In this post we take a look at Google Music, the Internet giant’s cloud music service recently rolled out here in the UK. Nexus tablet owners will already be familiar with the app, it is the stock music player reinstalled with Android 4.2. But the chances are you aren’t making the most of the services on offer yet.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about Google Music, how to get the most out of the services and tips on getting setup.
What is Google Music?
The Google Play music offering is a great way to access music on your Nexus 7 or Nexus 10 tablet (or any other compatible device!). To get going you will need a Google account, but this won’t be a problem for anyone already setup on their Android tablet.
Google Music offers up several services:
- Upload and store your personal music collection online
- Purchase music through the Play store.
- Music playing app to play local media
We’ll take a look at these in more detail.
How to Upload music to Google Play
When using the Google music app on your tablet you can store files directly on its drive, but really you want to take advantage of the Cloud service that allows you to store all of your music files remotely on Google’s servers.
By doing this your entire music collection becomes accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Uploading to the Cloud
Uploading to the Google cloud is free and easy to do from a PC or Mac. First of all you need to download the music manager program to your computer.
You can download the manager app from Google here.
Once installed you need to tell the application where your music is stored, on a Windows machine this is typically the “My Music” folder, but you may have set this up differently. I would strongly recommend checking what’s in your folder before hitting upload, it’s not easy to clean things up in Google Music Manager at a later time.
When uploading you need to note the following:
- You can only upload the following file types: MP3s, WMA (on Windows), M4A, FLAC, OGG
- M4A, FLAC and OGG files will be transcoded to 320kb MP3 files
- Google will attempt to match your tracks to songs in their catalog. In these cases the files won’t be uploaded but you will be able to stream their copy (MP3 320kb). It is possible to get incorrect matches, but this can be fixed within the music manager web app.
You are limited to uploading 20,000 tracks of your own, which is great for a free service. Both the Amazon and Apple competing services offer more space, but neither is free.
There is currently no way to expand your song limit on Google Music but really 20,000 should be enough for most people’s (legal) collections. I have purchased just under 400 albums in my life time and they take up less than half the limit. Should I breach the allowance at some point then I don’t think it will be too difficult to clear out a load that I know longer listen to!
It seems likely that Google will expand this allowance or provide the option to buy more space at some point.
Get your Meta data in order
I would definitely advise getting your meta data in order before uploading, this is the information stored with each file that tells Google the artist name, song title and album. There are a number of tools that will help you fill in the blanks (such as Jaikoz). I then used iTunes to download missing album art, whilst I’m not a big fan of the iTunes software it is actually good at getting the right album info.
Some of my albums were strangely split into two after uploading. I’m not sure what caused that but refreshing the meta data and uploading again seemed to sort the problem out.
How to delete from Google Music
After completing my upload I actually decided that it would make sense to only keep my core albums up in the Google cloud, I didn’t really want my collection of misc single track purchases and freebies polluting my new catalog. Removing these tracks proved a pain to clear out of Google Music manager – but it is possible.
In the end I found the easiest way to delete music was to view by song, do a multiple selection (you can hold down shift or control as normal) , right click the delete.
I ended up removing large chunks at a time and then uploading again. This actually caused a problem with Music Manager not really recognising that it needed to upload the tracks again, but I was able to trigger an upload by moving the album into a new folder.
Deleted music can be recovered by clicking the Settings Icon (top right) and selecting “Music Bin”. Note that there does appear to be a limit to how many tracks are stored here, and it is cleared out over time.
I am not aware of what Google’s terms and conditions have to say about using multiple Google accounts, but the Android Music app does allow you to effortlessly switch between accounts. I don’t have enough music to need a second account but perhaps this is a way round the 20,000 song limit?
There is a restriction when it comes to uploading music, the documentation states: “At this time, only two Google accounts per computer can be used to add music with the Google Play Music Manager”. This suggests to me that you would need to upload from multiple computers to use more than two accounts.
Uploading to your Nexus Tablet
If you don’t have a 3G Nexus 7 then you’ll need to store music directly on the tablet’s drive if you want to listen to it offline.
