googleplay.jpgIf you were to have asked me a week ago what “Google” means to me, I would have said that it serves one purpose and one purpose only – to satisfy my insatiable need for information and celebrity gossip day and night. As for the rest of Google’s suite of products, I could have done without. Google Docs? Not a fan. Gmail? I never use it. But then Google Play Music was brought to my attention and I have to admit, my singular attitude towards Google changed. Will I embrace Google Docs tomorrow and forward all my email to my Gmail account? Likely not. But as far as music is concerned, in seven short days I have become a giant fan of Google Play Music. Why is it so great? Well … let me tell you!

Embracing Change

Before I dive into why I’ve become such a fan of Google Play Music in such a short amount of time, I feel it’s necessary to address my fellow Mac fans out there. I get it. There are Mac people and there are PC people. Similarly there are iOS people and Android people (sorry Blackberry) and rarely do the two collide. So, when I was asked to look into Google Play Music, I may have flared my nostrils, raised an eyebrow, and given a derisive snort to my inbox. I had two thoughts. First: “I have iTunes, how’s this even going to compare?” And second: “How the <bleep> is this going to work on my Mac?” A little naïve? You bet your boots. But when I heard “Google” I automatically thought “Android” and to me, that meant, “not compatible with my gadgets.”

Shock & Awe

So, to mitigate any of the many potential catastrophes I had imagined in my Mac-centric mind, I opted to “install” Google Play Music on my PC at my day job. I figured if something went wrong, I could call on our IT people. But within seconds, I became that office weirdo who talks to herself and is genuinely surprised at everything that is emanating from her computer monitor.

googleplay-genres.jpgAs it turns out, “installing” Google Play Music took no more than 12 seconds and required no installation at all. That’s because it’s a music streaming service and online music locker, not a program. So all you do is visit the Google Play Music website, and if you have a Google account, you simply sign in. Boom. You’re set. Once again, I know I was naïve here folks, so don’t judge. If you don’t have a Google account, you take the few seconds needed to create one – plus an hour to find a user name that is unique – and then you’re ready to roll. You’re then prompted to select the genres of music you prefer, and after that, are asked to choose some artists within those genres. From that, Google customizes your Google Play Music interface.

googleplay-interface.jpgJaw-Dropping Feature #1

The first thing that struck me was Google Play Music’s interface. With four main sections to navigate, it would be pretty difficult to get lost, but more than that, the first thing you see on your landing page is: “It’s [day of the week]. Play music for …” Um, what? This was unexpected. I use the Songza music-streaming app every day to stream pre-made play lists to my iPhone and computers based on the time of day, my mood, and what I’m doing. Well, Google Play Music has that same functionality so if it’s a Wednesday night and you’re in the mood for “Cutting Loose” they have a play list for that. If it’s Monday and you’re at the gym, there’s a playlist for that too. The best part though, is that you can skip as many songs in a playlist as you want without being warned that you’ve “hit your maximum” as is the case with Songza. And for someone who can only stand so many Drake songs in a row, this is a fantastic feature.

Jaw-Dropping Feature #2

The music is free. Free! Well, to access Google Play Music’s 30-million strong library, there is a small monthly fee, but that fee is less than a price of a full album on iTunes. So, it’s almost free. In the span of a few minutes, I searched for a handful of my favourite artists, clicked on their latest albums and saved them to my library. For a set monthly fee, that music is mine to stream and enjoy whenever, wherever, and as often as I want.

Jaw-Dropping Feature #3googleplay-recommended.jpg

Based on the few artists I searched for, and added to my library, Google Play Music recommends similar artists that I might enjoy. Some were awesome, some I had never heard of but will definitely check out, and a handful were way off the mark, but I’m sure that the more a person uses the app, the more insightful it becomes.

Jaw-Dropping Feature #4

If you like a particular artist, say Maroon 5 and it’s ridiculously gorgeous front-man Adam Levine (my future husband), you can click on that artist and the app will create a “radio station” with songs that are all of a similar genre and tone. I did that this afternoon and to be honest, spent about three hours chair dancing in my office. Even cooler, the more you listen to your music, the more customized that “radio station” will become. You can also build your own playlists, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.

Jaw-Dropping Feature #5

Even though I was impressed right off the bat, to me, this was one of Google Play Music’s best features – you can upload up to 50,000 of your own songs, including all those in your iTunes library, to the app. That’s right, Android and iOS colliding. As someone with about 15,000 songs in her iTunes catalog, this is awesome. With Google Play Music, I can listen to all my existing tunes, stream additional music, and discover new bands all through one interface. Win.

Google-Chromecast.jpgJaw-Dropping Feature #6

With Google Play Music, your entire music library is instantly available from all of your devices – smartphone, tablet, PC, Mac. To test this, I added a few albums to my playlist from my work PC, the logged onto the app on my iPhone on the bus ride home. There they were. I then opened the URL on my Mac after dinner, and the artists I added on the bus were there to be heard.

You can even step things up a notch and stream your Google Play Music library to your TV via Chromecast. If you’re not familiar with Chromecast, it’s essentially a thumb drive that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV allowing you to stream all sorts of media to your big screen. It’s kinda like a streamlined Apple TV. So when you’re grooving to Maroon 5’s new song Sugar and you just need a little more substance than your laptop can deliver, you can stream to your TV’s awesome speakers and host an impromptu dance party.

A Caveat

While the majority of the artists I searched for over the span of a week were indeed part of the 30-million strong Google Play Music catalogue, there were a handful that were either completely absent, or only had their older albums listed. As is the case with music streaming in general, some artists are choosing not to include their newer albums on platforms such as these for a variety of reasons. In my opinion, that’s their loss. The days of going to the store and buying albums are long gone, but the joy that comes from music is very much present. And streaming platforms like Google Play Music are the way in which the majority of us consume music these days, so they need to get on board (I’m talking to you Taylor Swift!).

To say I am pleased with Google Play Music is really an understatement. A week ago, I didn’t even know it existed. Today, I’ve downloaded the app to my smartphone and tablet, and have the URL saved as a favourite on my laptop and work PC. And given the fact that Best Buy has a deal on right now where you can get 90 days of Google Play Music free with the purchase of a new Chromecast, I’m pretty confident I’ll be adding one of those to my home theatre right after work tomorrow.