Last month Google quietly started testing a new online service referred to as “Music Beta.”
The service is currently closed to the public but we were able to score an invite to start testing it early.
According to Google’s Official Blog, Music Beta is “A new service that lets you upload your personal music collection to the cloud for streaming to your computer and Android devices.” They also posted the following video which describes the service pretty well.
Keep reading for a walk through and our initial thoughts…
After receiving our invite through Gmail we headed over to http://music.google.com and logged in using our Google account just like we would with any other Google service.
We were given a little bit of information about Music Beta and then led to an “Add Free Music” page.
We clicked the “select all” link to add everything we could.
Next up was the option to download an application designed to interact with your Music Library.
After the quick setup we were taken to our Music Library.
At this point each item in the library was provided completely free. Don’t get too excited however as the initial library only included 22 songs. Interestingly, it seems like more and more free songs have added to our Library as we’ve used the service more. You can click on the last image to view a larger version of the initial library screen capture.
Let the music begin
From the Music Library screen you can click on any album image to bring up the songs associated with that menu. Each song then has individual options to play song, add to a mix, edit song info or shop for more from the same artist.
One thing we didn’t like about uploading music was the requirement to use the Music Manager program. The program is free, of course, however it would have been a nice option to upload music right from the Music Library web page. We will cover more on uploading below.
Music Manager setup
The download and setup on a Mac or PC was very straight forward and easy. After launching the program for the first time you are welcomed by a nice disclaimer where you promise to use Google Music only for personal use with your legally acquired music.
The next step involves logging in to your Google Account. This step is followed by an option to add music from your iTunes Library, Music Folder or “Other Folders.” We chose the Other Folders option and selected a folder of misc. .MP3 songs on our local drive.
Prior to uploading any files the Music Manager asks if you would like it to monitor the folder for any changes. This is a nice option if you have a folder where the contents may change frequently.
The last step in the uploading process is basically waiting for your files to upload. The Music Manager even warns “If you have a large collection this may take some time to complete. If you shut down your computer before the process is done, it will start again whenever your computer is on.” This warning is based on your Internet connection speed (obviously the slower/ more busy it is the longer your music will take to upload) and because the Music Manager is automatically started whenever you login to your computer. After installing Music Manager on a laptop that later rebooted away from a WiFi hotspot, we were immediately welcomed with an error message indicating the Music Manager couldn’t connect to the Internet. It would have been nice to have the auto launch as an option to turn on or off during setup.
During our test and upload of misc. .MP3 songs we discovered some interesting facts. The test folder had 100 music files in it. After selecting the test folder and receiving the warning about how long it would take to upload we were taken back to our Music Library webpage (a new browser window was launched automatically taking us there). The newly selected songs were already listed in our library however not enough time had passed to allow each file to actually upload. We randomly clicked on a few files and were surprised the wait time was next to nothing. We also grabbed our Android phone (Verizon Thunderbolt 4G) and were able to start playing the newly added songs there as well. The delay on the phone was approximately 10 seconds however the uploading from our local computer and streaming down to our phone was pretty decent considering we had just begun the upload process. We didn’t test the same process on a phone using 3G but assume (and hope) it will be similar.
Music Player – Android App
We mentioned it in the last section but Music Beta also has an App for use on your Android phone. After installing and running the App you’ll be presented with a clean looking music player consisting of everything in your Music Library. You can view the contents by Artist, Album, Songs, Playlists or Genres. The Music Beta web page gives a few more details about mobile use – “Not online? No problem. The songs you’ve recently played will automatically be available offline. You can also select the specific albums, artists and playlists you want to have available when you’re not connected.”
We noted the option to make songs “Available offline” while browsing our library on our phone. We selected a song, placed the phone in airplane mode and went back to the music player to see what would happen. The song was not available while offline so we’ll have to keep exploring this option.
So far after uploading a few albums, installing the Music Manager on two computers and accessing everything from our phone we have to give Music Beta TWO THUMBS UP. The ability to access our music from any browser is a great option only enhanced by the ability to access it from our phone.
Your Music Library can hold up to 20,000 songs. When we hit 20,001, we’ll let you know what happens next.
The Music Manager program can be installed on up to 8 different devices (computer / phones). These devices can be “de-authorized” from the settings page after you’re logged in.
It was a little strange streaming a song to our laptop and a minute later streaming the same song to our cellphone so both were playing at the same time.
Google usually supports their online services through the placement of ads. We didn’t see one add whether online or when accessing the service from our phone.