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What is Google Play Music?
Google Play Music is a music streaming service, music storage service and online music store all rolled into one. It combines the on-demand music streaming of services like Spotify and Apple Music with the ability to purchase any song or album outright and listen to it indefinitely. It also allows users to upload their personal music collections to the cloud and stream them to multiple devices for free.
Launched in November 2011, Google Play Music holds licensing deals with major music labels like Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI. The service is available in 64 countries across the globe and has recently joined forces with YouTube's premium video service, YouTube Premium, to provide both music and video in a single entertainment package.
What features does Google Play Music support?
Thanks to its multifaceted approach to digital music, Google Play Music has a lot to offer music lovers.
With a paid subscription to Google Play Music, you can stream any song from the Google Play library on-demand and ad-free. You can create and share playlists up to 1,000 songs each, discover new music through song recommendations based on your listening habits, and skip songs as often as you like.
Google Play Music subscribers can also download albums and playlists from the Google Play Music catalogue to their mobile device and listen to them without the need for an Internet connection. However, this music can only be accessed through the Google Play Music mobile app and you'll need to connect to the Internet at least once every 30 days to verify your Google Play Music subscription. If you don't, you'll no longer be able to play your downloaded music offline.
If you prefer the à la carte approach to digital music, Google Play's music store offers an extensive library of songs and albums for individual purchase. You don't need to be a Google Play Music subscriber to buy music from Google Play, and once you've purchased a track or album, it's yours to listen to indefinitely.
Songs purchased through the Google Play music store can be streamed through the Google Play Music app or downloaded for playback offline. You can download tracks as many times as you want through the Google Play Music mobile app, the Music Manager PC app or the Google Play Music for Chrome extension, but if you're using a regular browser like Internet Explorer or Safari, you can only download each song to your computer a maximum of two times.
Uploading your personal music collection
One of Google Play Music's handiest features is the ability to upload your existing music collection to Google's servers and listen to it on-demand wherever you go. Using the Music Manager app or the Google Play Music for Chrome extension on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer, you can upload a maximum of 50,000 songs to your account – technically, though, you won't be uploading most of your songs since any tracks already in the Google Play Music catalogue will simply be added to your library instantly. Any songs not in the catalogue will be uploaded to Google's servers for you to download and stream at your leisure.
Google Play Music only supports the following file formats for uploads: MP3, AAC, Ogg, WMA, FLAC and ALAC. If you upload a file in a non-MP3 format, it will be converted to MP3 during the upload process. Individual files can't exceed 300MB in size; if they are larger you won't be able to upload them. Once uploaded, you can listen to and download your collection through the Google Play Music app on mobile or through your computer.
It's also worth noting that any songs purchased through the Google Play music store do not count against your 50,000-song upload limit.
To promote both Google Play Music and YouTube's paid video service YouTube Premium, Google has tied the two services together so that a subscription to one gets you a free subscription to the other. This means Google Play Music subscribers automatically enjoy all the benefits of YouTube's premium service, such as:
- Ad-free videos
- The ability to save videos on mobile devices and watch them offline
- Background play on mobile devices so you can switch to other apps while a video keeps playing
- Original YouTube Premium content from top YouTube creators
Like most music streaming services, Google Play Music offers personalised music recommendations based on what you listen to and the ratings you give using the service's thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons. Each song you listen to or rate tells Google Play Music more about your music tastes, and over time its recommendations will become more and more relevant.
If you're looking for some thumping beats to liven up your house party or a soothing medley to fall asleep to, Google Play Music also serves up a variety of curated playlists assembled by Google's team of music aficionados. These cover a range of genres, moods and activities, and are updated on a regular basis.
What music is available on Google Play Music?
Google Play Music offers over 40 million songs to purchase, download and stream. The range is vast, covering everything from Kendrick Lamar and Hilltop Hoods to Fleetwood Mac and The Wiggles. You'll even find official movie soundtracks from the likes of Moana and Frozen. Add to that the support for up to 50,000 songs from your personal music collection and Google Play Music has plenty of tunes to keep your ears content.
For audiophiles, it's worth mentioning that Google Play Music will stream songs at a maximum of 320Kbps, provided your Internet connection is fast enough.
What devices are compatible with Google Play Music?
You can access Google Play Music on a number of different devices and through a variety of different interfaces.
On PC, Mac and Linux, you have three options: the Music Manager app, the Google Play Music web player, or the Google Play Music for Chrome extension. The Music Manager app requires Windows XP or higher, Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, or any mainstream Linux distribution. The Google Play Music web player, meanwhile, requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player along with one of the following compatible web browsers: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11+, Edge, Mozilla Firefox or Safari. As the name suggests, the Google Play Music for Chrome extension requires the latest version of Google Chrome.
Mobile users can access Google Play Music through the Google Play Music app. On iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the app requires iOS 8.2 or later. On Android smartphones and tablets, the app needs Android 4.1 or later. Additionally, if you're using an Android device running Android 4.4 or higher, you can choose to download songs from Google Play Music to an SD card instead of your device's built-in storage, though you won't be able to transfer that music off the SD card to another device.
Google Play Music also supports casting to Chromecast-enabled devices using the mobile app or Google Chrome. Compatible devices include the Google Chromecast dongle, Sonos speakers and sound systems, and the Google Home smart speaker.
When using Google Play Music on multiple devices, there are some restrictions. You can only register a maximum of 10 devices to your account, five of which can be smartphones. You're limited to listening to music on one device at a time, and if you try to listen on multiple devices simultaneously, your music will automatically stop playing. If you hit your 10-device limit, you can de-authorise devices to make room for new ones, but you can only de-authorise up to four devices per year.
How much does Google Play Music cost?
There are multiple tiers to Google Play Music, each with a different pricing model. These are:
In Australia, the free tier of Google Play Music isn’t as compelling as it is in the US, Canada and India. There, free subscribers can stream custom radio stations based on different activities, moods or artists. These stations serve up ads between every few songs, and users can only skip a maximum of six songs every hour.
Frugal Aussies, meanwhile, are limited to streaming and downloading songs purchased through the Google Play music store as well as those uploaded from personal music collections.
By subscribing to Google Play Music, you can stream over 40 million songs on-demand without ads, as well as download albums and playlists to your mobile device for offline listening. You also score a free YouTube Red subscription to boot.
Google Play Music is available for $11.99 a month.
If your whole family wants in on the music-streaming life, you can save yourself some money by signing up for a Google Play Music family plan. A family plan lets you and up to five family members share a single subscription, with everyone able to stream from the Google Play Music library at the same time. Family members must all live in the same country and have their own Google Account. If one of your family members is under 13, you'll need to create a Google Account for them.
The Google Play Music family plan is available for $17.99 a month.
Google Play music store
The cost of purchasing individual songs and albums through the Google Play music store varies significantly from title to title. Depending on the number of tracks, albums can be as cheap as $5.99 or go all the way up to $25.99 or more. Individual songs are more predictably priced, tending to go for $2.19 each.
Can I try Google Play Music for free?
It's always better to try before you buy, and you can do just that with Google Play Music's 30-day trial for new subscribers. You can sign up over at the Google Play Music website, though you'll need to provide payment information as part of the registration process. Bear in mind, too, that you'll need to cancel the trial before the 30 days are up if you don't want Google to automatically charge you for the following month.
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