I love Spotify. I’ve been a huge fan and a big user since it launched in the UK way back in 2009. I thought the updates the service made in late 2013 saw it take a big leap forward in terms of usability, and brought it closer to being a true music library. And yet…it’s not.
A couple of months back I finally took the plunge to digitise my entire CD library. But after many hours spent ripping 400 albums, I needed a home for them; a place where that music wouldn’t just sit idly on a hard drive in the way it had sat idly in boxes for the last few years.
I wanted to rediscover my music collection.
Spotify, for all its streaming beauty, doesn’t enable that. iTunes does, but it doesn’t cater for those who like streaming their music (yet). So I set about looking for a solution that would not only allow me to store and listen to my old stuff, but to discover and stream new stuff. All in one place. If something like that actually existed.
As it turns out, Google Play Music does it all and more. And after a free 30 day trial, I had no hesitation whatsoever in closing my Spotify Premium account in favour of the Google option. Here’s why:
1. Stream, upload, buy and discover
The major benefit of Google Play over Spotify is that you can upload your own music. So if you own a big (or small) library that you’ve collected over the years that you don’t want to just throw away, it provides a space not only to store that music, (it’ll store up to an amazing 50,000 songs in the Cloud) but also to play it from using any device (the mobile app is excellent, and you can play music offline if there’s no internet connection in the same way that you can with Spotify Premium).
But added to that, you can stream music (Play and Spotify both have approximately 30 million songs available), buy music (just like iTunes), discover new songs and artists, get recommendations personalised to your taste, create playlists and listen to ‘radio stations’ formed around artists you like.
Google Play does everything you can do with Spotify and iTunes, but all in one place.
2. User interface
If there’s one thing Google does well, it’s UX. Play has Google stamped all over it, as you’d expect, with a crisp, uncluttered, simple and easy to use interface. Take a look at the screenshots below (taken from the android mobile apps).
When Spotify (left) first introduced it’s new redesign, I really liked it. I still do, to an extent. But it pales in comparison to the Google Play design (right), which is not only easier on the eye and better to navigate on a mobile device, but which also makes scanning through artists, albums or songs much, much quicker.
Which works better for you?
3. True library
Take a look at this screenshot of albums from the desktop version of Google Play. Can you see which of these I’ve uploaded from my CD collection, which I’ve purchased as a download and which I don’t own but have saved as a streaming file? (Click the image to see it larger.)
No? Precisely. When I scan through my music collection, I don’t care what the source file is, I just want to listen to those songs.
The idea of integrating every type of file quite simply works superbly.
4. Search by genre
You know when you’re on Spotify and you’re not sure what you want to listen to? Frustrating isn’t it? 30 million songs; nothing to listen to.
Google Play has addressed this very effectively with ‘genre search’. Aligned with the more effective user interface, you can scan your entire library by genre and select an album or song(s) from within that.
If I’m in the mood for a bit of indie, I just click on genres, select ‘indie’, and I can then listen to any album within that genre or play a random selection of all of the songs within it on shuffle.
Google Play makes music discovery easy, and that is a huge plus point.
So you’ve uploaded all your old music, you’ve imported all the music you’ve downloaded and you’ve saved other stuff that you’re going to stream into your library. Wouldn’t it be great if you could organise the entire library how you liked, not with the tags that the publisher insists upon? Oh wait…you can.
Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the way that genre tagging works when you download (or upload) any music. I want the music in my library to be easily accessible according to a dozen genres that make sense to me, not fifty bizarre sub-genres each with only five albums in (1970s folk alternative jazz blues rock, anyone?).
In Google Play you can customise everything. You can change the genre an album or song is listed under, you can alter the name of the album (if it’s preset with ‘2014 Deluxe Edition featuring 2 new songs’, or something equally annoying) and you change the album cover from the one the download says it should be to the one you recognise.
This is an awesome feature, believe me. Below is the way I’ve organised my library.
Twelve genres some of which I’ve made up, like ‘Mainstream’ (which to me means stuff like U2 and Crowded House that’s not ‘pop’ but nor is it what I’d call ‘rock’) and ‘Recent’ (which is stuff that I’ve added recently and so might be listening to more at the moment).
So there you go. Five pretty solid reasons why I’ve given Spotify the elbow despite loving it.
Give Google Play Music a try and you’ll do the same. It’s free for 30 days (and then the same price as Spotify Premium) so you’ve got nothing to lose really. Let me know how you get on.