Using Google Play as a Digital Music Service

Google Play logo.

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Google Play can be used for music discovery, streaming to mobile devices, uploading your own music library to the cloud, and even using its offline mode to listen when there's no Internet connection available.

The Evolution of Google Play

Google Play was previously called Google Music Beta and existed as a simple cloud storage service that you could use to upload your music files and stream to a computer or Android device. However, with its re-branding comes a complete entertainments hub that in many ways is similar (but not identical) to Apple's iTunes Store. Before Google combined several of its individual services into an online digital store, there were individual Google products that you had to use such as Google Music Beta; Android Market, and the Google eBookstore. Now that the company has combined relevant fragments of its business and placed them under one roof, you can buy a selection of digital products like:

  • Digital Music
  • Apps and Games
  • Movies & TV
  • Books
  • Magazines

Music Discovery

As well as using Google Play as a simple online music store, it can be used for music discovery too. There are several tools to facilitate music discovery, one of which is a music suggestion system that recommends new tracks based on what you have previously listened to. There are also other ways to find new music too--two notable tools are staff picks and Instant Mix.

Music Streaming

The method used for listening to digital music via Google Play is predominantly streaming audio--although there is an offline mode. There are a variety of ways to stream, but the most common way is to use an Internet browser via your computer or a mobile device (i.e. smartphone or tablet). Currently supported Web browser platforms are: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7+. It is currently not compatible with Internet Explorer 10.

Mobile Music Apps

There is an official music app for the Android operating system (2.2 or higher) and Google Play has its own music app, as well, called Google Play Music. While Apple only officially supports Apple Music and iTunes, it's still possible to use Apple devices with Google Play's web-based player using iOS version 4.0 or higher.

Promote Your Own Music

If you are an artist, then there's something called Artists Hub for promoting your talents. Google provides a social music networking platform that is particularly useful if you are unsigned. It can be used to build up a fan base and showcase your music to potential record labels.

Google Play's Music Locker

Google Play offers an online music locker (similar to Apple's iCloud service) where you can store all your digital music. If you've accumulated a sizable collection from ripping your own audio CDs, downloading from other online music services, etc., then you get enough online storage space to store up to 20,000 songs. The great thing about Google Play's cloud storage is that its free and also supports iTunes libraries and playlists--a good iTunes Match alternative if you don't mind uploading every single file.

In order to upload music, you first need to download and install the Google Music Manager program. This is compatible with Windows (XP or higher), Macintosh (Mac OS X 10.5 and higher), and Linux (Fedora, Debian, OpenSUSE, or Ubuntu). Once you have uploaded all your music files to Google Play, you can either stream to your computer or compatible mobile device. As previously mentioned, you can also download songs using Google Play's offline mode in order to listen to tracks without needing an Internet connection--this handy feature is also a great battery power saver as streaming audio consumes a lot more of your device's power.