Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google Music: All Access

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

With Google I/O going on right now we've been hearing lots of exciting announcements from Google (we cover all of the important ones in a Nexus Special.) Most of the news wasn't too surprising, or it doesn't affect me. However, there was one really important announcement that I think might change my life: Google Music's All Access program.

Google Music has been around for a while, and up until now it has been a strictly "you have access to the music you uploaded or purchased from the Google Music store" business model. I love listening to music, and I have built up a modest collection of songs ripped from CDs my family owns and songs I bought from Google and Amazon.

In order to get your music from your computer into Google Music you have to download the Music Manager program. It can take music from iTunes, Windows Media Player (and you can choose specific playlists to upload), or from a specific folder.

Google Music is definitely the best way to get music onto an Android device; it is also pretty convenient that I can walk up to any computer with an internet connection, plug my headphones in, and listen to my music.

Now you might ask me at this point why I don't just use Pandora or Grooveshark or Spotify. The problem with those services is that they either have ads (which I absolutely despise) or you have a limited number of skips, or you aren't in complete control of the playlist you are listening to. I'm also pretty sure that they do not let you download MP3 versions of your songs. Google Music lets you download each song you own up to two times from the web interface, and you can download your entire music library any number of times through the Music Manager.

Enter the All Access program. It is a subscription-based service that costs $10 a month (but if you start a trial before July it will only be $8 a month, so you should get on that quick). The music player, your library, and playlists are all left intact, with the only difference being that every single song in the Google Music store is now available to be added to your library and playlists. For someone like me who still has tons of music that I intended to purchase but haven't had the spare change, this is a perfect service. This will cap the amount of money I spend on music to $8 a month (barring those few songs that do not get released on Google Music) and I now have the freedom to check out artists I would previously not have had the money to discover. And since the playlists and library work the same way, I still have complete control over what music I listen to, in what order. Google calls it "radio without rules."

They have also changed the UI of the Android app

The only downside that I can find is that even once a song is in my library there is no option to download it. Don't worry, you can still download the songs you uploaded or purchased before making the switch to All Access. It makes sense that you cannot download the songs you did not buy, but it sucks for things like Audiosurf or Beat Hazard which are both games that take an audio file and vary their gameplay according to the mood of the song.

So I started looking for a way around this limitation.

The best way I have found is actually through the Music Manager.

There is a Big Friendly Button there labeled "Download My Library". I used it when I built my desktop to get all of my songs at once. As I added my new free music to my library, I noticed that the number listed in the Music Manager was also going up. I have not actually tested it yet, but I think that my new songs will be downloaded along with the rest of my library. This is obviously not ideal, since I don't want to have to download everything every time I discover a new awesome album.
The alternative would be to play a song and record it in Audacity. Please note that I am not condoning piracy and there are easier ways to pirate music anyway.

So that is Google Music's All Access program! Definitely worth a try.