Google Music has finally opened its doors to a UK audience, letting you access your favourite music any time, anywhere. Here's how to get started with Google Music.
Google offers services for just about everything you can think of, from mapping and webmail to cloud storage and online video, but one thing that’s been missing - for UK and European users, at least - is a music-streaming service. Until now, that is. Google Music opened its doors to the UK and EU in mid-November. See all software reviews.
In common with iTunes, Google Music is an online audio store from which you can buy single tracks and complete albums, then stream or download said files to any Android smartphone, Android tablet, or Windows, Linux or Mac PC or laptop for playback anytime, anywhere.
Taking a nod from iTunes and its Match service, Google automatically pairs digital audio files bought elsewhere or ripped from CD with those on its own servers, making available on any device your entire music collection. You can store up to 20,000 tracks (maximum file size 250MB) in Google Music for free.
A separate Music Manager utility is used to upload tracks to Google Music from a PC or Mac. All versions support MP3, but only the Windows program can handle WMA. AAC, Ogg and Flac files are transcoded to 320kbps MP3, but there’s no support for Apple Lossless audio.
Some neat functionality includes Instant Mix, which lets you rediscover long-forgotten tracks in a mammoth music collection, and music recommendations that are based not only on the tracks you buy, but those you listen to. Plus you can share via Google+ full versions of the music you buy, and YouTube videos of other tracks.
Prices are in line with alternative music stores, and Google is also said to offer hundreds of free tracks - although it isn’t obvious where to find them.
Not only does Google Music eliminate the hassle of remembering what music is stored on what device, it puts a firm tick in the backup box. Whatever happens to your gadgets, your music collection sits pretty in the cloud.
Here we explain how to set up Google Music and get started with storing and streaming your music.
How to get started with Google Music
1. Since most of your music will be stored on your main computer, it makes sense to start there. Head to music.google.com on your PC or Mac and sign into your Google account. You’ll be prompted to download and install Google Play Music Manager.
2. Music Manager will ask in which folder you keep your music collection, then upload to its servers any tracks stored there. At your request, Music Manager will automatically upload songs that are later placed in this folder.
3. The next time you visit Google Music in your web browser, you’ll see that the Home screen has been populated with your music. You can filter tracks by songs, artists, albums and genre, and play, rate, share, or create a playlist of your music.
4. Google Music is also accessible on any tablet or smartphone running Android 2.2 or later. You’ll first need to download the Google Music app: tap the Google Play icon, then search for, download and install the software.
5. In landscape mode the album artwork for recent tracks is displayed in a carousel. You can use the Recent drop-down menu to filter tracks by albums, artists, songs, playlists or genres; in portrait mode, the same is achieved by swiping to the left or right.
6. Given that up to 20,000 songs can be uploaded to Google Music for free, it’s reasonable to assume your collection could be rather large. A magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen lets you search for tracks or artists in your collection.
7. Before you start streaming or downloading audio to your device, it’s worth checking both data-intensive activities take place only over Wi-Fi. Tap your device’s Options button and choose Settings, then enable the relevant options.
8. Tap on a song to open the file. The pin icon at the bottom left lets you download the track for offline listening, or you can open the drop-down menu to access options for playing the track, adding it to a playlist or shopping for more from that artist.
9. New music can be bought from Google Music; tap the Play icon at the top right of the screen to access the store. Prices vary, but expect to pay between 79p and £1.29 for a single, and £4.99 and £8.49 for an album.