While Google Music Beta debuted almost six months ago, I played around with it initially and didn’t find many practical uses for it. I had all of my music locally at home, had a solid MP3 player, and my employer didn’t allow for streaming video or music on a regular basis. So, I pushed it over in a corner and left it alone for a while.
Recently, some of that changed. My MP3 player died on me, and I changed jobs, and my new employer does allow for streaming music. So, I started checking out several online services, which I will write about later. At the moment I have come back to Google Music, mostly because it gives me access to my entire music collection.
That said, there are some things that drive me crazy when I try to use it:
- A Lack of Song Information – You’d think that a company like Google, whose entire business depends on amassing information, would provide you with plenty of song information. Nope. You just get Song Name, Artist, Album, Time, Plays (aka Playcount), and Rating. That’s it! And Time is almost useless from my perspective. In a large collection, that’s often not enough to satisfy picky listeners like myself. If I want to groove to “90’s Alternative” music, I’ve got to dig through my library and add the songs to playlists individually. That really doesn’t work for me. At minimum, I’d expect the following fields to be included in order to sufficiently manage my collection:
- Track Number
- Date/Time Added
- Date/Time Last Played
- No Way To Exchange Playlists – If I have local playlists set up on my computer, there’s no way to import them into Google Music, or vice versa. So, this means that if I want to recreate them, I have to spend my time doing it manually. Is it that hard to import or export *.m3u playlists.
- A Lack of “Smart” Playlists – Part of this comes from the limited song information that is available on Google Music, but even with the information available, there is no way to create “smart” playlists where my music library can basically be searched for matching criteria (again, search is one of Google’s key businesses, so this should be relatively easy to implement). So, even with the information available, I can’t create a playlist like “Top 10 Most Played”, “Unplayed Songs” or “Songs In Playlists A,B and C” to listen to. As someone who likes to keep things mixed up (and I do thanks to the features of MediaMonkey on my local computer) and cycle through my collection on a regular basis, these kinds of playlists are a key part of my listening experience.
- Insufficient Rating System – “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” is pretty much the bare minimum for a ratings system. I’m not even sure that the “Thumbs Down” makes sense…would I really have the song in my collection if I didn’t like it? It’s not like it’s playing me new music and trying to gauge my tastes, like Pandora. I already own the song and had to upload my music, and if I didn’t like it I would have deleted it. Anyway, the bare minimum I’d expect to see would be a 5-star system, so I can differentiate between my favorite songs and ones I like but are not at the same tier. Even better would be the old Yahoo! Music system where for each song I could give the Song, Album and Artist a seperate 5-star rating. That way, I could indicate if I liked a song but thought the rest of the album was garbage. It’s simply more infomation that can be used to better create “smart” playlists or Instant Mixes and a better listening experience.
- A Lack of Queuing – This is a Spotify feature that I’d love to see carried over to Google Music, but since you can’t even see the upcoming song order when you’re on shuffle in Google Music, there’s no way you can simulate it either. Basically, sometimes you’re listening to a playlist or shuffle, but you just want to listen to one or two songs that don’t fit that playlist, but you’d like to go back to your playlist. Well, it would be great if you could queue up songs like this in Google Music instead of having to completely switch playlists and go back each time you wanted to do this, and only on an individual song basis.
Yes, there are some great things about having your entire music collection available online to listen to as needed on other computers or your cell phone, but that doesn’t mean that the player website needs to be crippled the way it currently is. If Google could add these features to Google Music, they may actually have the killer app that music players like myself are looking for. Until then, it’s little more than a remote storage drive with a basic media player built in.