Google Play Music is shutting down, where do I go now?
August 4, 2020 10:14 AM   Subscribe

So I've been a user of Google Play Music for as long as it has existed. I still pay the introductory rate of $7.99 a month because I was an early adopter. But as of October, they're sunsetting that app and service and want people to move to YouTube Music. Unfortunately, YouTube Music is hot garbage and seems to balk at even the most basic requests that you'd make of a music player, like playing an album. So what are my alternatives in 2020? I've been using Play Music on Android, ChromeOS, Windows and on Google Home devices so I assume that any Apple solution is off the table. Amazon? Spotify? My general use-case has been to play albums or Google's curated playlists and my own Favorites playlist. I'm willing to pay a fee, especially if it means no commercials.
posted by octothorpe to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Spotify is pretty solid and affordable. I sometimes run into issues because their library doesn't extend to cover my rather outrageously eclectic musical interests. But it will play an album, and its generated playlists can be interesting and not too jarring, and browsing can be pretty enjoyable. I've heard bad things about how much artists actually make from Spotify plays though so if I particularly want to support someone I try to find them elsewhere and throw money at them.
posted by Mizu at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm also someone who switched over but I haven't had the issue of playing albums, playlists, or Google's curated playlists - those functions all seem to work for me. Are you having trouble doing them in a specific way, like by voice control?
posted by beyond_pink at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Apple Music is available for Android, and iTunes on Windows also lets you access it.

I had used Pandora for years and liked it, as it introduced to a lot of new music, but eventually it was just playing he same stuff over and over. So I was never intrigued to pay for their "listen to whatever you want" level because I assume it was limited. I switched to Apple Music a few months ago and it's ben fantastic. I have non-mainstream taste in music, and there have only been a couple instances where what i wanted to hear wasn't;t available (and it probably wasn't on other services, either).

While all large companies are weenies, Spotify seems especially so. Last I saw, Apple paid the highest percentage back to the creators, and as a musician, that was a key factor.
posted by jonathanhughes at 10:33 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I listen to albums and like tidal because it shows you the albums in reverse order added (newest adds first).

I can also star songs and they do not get mixed with starred albums (or artists).

Their Android app also has a menu item for "downloaded" so you can just explore the stuff on your phone if you're limiting data.

I don't use any of their curated radio/playlists so I can't speak to that.
posted by noloveforned at 10:35 AM on August 4, 2020

Response by poster: I'm also someone who switched over but I haven't had the issue of playing albums, playlists, or Google's curated playlists - those functions all seem to work for me. Are you having trouble doing them in a specific way, like by voice control?

That particular issue is that it'll play one album and then when I pick a second album to play, it'll play the first track from the 2nd album and then repeat the first album. Apparently you have clear the queue by swiping down on the current track? I got that to work once or twice.
posted by octothorpe at 10:38 AM on August 4, 2020

I'm going to be watching this post for suggestions, because I use the free version of Google Play Music to play mp3's I've downloaded and have stored on my phone and I'm going to want a replacement. But I also use the paid version of Spotify a lot and it sounds like that would probably meet your needs. It can play albums, it lets you set up playlists and it has its own playlists and "radio." I particularly like the customized Discover Weekly playlist it provides each week with music based on your listening history. I've found a lot of new things I like that way.
posted by Redstart at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Following because I too am looking for a replacement, specifically with the ability to upload my own tracks. Sigh. Google Play Music's free version was pretty good to me, and I was hoping YouTube Music would be free.
posted by MiraK at 10:49 AM on August 4, 2020

