As someone who spends most of each weekday at a desk, I can appreciate a good music collection to help keep the groove going throughout the workday. I’ve bought in to the Android ecosystem (literally; I have a Nexus 4 and Nexus 7) and have been using Google Music’s storage and streaming service to manage my music collection ever since it was an invite-only preview. Naturally I decided to jump on to Google’s latest offering of Google Play Music All Access.
Google Play All Access provides the entire collection of songs available on Google Play for instant streaming at $9.99 month. I began reviewing it with a 30-day free trial which integrates with the existing Google Music app.
I’ve long been a user of Pandora radio, but I’ve tried other free services. Last.fm was my streaming service of choice until they dropped their free mobile streaming several years ago. Slacker radio was great but I grew tired of their app’s behavior of either crashing or streaming relentless commercials. I also actually purchased the TuneIn premium app to listen to one of my favorite independent stations out of Vermont. So it’s fair to say I’ve tried enough music streaming services to render an opinion.
Google Play All Access integrates so extremely well with the Google Music app, the line between my personal music collection and the All Access music was almost blurred. That’s just about where the compliments stop.
The premium feature you get with a paid service like Google Play All Access music is the ability to search and stream songs you want to listen to. That being said, I wish the search results were sort-able. Sure, your search results are grouped by artist, album, or song, but there was no sorting. You may be saying: sorting?; for what?! When you have a searchable service, you’ll get to a point where you want to discover music by artists you may like. When doing that, it would be helpful to at least sort albums by release date and maybe even popularity. If I want to check out The Killer’s latest album, how do I know what one that is? There is a lot of content out there and Google didn’t help me figure out what I was looking at.
Like seemingly all streaming radio services, Google’s allows you to create a radio station based on a song or artist. It will then assemble a continuous playlist with music that is calculated to be likable and similar to the song or artist you chose. The Google Music app’s screen has buttons to provide feedback indicating if you like or dislike the song and learn you music style over time.
I started with a station based on the artist The Killers. The Killers is an alt-rock band and Google did a decent job of assembling a playlist of alt-rock songs. And then it came…. Coldplay. I can’t stand Coldplay and I tried to communicate that to Google by pressing the dislike button when a song of theirs played. A little while later another Coldplay song made it in to the playlist and I also pressed the dislike button. Then a third time, and a fourth time. Mind you there is no button to ban an artist from your channel like some services offer, because if it was there I would’ve banned Coldplay. It seemed like the like and dislike button did almost nothing at all because it kept serving up Coldplay songs.
The thing Google Music All Access has going for it is it integrates nicely with Google Music. All Access is in its infancy and it shows. With no sorting of searches and a radio algorithm that can’t seem to learn what you don’t like, I had no problem canceling the service before the free trial was up. They aren’t undercutting the competition on price and don’t have many features to offer; this will be an uphill battle for Google to move in to unless they make some big improvements quickly.