A month or so back, Google announced its new plan to take over the world: Google Music. No one was really sure what it did, but it was made by Google and it had something to do with music, so it had to be good right? Oh, and there was something in there about syncing your Android devices…whatever that means.
Just like when Google said “hey, we’re going to give a whole bunch of people some of our brand-spanking-new ChromeOS tablets that haven’t actually been built yet,” or when they said “hey, we’ve got this new technology called Wave…we’re not really sure what it does, but we want you to test it for us,” I put my email address in the box to sign up for the beta. Last week, I got my invite.
Here’s what Google Music (presumably) does:
You upload your music to the server (up to 20,000 files for free). Once there, you can access, stream, and play it from pretty much anywhere. The application is web-based, so it’s not platform specific (except for the Music Manager tool which runs on your desktop computer and handles the uploading part). The interface is sparse bordering on unfinished. The features are limited. It’s sort of like a simplified iTunes if iTunes was what it was circa version 1 or so. To be honest, I’ve barely used it, and this is why.
The first problem I had was that I couldn’t sign into the Music Manager application. It said it didn’t like my password and locked me out. I decided that this was most likely because my Google Apps password for my email address was different than the password I used for the same email address that I used for my Google identity everywhere else. However, knowing this didn’t fix the problem. Eventually, I found a bit of a hack/workaround by using my YouTube screenname (jazzs3quence) and the same password I use for my regular Google identity (which is also used by YouTube). This worked and it turned my YouTube screen name into a Gmail address ([email protected]) — an interesting trick. A couple days after I figured this out, I got a response to my reported issue to Google saying that it was because my Google Apps account hadn’t migrated over to the new version yet. I more or less ignored this piece of useless information since I had already managed to get it working.
The second problem may only be a problem for me, which is the 20,000 file upload limit. Presumably when this thing launches, you’ll be able to upload more for a fee. I have between 30-40,000 music files, so 20k doesn’t really cut it. The Music Manager program far from lives up to its name, not really providing a place to manage your music — it does what pretty much every other program of its ilk does, which is let you specify where your music files are stored (or import via your iTunes playlist). However, if I’m limited to 20k, I’d like to be able to pick what gets uploaded and what doesn’t — the Music Manager doesn’t really offer a good way of doing this other than drilling down your directory tree and individually adding each folder. Since I let iTunes handle my files, that means I have a separate folder for every artist (as well as artists iTunes doesn’t have a clue about and dumps in Unknown Artist). Doing that for the equivalent of 20,000 files would be a glorious waste of time. Once uploaded, you can delete songs, albums, and presumably entire artists from the Google Music interface, but I’m unconvinced that doing so would have any influence over whether that artist got uploaded again after it scanned your collection again and realized you had music by them. Say I don’t plan on listening to Dizzy Gillespie on the Android device that I don’t actually own, if I delete Dizzy from Google Music, how do I know that Dizzy won’t get uploaded again before, say, Trent Reznor since it exists alphabetically sooner? The only real way to be sure would be to exclude the Dizzy Gillespie folder, which, as I’ve pointed out, isn’t very manageable with a huge number of artists.
The biggest issue for me, though, came as I was trying to do work. The Music Manager was chugging along in the background, up to 10,000-something of 30,000-something files, I was listening to iTunes (not Google Music) and trying to code. I say trying because even though the Notepad++ application I use for coding is tiny, it was straining to do anything. Alt+TABbing forced me to wait several minutes, and I was increasingly getting the Windows 7 gray screen of death on various windows. When I finally manged to pull up Task Manager, I found the culprit: Music Manager was sucking up over 90% of my CPU resources. This is essentially like the midget flame-eater telling the ring leader to step aside, he can take the show from here — screw the clowns. Once I killed that process, my computer happily went along doing its normal business as if nothing had happened. It even seemed to flip through windows perkily, like I’d finally been able to find that irritating itch that had been bugging it. Granted uploading 10,000+ files is fairly excessive, and granted that uploading files at all can be fairly resource-intensive, why a program designed to run in the background can be allowed to use that much of my system resources is astounding. I started wondering if maybe I had downloaded a virus — instead, the only virus I downloaded was Google Music.
The only positive thing I can say about Google Music is that, after picking your favorite genres from a ridiculously-simplified list of possibilities (for a musicophile like me, anyway) is that Google Music will come pre-loaded with some selections from those selected genres. However, for the reasons mentioned above (namely having more than 20k files to start with), this really isn’t that helpful, especially considering the inclusion of artists like Cab Calloway (in the Jazz category) and C-40 (in the Hip Hop & Rap category) whom I have little-to-no interest in whatsoever. (Also included in Rap was Kriss Kross which could be considered a keeper if only for novelty value.) Meanwhile, checking on my Music Manager informed me that it had made its way to my collection of downloaded audiobooks, which I have absolutely zero interest in actually having on the site when every file counts.
Considering I don’t have an Android device, Google Music has nothing to offer me. Even if I did, the platform is unappealing and without any features that I would consider essential. Moreover, there’s nothing that Google Music is doing that couldn’t be done for at least five years or so with a little open source web app I discovered called Ampache, which you could use — with some configuring — to turn your desktop computer into a web server and stream your entire music collection to any device (assuming it could handle Flash, Shoutcast streams, or playlist files). And since the debut of Ampache (which I discovered sometime around 2005 and it had been in development for several years before that), other things have cropped up that allow you to stream your music (or other files) to various devices like Wiisic, Orb, and dot.tunes, which take care of the server side of things to make it even easier to set up.
So, sorry Google, maybe you’re winning someone over, but I’m unimpressed. Now get your stupid Music Manager the hell off my system and stop sucking up my processor power. Thanks.