Another week, another new streaming music service. Yesterday Google launched the not-so-catchily-titled Google Play Music All Access, a subscription service that basically extends Google’s existing music service to create a Spotify/Rdio-style magic jukebox, and also includes a Pandora-style, algorithm-based radio station. Like Spotify and Rdio (but unlike most of Google’s other services), it costs money — it’s $9.99 a month, or $7.99 if you start a trial before the end of June, and there’s no free option. So, is it worth it?
If you use an iPhone or other iOS device for your streaming needs — or a Windows phone, for that matter — the answer is immediately “no.” Google Play Music All Access (which will henceforth be referred to as “Google Music” for the sake of everyone’s sanity) is Android- and desktop-only. It’s clear that Google wants to push its own platform, but this seems like a curious decision — it’s not like anyone will be switching platforms just to use Google Music, so they seem to be locking themselves out of a decent portion of their potential market, and putting themselves at an immediate disadvantage to their platform-independent competitors.
Also, if you’re reading this from outside the US, you’re also shit out of luck — the service is currently US-only, with no word on when (or if) it might be launching elsewhere. This is par for the course, sadly, and it’s likely that the record labels are to blame, being as they’re apparently not minded (or perhaps not able) to negotiate on a worldwide basis. Whatever the case, the world beyond these shores is left out in the cold again, although if you’re desperate you could probably get it working via a VPN.
But OK, let’s say you’re in the US and have an Android Phone, and you’re wondering whether this new service might be a better option than your existing subscription to Spotify or Rdio. In that case, the answer might be “yes.” The existing Google Music service allowed you to upload up to 20,000 songs to Google’s server and then stream them anywhere, and that option remains, meaning that you can to some extent mitigate one of the problems with streaming services in general: that they’re fine for finding well-known songs, but not so good for tracking down the obscurities that might be lurking in your library. If you have a smallish library, 20,000 songs may well be enough to integrate the whole thing into the subscription service; if not, you can use this functionality to upload the songs that aren’t in Google’s catalog. It’s a pretty nifty feature.
Beyond that, it doesn’t appear that there’s a great deal to differentiate Google Music from Spotify or Rdio — it’s certainly comparable to those two services, neither significantly better nor significantly worse. Exactly how many songs you get access to with Google Music’s catalog is unclear — the site itself promises “millions” of songs, but doesn’t specify how many millions that might be. It was reported recently that Google had signed deals with Universal, Sony, and Warner Music, which account for about 79% of the US music market; what, if anything, they have beyond those deals is uncertain.
The good news is that you can get a 30-day free trial (although you have to sign up with a credit card to do so), so you can decide for yourself — it may well come down to simple things like UI preference, the two-dollar-a-month savings if you sign up before June 30, the possibility that you’re already well-invested in Google’s ecosystem, or whatever else. So readers, tell us: will you be using Google Music?