Friday, 24 June 2011

Google Music Beta - You're Invited!

So I woke up the other morning to a very nice surprise.  I'd been invited to participate in the Google Music Beta program.  I've been excited about Google Music Beta since the rumours started, so naturally I leapt to the 'Get Started' button.
The whole process of signing up is painless.  All I had to do was agree to the Ts & Cs, download Googles Music Manager software, and I was away.

The Music Manager software was equally painless - after entering my account details, and notifying it as to my choice of music playing software (iTunes) it scanned my library, detected all my music and began the upload process.  Thrilled, I gave it a few days before I'd be listening to my entire library, everywhere I went with no care in the world.  And three days later, I'm still waiting to be thrilled.

As you can see, I have a fairly staggering amount of music in my library.  This is a significant cut from the ~19,000 songs I had once upon a time, but it is still not an insignificant amount of music.  So, I guess it's somewhat my fault, but after three days of near constant uploading 3,287 songs have been uploaded.  This amounts to about 20% of my collection. My upload rate is about 200kbytes/s peak, which means that over three days I have had the potential to upload 51gb of music.

Instead, it has managed a measly 3,287 songs, which I work out to be roughly 21.4gb.  Additionally, it can be no coincedence that my computer has slowed down massively ever since I started the upload process.  The real worry is that I'm moving away from this house soon, to a house that has a pathetic 50kb/s upload (last I checked) so if my music isn't uploaded before Sunday, then I could be waiting an extraordinarily long time. 

One idea that occurred to me whilst thinking about how they could make the upload process a bit more painless is prioritising.  It's fairly easy to tell what most iTunes users favourite music is, using the play count metric.  It think it would be a fairly easy algorithm for Google to incorporate so that it initially prioritises music by its popularity.  That way, I could already be listening to my Warpaint and Sister Crayon, not passing the time with music I don't even remember adding to my library. 

Of course, this is merely a growing pain.  I undoubtedly have an overly large library, and once this has finished I will forget the whole uploading saga in a few weeks, and the sync process should be painless when I'm only adding an album.  Also, aside from this upload debacle, there's a lot I like about the whole software.

First: Once I'd found an APK for the Music android software (the work of a minute), it turned out to work very nicely indeed.  The only issue was, I had to enable 'Auto-Sync' which is no big deal.  The ability to access my entire library will be a godsend when I'm at home.  I plug my phone into my hi-fi, and use that to listen to music, so to be able to access 90gb of music as opposed to the usual 8gb will be heavenly.

Second: It is wonderful to know that my music is now (will soon be) backed up.  Hard Disks are notoriously volatile and there's a lot of music that's taken some time to track down.  Knowing it's stored on Google's nice servers, probably backed up is great peace of mind for me.  And additionally, Google are giving me 91gb of space free!  I get the impression that they are looking at charging for this service down the road, but right now I am paying with nothing except feedback.
Just as a reference, Dropbox would charge me $20 a month for 100gb of space. 

Third: I am now be able to access my music from anywhere!  No need to pray that someone has uploaded that rare Foals B-side when I want to show a friend away from home.  Just load up the browser, go to Google and hit play.  Or when I'm on holiday, or doing some office work, I now have full access to my library. 

The web interface is very nice and clean, sound quality seems to be identical to iTunes and there is very little lag.  There's no gap between the songs, and you can navigate around the site while songs play.  The only criticism is that the customisation options are non-existant.  There's no ability to EQ, no ability to alter the crossfade, and no nice little luxuries like visualiser.  All this may be forthcoming, but right now it's missing, although it doesn't really ruin the experience too much. 

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the Google Music Beta experience.  It has a lot of the features that I was hoping for, seems to make no bones about the source of your music (a worry for the iTunes cloud) and currently sits at my favourite price.  Now, I just need to wait for my music to finish uploading!

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