Google Play Music garnered a bit of extra attention after launching its new All Access service last month. While All Access is certainly a strong option which anyone looking for an Internet-radio alternative to Spotify or Pandora should consider checking out, Google’s music service got its start as a cloud-based media player for music you already own and still excels in that arena. Play Music allows you to upload up to 20,000 songs from your personal collection (and no, that’s not an estimate based on the average file size of an MP3 at a certain bitrate, it’s the actual number of tracks Google will store for you) and stream them from any PC, Mac, or Android device, as well as a web app on iOS. Of course, before you start listening you need to upload your music to Play.
Getting Started In order to begin uploading your music to the cloud, you must first download the Play program to your PC. Fortunately, this is as easy a process as installing any other program from the web. Once the program is up and running, you can sync any folders which you use to store music, and they will start uploading all of your music files to the cloud. Simply launch the Music Manager program, click “Add Folder” under the “Upload” tab, and select the folder(s) you use to store music on your PC.
Whenever you add new files to those folders, the process will automatically begin anew and your new songs will be uploaded without any extra effort on your part, so long as long as you don’t uncheck the “Automatically upload songs” box.
Listening to Your Music Once you have your library uploaded to Play Music you can listen to it from up to 10 different devices. Android phones and tablets have a dedicated app which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store so you can play your music on the go, while desktops and other devices can stream from the Google Play website and manage your content too. Both options will allow you to seamlessly transition between the free cloud storage and All Access, should you choose to subscribe, as well as provide Instant Mixes—recommended playlists created by Play Music based off of what you listen to.
Thanks to Play Music’s matching feature, you can now be sure that you’re streaming high quality versions of almost everything you upload. Any time music is added to your account it will be cross referenced with Google’s own catalog, and as long as Play already has a copy of the file the service will foster your account with a 320 kbps version of the song—the highest bitrate supported by Google Play (sorry fellow audiophiles, we’re still going to be squeezing as many FLAC files onto a 64gig MicroSD as we can for the foreseeable future).