I've been using Spotify for years now, which is great for both music and podcasts. I've made several custom playlists myself and use them everyday. You can also download the music so that it's playable without service if needed.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 10:53 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I use Spotify for more or less the same use cases you do. I listen to more single songs than you do (it's a six minute drive from my house to daycare, so I rarely listen to more than one song at a time in the car), and I use my own playlists more than it seems like you do, but otherwise we sound pretty similar. It'll let you listen through an album with no problem. If you have an album like Dark Side of the Moon or At Budokan where the songs flow into one another, there's a short pause between songs that can be disorienting, but I believe there's a setting that fixes that and I just haven't bothered to look for it. Regardless, most albums have discrete songs, so it shouldn't be a problem most of the time. Spotify's curated playlists are generally pretty outstanding. They have introductory playlists ("This is _____") for a significant number of artists, even older or fairly obscure ones, and good genre-compilations and mood playlists as well. Not to mention their dynamic playlists, like Your Daily Mix and the aforementioned Discover Weekly, which are good but not scary-good about finding music that you'd like and putting it together in a way that's enjoyable. And of course, you're welcome to create your own playlists (I have dozens), and browse other users' playlists (meh). Finally, Spotify has really gone hard on the podcast side of things, so if you want to combine music and podcast apps, it's probably your best bet. Reasonably affordable (I think I pay $10/month), and no commercials during music ever.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:00 AM on August 4, 2020

I was also looking for a replacement and ended up going with CloudPlayer, mainly because it lets me stream files that I've uploaded to Google Drive. I've been very happy with it.
posted by RGD at 11:19 AM on August 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

It's not the most popular choice, but as an old school album listener, I prefer Tidal. Worth checking it out. Spotify is a little more fun if you are into playlists and following people. All the services are pretty similar except for nuances like these...
posted by quarterframer at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2020

Amazon Prime Music is pretty awesome. Tons of full albums and playlists, all downloadable for offline play.
posted by Clustercuss at 11:36 AM on August 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm very happy with the Spotify Premium which is included in the mobile contract I have with Vodafone here in the UK. I like that it makes a playlist of the 100 songs I played most each year, artists I follow on Facebook often make up playlists, and small local artists are there too. If I want to give a little money to the local artists then Bandcamp is what I use for that.
posted by AuroraSky at 11:39 AM on August 4, 2020

I've been bummed about this. I tried very hard not to hate YT Music, but I do. How can Google possibly be SO BAD at discovery/recommendations?!

Having tried almost every music service I've just decided to hitch my wagon to Spotify. Tidal is also a good service. I agree that it's the most like old-school CD listening, and their high-fidelity streaming option is expensive but AWESOME sounding if you have a good listening environment and sensitive ears. That said, I enjoy the playlists available on Spotify, and it works well w/ Google Home devices.

If your playlists and favorites are important to you, you can pay a few bucks to port them over to Spotify (and other services as well, I believe) using this service. I did it a couple of years ago, and it worked really well.
posted by nosila at 12:29 PM on August 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

This infographic indicates that Napster (!) pays the most per stream, then Tidal, then Apple Music, if that factors into your thinking. It also appears that sunsetting Google Play music is a financial benefit to Google.

Personally, I'm a Spotify user, as I listen to podcasts, playlists, and albums, but I'm no advocate.
posted by China Grover at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2020

I was thinking of switching to Spotify. Most of the people I know who stream music use Spotify and I'm always left out of sharing/collaborating on playlists. And then plenty of other apps incorporate Spotify so I've been strongly leaning towards it.

However, my Google Play Music subscription came with YouTube Red which meant an ad-free YouYube experience and I don't know if I'm willing to give it up. and then last week when Google moved all my stuff to YouTube Music it was flawless so all my downloaded music and playlists and favorites all transferred over. They also seem to have upgraded and added some new features. There's a lyrics tab now and what seems like more and better recommendations. I'm gonna wait a little longer and see how things develop and if it sucks I'm moving to Spotify.
posted by simplethings at 12:49 PM on August 4, 2020

I just switched from Google Play Music to Spotify for the sames reasons you have in your post. Spotify is better on all fronts, *except* that you can't upload music to the cloud and have it available on all your devices. It will play local music if you have the files on your phone/computer, I believe. So far Spotify seems better at introducing new music I might like and making custom playlists.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:06 PM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have used both Google Play Music and Amazon Music (Prime Unlimited here). I moved slowly to using Amazon Music almost exclusively over the past few years, just due to increasing content there (and Prime). Except that I dont know if you can port existing owned content from other sources there (like if you have mp3s downloaded for example) I like it a lot. I have found a LOT of great music following their recommendations for example.
posted by Illusory contour at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2020

Depends on if you want the ability to play uploaded music or not. If you do, there are not many alternatives I am aware of [iTunes doesn't work on web/etc]. The only one I know of is called iBroadcast and the playback quality level is low and the UI is pretty bad, at least when I checked it out. While I like YTM much less than GPM, it's better than iBroadcast to me.

