songs I uploaded, but was accurate with popular pop songs.
A few last things Google Music offers is, ad free music videos on YouTube, this applies to a lot of channels, not just vevo channels. Remember that normal videos will still have advertisements though. You can also listen to any song on Google Music that you want, unlike Pandora where it just creates a new station with that song as a seed. Also Google has a really large music collection. Every single song I searched for, spanning many different genres, I could find and listen to.
With all the praise, you may think I like Google Music, and that is where you are somewhat wrong. Google Music is a fine service, but not if you want to listen to random stations while working. When you click on the “I’m Feeling Lucky” generator for a new radio station, the same stations will keep appearing with the same songs in the same exact order. I don’t understand how Google generates these random stations, because even if I dislike and like various songs in the playlist, the exact same stations keep getting generated and will not vary to match my taste in music.
That’s just one issue I have with Google Music, another is that stations can only be generated using a single seed, for instance a single artist or song. If I want to listen to metal and techno at the same time, I can’t unless I feel like making a playlist and actively searching for songs I wish to listen to. I might be too accustomed to Pandora, but I would think a lot of people would like to listen to more than one genre at a time, or at least have a few favorite artists they wish to generate a station for.
And finally, to get really nit picky about Google Music. The Google Chrome browser extension for their service doesn’t have any volume control. To change the volume, you either have to change your computer wide volume or you need to open up your web browser, navigate to their site and then change the volume. Literally the only option you need for listening to music is omitted in their browser extension. Also in the browser extension, you can’t rate previously played songs unless you click the previous button and start playing the last song and then rate it. Lastly, the price point of $9.99/mo seems a little high for a music service.
If I didn’t plan on writing this post, I would of stopped using Google Music after the first few days. I had to endure listening to the same 60 songs from “random” stations for a whole month. People who enjoy making playlists and listening to albums would probably enjoy Google Music, but personally I prefer listening to random songs and Google Music doesn’t do well in that aspect.
If you would like to try Google Music risk free, there is a free one month trial you can get, but you are required to enter your credit card information.