Thank you for your service, Google Play Music

[My Google Play Listen Now Library]
Google Play Music, ca. 2014

Google killed off its Play Music service back in October 2020. I was a faithful user of the service till the end. When it first launched in 2011, downloads were still going strong, and Spotify had just reached the United States.

The idea of a music locker still had some legs back then because licensing deals didn’t cover everything, and even the biggest download services had gaps. A music locker could fill those gaps by allowing users to upload their collections to the cloud.

The locker was the feature that clinched it for me, and in 2016, I went all in. Japanese artists hadn’t yet expanded their licensing outside of Japan, so Spotify and their ilk weren’t terribly useful for me. Google Play gave me the best of both worlds — the ability to stream new music if I so desired but also having access to items not in their catalog.

YouTube, however, organically turned into the premiere music discovery service on the Internet, eclipsing Play Music’s strengths. So the product managers at Google have now shifted focus on Youtube, spinning out a music service on that platform and sending Play Music out to pasture.

The music locker is gone, its contents migrated over YouTube. The Music Manager desktop application has been replaced with an upload form. I liked the convenience of ripping my files and letting the Manager do its thing. So it’s no surprise I’ve uploaded nothing to YouTube Music since the migration.

I’m pretty much keeping my subscription alive so I don’t have to put up with ads on YouTube itself.

In fact, I’ve reinstalled Spotify and resubscribed to the Premium Plan. The Japanese artists formerly lacking on the service have jumped in, some more so than others. You can even find NUMBER GIRL now. The user interface is less clumsy than I remember, but it’s still not much of a joy to use.

Friends swear by the Spotify recommendation engines, but I’m skeptical. I’m not terribly surprised that when I play NUMBER GIRL, Spotify would recommend ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION. I just wish it could connect NUMBER GIRL to a band in the United States and not segregate by genres and regions.

When Spotify can take Sam Hunt and Solange and recommend a band from Japan based on that intersection, maybe I’ll be impressed.

As much as I’m saddened by the demise of Google Play Music, I can’t say I’m greatly inconvenienced by the move. The gaps on Spotify have narrowed, with Japanese bands and modern classical music easily found. And I still have Exact Audio Copy and Winamp for all the music I pick up at the thrift shop, most of it available on the streaming services.

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