Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One Year with Google Play Music

I'm approaching one year with Google Play Music All Access (it's also approaching its one year anniversary). I switched the week it was launched from an Rdio service that I loved for one that I quickly felt offered a similar experience at a better value. I think I'm probably a power user. I've listened to 115 songs 20 times or more (196 hours), another 286 songs 10-20 times (241 hours) and 1446 songs less than 10 times. Those only count the songs that "made the cut" to be added to my library. For someone who doesn't even have streaming access during my 9-5 I think that qualifies me as something of a power user.

Before I run through my wish list, I'd like to say that I love the service. I seldom have issues with playback. I feel the quality is good. I think the layout both on the web and on my Android app are great. I'm a big proponent of subscription music services (see playback hours above) and think that Google has built a great overall product with Play Music. 

That said, here are a few things I would like to see from the service as it heads into its second year:

Link Devices Better

Nearly every morning I use Play Music on my Chromebook while I have my morning coffee, peruse the news, and get ready for work. When I leave the house I often fire up Play Music in my car, but there is no way to just pick up where I left off. This was something that Rdio did well. Another impact of the failed linking is that my "Listen Now" tab is completely independent between my phone and computer - recent plays are remembered by device rather than by account. 

Better Music Discovery

Google Now tells me daily travel times to things through an incredibly intuitive process, but Play Music regularly misses when artists I listen to release new stuff. I often hear about new releases on blogs or even from the Rdio "New Music From Artists You Listen To" email before Google recommends it. The "I'm Lucky Radio" is often a good place for discovery, but direct recommendations are lacking. 

Better Recognition of Subscribers

I'm a paying monthly subscriber of All Access. So is my fiance. But when I share music with her, Google only manages to share a preview and link to buy the song/album. A better sharing experience would encourage more people to get on board with subscriptions. Sharing is social, and if sharing was better for subscribers it would make the All Access more social and generate more music sharing and discovery. The lacking feature makes it pretty clear that Google makes more money via selling music than subscriptions. I get that, but an increase in the volume of subscribers has some value too.

Dream Idea

Dear Google - You make a lot of money via advertising and local search and events get more and more prominence via Search and Now. Instead of recommending 4 "radio stations" to me (I've never once clicked on one) please recommend bands that are coming to my area and then, when I play them, make sure they show up in Now. You will help me discover more music and I'll probably buy the occasional ticket. For example - Jack White is coming to Milwaukee in July, I listen to a bunch of Jack White, bands he's been a part of, and numerous, similar artists. If you are going to recommend anything to me it aught to be Jack White a little more often for the next couple months and then make sure I know I can click your link to buy tickets.

Some people might say they don't want Google to "doctor" the results that much - that they want recommendations to be purely driven by some algorithm that has identified the perfect music for their tastes. I think this is the type of example that blows that out of the water. I already listen to plenty of Jack White and similar music and it would improve my experience to get recommendations for more of him (both his new album and some old things I may not be familiar with) as the concert nears and to complete that experience with a live concert by a band that I enjoy. If Google just partnered highly powered marketed bands and recommended Miley Cyrus to me before she came to town that would be bad as I have never played her or a similar artist via Play Music.

Further, since Google shows that selling music is more profitable than subscriptions, this would be a way to improve profitability from the subscription service and ensure the long-term offering of the product.

Just my two cents, but as a daily user of the service these would definitely be welcome additions.