If you don't care about the locker, there are several with various tradeoffs as mentioned above.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:45 PM on August 4, 2020

I would recommend Spotify but it fails on two important fronts:

No sane way to edit queues of music on the fly. He'll even the desktop app can't even manage this in even a semi rational way.
Play Music lets you upload your music collection and then stream it wherever you are. Given the dozens of gaping gaps in Spotify's catalogue, not having this would mean you're often stuck not able to play the perfect song for the moment.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:39 PM on August 4, 2020

I am in the same position as you (YouTube Music is almost comically horrible, isn't it, it's crazy!), and I switched to spotify. It meets my needs well.
posted by smoke at 6:17 PM on August 4, 2020

Amazon Music used to let you upload your own tracks (I used it in the olden times before Play Music, though not with my full library). If that is still the case, that may be your best option unless you need it to work on a non-Amazon smart speaker.

I'm in the same boat, with several thousand tracks I need to back up and/or port to YT, but have been mostly ignoring the situation so far in the hopes that Google would pull another Hangouts and not actually turn it off. My indecision is helped by my rarely actually using it since I quit driving. I'd have cancelled long ago if it weren't for YT Premium being included.
posted by wierdo at 7:25 PM on August 4, 2020

That particular issue is that it'll play one album and then when I pick a second album to play, it'll play the first track from the 2nd album and then repeat the first album. Apparently you have clear the queue by swiping down on the current track? I got that to work once or twice.

I haven't seen this issue - I'm usually playing from an Android phone. I'd send it as feedback and maybe they will fix it - click your user icon on the top right, then Help & Feedback.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:55 AM on August 5, 2020

I think the others have recommended lots of good options for straight streaming and playlist building.

I happen to have just found out about Google Play Music shutting down as well, and immediately tried migrating to YouTube Music.... and lol. No.

So, I may be switching over to Plex, of all things, to serve my own large archive of downloaded and ripped music wherever I am. It's really quite nice, the interface is better than Play Music's ever was, it ingested my library quickly and well, and I figure I can just pay once for the lifetime thing and boom, I have a service for as long as Plex lasts, which considering they're successfully monetizing people like me, I think should be many years.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

BlackLeotardFront, I use my PlexPass extensively, including as my own personal music streaming service. It doesn't replace the new streaming services for me, because it only has my old stuff in it and I like listening to new and new-to-me things too, but it's FANTASTIC, and I highly recommend it for anyone who keeps their own copies of stuff on their own hard drives. Just in case you didn't know, there are recurring sales where you can get a lifetime PlexPass for $75. I believe they do the sales around holidays, and sometimes they send out coupon codes to Plex members.
posted by nosila at 12:08 PM on August 5, 2020

Hats off to RGD for mentioning doubletwist's CloudPlayer. I had tried doubletwist ages ago and disliked it, but it's matured really nicely. The UI is very similar to the Play Music app. I'm in the process of uploading my music to Google Drive (I happen to already be paying monthly for storage -- $1.99/month covers my needs). I also happen to have a free Pandora account, so I guess I'll be looking at that as a recommendation engine for the time being (and 90% of the podcasts I listen to are available there, too). I really liked some of the stations on Play Music and bought a lot of albums based on those over the last several years. Dang you, Google, why wasn't that enough [impotently shakes fist]!
posted by missmobtown at 8:20 PM on August 5, 2020

Man, all I really need is the ability to cast my media (either purchased or uploaded) to our Google Home speakers from my phone (since Google Assistant doesn't understand my voice request half of the time). Unless I don't understand it, I believe Youtube Music is telling me that I need to purchase a premium subscription in order to cast to the speakers in my Google ecosystem. If that is true, I am absolutely furious. Not only is Youtube Music's interface utter garbage, I'm now not even capable of casting my own music to my own speakers without continually paying for the right.
posted by JimBJ9 at 5:13 AM on August 6, 2020

JimBJ9, it's worth checking out doubletwist cloudplayer, as they do have a cast functionality. I don't have any device like that around to test, but everything else about the app so far is wunderbar.
posted by missmobtown at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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