There are several ways to load music onto your tablet:
- Import through the files system. This is probably the easiest way to bulk load music directly to your device’s storage drive. Just plug it into your PC via the supplied micro USB cable and your computer should recognise it as a detachable storage device. You can then just drag an drop MP3 files from your music folder onto your Nexus. There are also apps, such as Airdroid, that will allow you to do this wirelessly.
- Via Google Play. If you have loaded your music up into the cloud you have the ability to “pin” tracks to your device. This works just the same as in the other Google Play apps, you might have already “pinned” a movie or magazine to your tablet. Look for the pin icon, press it. Job done! To release the space used by the music files just unpin it again.
The Pin button:
You’ll also find that recently listened to tracks are cached on your device, so these will be available for offline listening. I find this very useful as it means that the albums I’m listening to at the moment are just there and ready to listen to without having to plan ahead.
How to Play Music
There are two ways to access your music, let’s take a look at them both.
Nexus owners will have the app pre-installed on their tablets (or phones) but it is also easy to get hold of via the Play store. You are allowed to register up to ten devices to your Play Music account but once you hit the limit a device can be de-authorised. You are then limited to adding only four new ones per year.
The app offers up the usual functionality from playlists to swiping through the album art to pick out your tunes. A neat feature is the ability to auto generate play lists by feeding in one song, Google’s algorithms will then search through your music for similar tunes. I have found this a great way to explore my back catalog, it allows you to listen to songs that suit your mood rather than a total random playlist.
Streaming music over a 3G connection will eat heavily into your data usage allowance, so remember to download your tunes for listening to on the move. Fortunately it is easy to switch between songs stored on the device and songs stored in the cloud. The stream quality will automatically adjust depending on the quality of your connection (up to a max of 320kbps).
You can also access your music through a web browser, such as Chrome. You just have to navigate to the Google music page, browse for your tunes, and hit Play.
The browser version offers you a few extra features, you’ll need to use this to administer your account for example. But otherwise the functionality on offer is very standard. Just remember not to close your browser window whilst listening else your tunes will come to a very abrupt end!
Can you use Google Music on an iPod or iPad?
There is no official iOS app, although there are some 3rd party ones like this. You can also access Google Music through Safari on an iPod / iPad. Although to be honest if you’re big into your Google services you should just go and buy a Nexus tablet!
Buying Music On Google Play
The Play store offers a massive range of music and although it doesn’t match the selection offered by iTunes just yet it did seem to have everything I’ve ever looked for I have to admit that it isn’t quite as easy to browse as the Amazon MP3 store, I find it harder to explore new artists although a 90 second preview option is helpful. But if you know what you are looking for or want to pluck something out of the top 10 then it’s easy enough. Prices seem a little higher than on Amazon.
Once purchased your music will be available in Google Music for you to listen too. Music purchased through the Play store like this does not count towards your 20,000 song limit.
Purchased music can easily be downloaded, you are only allowed two downloads from the web client however you can do as many as you like through the Music Manager app. I can only imagine this limitation relates to licensing agreements and content control.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the free song of the day, whilst it might not always match your taste, you can’t argue with the price!
One word of warning, if you delete purchased music from your cloud area, it really is deleted. It’s not like the app store where you can just “re-install” again and again. I learnt this the hard way, fortunately I had only purchased one £3.99 album but it’s enough to make me want to stick to Amazon for purchases and Google for listening. By keeping them separated I won’t make that mistake again. The obvious solution to this is simply to download and backup your purchases as soon as you make them, oh well you live and learn!
Curiously, when I went to re-purchase the album I lost it was already marked as purchased, so I don’t even have the option to buy it again!
I just wanted to finish by saying that I really recommend giving Google Music a go, it’s a great concept and coupled with a top notch Nexus tablet with wireless Bluetooth streaming you may well find it becomes your future music hub. This is one of those technologies that comes along that makes me think “how did I ever live without it?”
There are alternatives to Google’s service, Amazon’s Cloud Player is the main one to look at, however the Android app is no where near the standard of Google’s and it’s not free. That said, once you do sign up the storage limit is much higher.
How have you been listening to music on your tablet?