Google Play Music: Jukebox for the Road?

By Dustin Main Android, iOS, Websites7 Comments

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I really like Google Play Music.  While traveling, it gives me access to (nearly) my entire music library I had been hording back home, and makes it available almost anywhere.  No more hauling around hard drives full of tunes and audiobooks for this guy.

It’s so good and handy, that I use it almost everyday on the road.  With that said, it’s far from perfect.  Here’s the lowdown on Google Play Music, and what I love and hate.

What is Google Play Music?

Google Play Music is a cloud music service offered by Google.  It lets you store up to 20,000 songs from your music library, all for free.

Once you upload your catalog to Google Music using their “Music Manager” application, you can access it from any web browser, your Android, or your iOS device (with a separate app).  Your music, anywhere (pretty much…)

Why I Love Google Play Music

Essentially Unlimited (20,000 songs)


In comparison to other cloud music services, Google Play Music is essentially unlimited.  Think about it… ~2000 albums could be stored in your digital jukebox!  That’s a lot of music by any accounts.

Take Your Music Offline, Without “Syncing”

Anything in your library can be easily be saved for offline use on your Android or iPhone / iPad.


On Android, use the “Music” app, choose a song, playlist or album with the little arrow, and click “Keep On Device.”  The app will now download and cache it for you.

There is also a feature where the app will cache anything that you have streamed on the device (as long as there is room), so even your favourite songs you’ve been listening to but may not have saved to the device will be there for you when you’re out of the WiFi or 3G service area.

On iOS you can use gMusic ($0.99) or Melodies ($1.99).  Windows Phone users can try Gooroovster (currently free).

All of this, without silly cables or syncing.

Access It Anywhere

Wherever you might be, as long as you have an internet connection, you have access to your library.  Pop open any web browser, log in to your Google account and you can stream all day long.  It even works over 3G.

Best Price Around, FREE

Unlike other services like iTunes Match or Amazon Cloud Player, you won’t pay a monthly or yearly fee.  Google does it again here.

Why I Don’t Love Google Play Music

Uploading Your Music Collection is a Pain


You need the “Music Manager” to upload all of your music to Google’s servers.  Usually this works in conjunction with iTunes if you use it, but you can also point it to a particular folder on your computer.

I can tell you it took weeks to upload my ~13000 songs, podcasts and audiobooks to Google Play Music, though a newly implemented ‘matching service’ will try to identify your music first, then instead of uploading the music again, it will just give you access to the album on their servers.

Only Available in Some Countries

While only available in the USA for quite some time, Google Play Music is now available in a few European countries as well.  Along with the Americans, users in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain can also access Google Play Music.

Not in one of those countries?  Well tough luck… but if you have a VPN you can pretend you’re in the USA and set up an account.  Once you set it up the first time, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, your Google Play Music will work from anywhere without a VPN.

You Need an Internet Connection

Well here’s the traveler rub.  To access your music in the cloud whenever you want, you’ll need an internet connection.  If you’re relaxing at a posh resort with WiFi, no problem.  On the other hand, if you are hanging out in bamboo shacks in rural Burma / Myanmar (my usual digs these days), you had better have saved your favourites offline.

You might be stuck listening to that same album over and over (and over and over…)

Downloading Your Music Has a Catch

It’s very easy to save your music onto your Android or iOS device, but if you want to save it back onto your computer, there is a catch.  You can only download your song twice from the browser, after that, you’re out of luck.  You’ll have to use the Music Manager software to download your entire library.  Ugh.


The pros well outweigh the cons for me when it comes to Google Play Music.  I usually have it open and playing in the browser of my computer, and streaming or cached on my Android Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

I do need to do some planning ahead of time to save my music offline when I head out on a flight or extended trip without internet access, but it sure beats hauling around my iPod and external hard drives full of tunes.  Try it out.

Do you have your music in “The Cloud?”

About the Author
Dustin Main

Dustin Main

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Dustin just can't get enough travel or technology, but when he's not directly feeding one of those insatiable habits, you can probably find him at some far away ice cream shop taking pictures of empty cups. That, or on top of a mountain somewhere shooting photos and finding adventures to share on his website "A Skinny Escape".


  1. Avatar

    curious about setting up the service in another country.
    does one have to vpn in their whole library or just the initial sign up?

    1. Dustin Main Author

      Only the initial setup Randy, then you’re good to go. One and done!

      I’m writing up the complete how-to right now, and it’ll go up on Friday.

      1. Avatar

        a very long uploading session seems in my near future.

      2. Dustin Main Author

        I’d love to hear if/how the matching feature works for you (seems like super fast uploads). Let us know!

  2. Avatar

    This looks really good. Now all I need to do is co-op my girlfriends Nexus 7 for a little while… 😉

  3. Avatar

    Definitely uploading faster. I got my library of 5800 songs onto the system in about 30 hours and it’s full of bootleg stuff that they wouldn’t have had on their “matching service”.

    1. Dustin Main Author

      Thanks for the info Bruce. Glad to hear it’s making a difference.

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