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Google Music, Spotify, and Country Music

August 8, 2011

I got a Google Music invite way back at Google I/O 2011. I set it up on my Mac, let it upload a few songs, then more or less pulled the plug on it. The basic issue I have with it is that it solves a problem I don’t have: listening to my music on any of my computers. These days I really only listen to music in three places:

  1. While at home (in which case I usually listen on the Mac mini hooked to our stereo)
  2. While traveling (in which case I usually listen on my iPhone or iPod shuffle)
  3. While at work

The latter was initially a potential use case for Google Music, but it wasn’t worth the hassle of uploading my whole library. I could have copied all my music to my work computer, but didn’t want that many GBs of personal content on it. In the end I ended up appropriating an old 30 GB iPod and using it as my jukebox at work (hooked up to speakers).

As a result, I played with Google Music for a few days when I first got access to the beta, and then more or less stopped using it. And even when I was playing with it, most of the listening I did was to the free seed music that Google automagically added to my account for me.

A few weeks ago I got a Spotify account out of curiosity and also started playing with it. It was an immediate hit with my daughter: she suddenly had access to all the music her friends listened to that my wife and I didn’t have in our collections (we seem to be strangely short of teenybopper music; go figure). However, it took a bit longer for me to start using it for much beyond digging up songs from my youth I hadn’t heard in forever or listening to songs I’d heard and liked but weren’t over the threshold to actually buy.

What finally started me using Spotify more seriously was the decision to explore country music. Growing up in upstate New York, I turned my nose up at country music. Rock, alternative, and pop were all ok, but country was for hicks. But as I got older, I got more into folk and started appreciating musicians who are actually good at playing music. Tired of pop and rock artists who rely on electronics and would be lost attempting to play an acoustic set, I decided it was time to actually give country a chance. And Spotify is extremely handy for exploring a new genre: all of the music from it you might want to hear at your fingertips.

In fact, Spotify is so good for exploring new music (listen to whatever you want without commitment), I’m surprised it doesn’t integrate better tools for exploring music. Sure, you can look at your friends’ playlists or search out playlists and suggestions from 3rd party websites, but that process is somewhat cumbersome. And Spotify does offer an Artist Radio feature, where similar to Pandora you can pick a seed artist and then hear music by them and similar artists. But you still need that initial seed.

In the end, I found Rolling Stone magazine a more useful place to start. We got a free subscription after attending the San Francisco Symphony July 4th performance at Shoreline Amphitheater, and I’ve taken to leafing through it quickly looking for recommendations to plug into Spotify. A few initial leads there plus Artist Radio has led to some fun new discoveries. So Spotify’s huge library plus Artist Radio is great, but there’s room for improvement in helping users looking to discover new artists and music get started.

Looking forward, I suspect that Spotify and iCloud will be what I settle on for listening to music. I’ll leverage Spotify to discover new music and listen to songs I like but don’t want to buy. And then iTunes + iCloud will make it easy to access music I decide to buy from my various computers. At least until their feature set improves, I really don’t see myself using services like Google Music or Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Player.

From → Musings, Software

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