Google Play ending its music service; what happens next?

A few days ago, Google announced it would be rolling out a new, simple way for users of its Play Music offering to transfer files over to YouTube Music, the culmination of a nearly two-year effort to streamline its music service. 

Those who haven’t been paying attention might have been caught off guard with this announcement. 

Google Play Music has been a very easy way to upload CDs and purchased music from other platforms into a single cloud, accessible anywhere. For those of us who still buy CDs, this has been a “best of both worlds” scenario: your CDs, converted to digital music with ease, without having to purchase songs or whole albums twice. 

Ok. So what does all this mean? 

“YouTube Music will be your only streaming music option from the company later this year when Google Play Music is fully shut down,” The Verge explains. “Google isn’t specifying exactly when that will occur, but it says customers will receive plenty of warning ahead of time. There’s a lot of hand-holding going on here, with Google saying ‘we know it will take time to get used to, and we’re here for you’ in a new video about the change.”

This will be a phased-in approach, so if there’s nothing different about a user’s Google Play Music experience at this time, just wait. It’ll happen. 

If you’re a devotee of Google’s service, it’s fair and reasonable to be concerned. 

This is a very simple, user-friendly website and store that’s been really easy to use on a desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, whatever. It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive. That sense of dread and concern is understandable. 

As Ars Technica notes, Google Play Music, put simply, has worked. That Google has largely been preparing for the next big thing for a few years now is disappointing. 

“The accelerated death march of the last two years has led to the service’s functionality being duplicated by other Google services, mostly YouTube Music, which launched in 2015,” Ars Technica reports. “The one feature that didn’t make the jump to YouTube is podcasts, which are now covered by the Google Podcasts service,” which will also be eligible for transfer to YouTube Music soon. 

But, again, beware. 

“If this YouTube Music library transfer thing turns out to be a huge disaster, there aren’t a whole lot of alternative options for an online music locker,” the article continues. “Amazon was Google’s major music locker competitor, but that service was shut down in 2018. Apple’s iCloud Music Library looks like the only main remaining service out there, though you’ll need to pay Apple a subscription fee every month, and support on non-Apple devices looks iffy.” 

There are options for people who want to host their own online music collection, but it won’t be as simple and straightforward as what Google’s offered for the past decade. 

Admittedly, this is a small problem in the streaming era. Why bother buying music at all if you can stream every song (pretty much) at any time? Who cares whether you have access to digitized versions of CDs taking up space in your house when Spotify and other streaming services eliminates all that space waste for a few dollars a month? 

But remember, Google Play Music did offer curated playlists too. It had a store component for purchasing digital music, by the song or by the album. It had a “radio” option to create themed listening experiences based on what the user liked, the bands in their collection, the songs they’ve listened to most often. 

Now all songs uploaded to Google’s music cloud will need to be transferred to YouTube Music, and we’re all hoping it’ll work smoothly and effectively. 

What do you think? Are you concerned about this or are you more surprised that Google Play Music is still a thing? If you’ve received the promised invitation to start transferring your files to YouTube Music, has the process of transferring files gone smoothly? We want to know. 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

14 thoughts on “Google Play ending its music service; what happens next?

  • May 19, 2020 at 10:21 am
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    I have been following this for a while…. I have been a big user of Play for many years, initially because of the ability to upload my own music library that includes rare and older stuff that is not available on streaming services. But over the years I’ve grown to really like the simplicity but good functionality of Play compared to other services. I’ve also grown to really like their “Station” offerings. I’ve been using YouTube Music for about 3 weeks now, preparing for the inevitable. This includes using an online service to transfer my library.

    Quite simply, I don’t think YTM is not ready for mass usage… especially the browser version. So many basic features that a music player / library should have are not there.
    – sorting song lists / playlists / album lists alphabetically (or by any criteria) – (GPM yes, YTM no)
    – the ability to add / remove multiple songs at one time from a playlist (GPM yes, YTM no)
    – the poor integration of my uploaded music and the YTM library
    – poor search results – I don’t want to be offered the chance to hear a crappy version of a song that was uploaded by someone to a YouTube video – I want the real music from the real source
    – poor recognition of my playlists – many songs from Play were incorrectly matched in YTM, for example, on Play I had an album version of some songs that were replaced by (badly recorded) live concert versions of same song in YTM
    – I want to see my uploaded music in a search result (GPM yes, YTM no) – YTM has two distinct libraries that don’t interact, (although uploaded songs can be added to playlists)
    – I want to be able to do searches filtered to my library, not the interweb en masse (GPM yes, YTM no)

    Add to this what really seems like an incomplete user interface on the web version of YTM, the mixing of YouTube and YouTube Videos in lists and searches, the removal of separate “stations” and converting them to just another playlist… there is lots wrong and missing.
    Scrolling through song lists is time consuming, and results in pauses in the app loading (or the browser player working)…. it’s almost worthless to try this because it is so time consuming. As stated, there is no way to filter or sort lists.

    I don’t know what Google is thinking with regards to user experience. YTM is worse than GPM, even though they say GPM has not been updated in a while. The YTM mobile app has more features than the browser version, which I find odd – trying to manage and organize my music library on a small screen is not something I want to do. I’ve also experienced multiple ocassions when YTM cannot load – I open the app on my phone and i get a “try again” message. As well, multiple times when I pick a song to play and something different than I thought I chose starts.

    I am so disappointed and frustrated trying to sort out YTM that I have switched back to Apple Music – I can upload my own music and the searching and filtering options are very good.
    From what I’ve read in online forums, almost no one likes YTM, and feels it is a big step backwards by Google. There seems to be a huge consensus and resignation of people moving to other services.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 8:45 am
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      I literally just found out about this a few minutes ago when this article popped up on my discovery feed, so naturally…I’m freaking out. And reading your comment has me freaking out more.

      I’ve never used YTM, figured I didn’t have to since I had my beloved GPM. I truly feel like my world has been knocked from under me, as although I’ve been using GPM for years now, I finally feel like I’ve gotten a solid handle on it, and I don’t really do well with change. I’m really disappointed in Google for wanting to change something that’s working perfectly fine for us.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2020 at 12:52 pm
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        Exactly how I feel. I’ve tried streaming and other apps for my music but GPM is so easy to use that I have never wanted to move away from it. I’m so pissed right now. I feel like I’m going to have to spend a TON of time transferring my huge music library to somewhere else (that will probably fade away too).

        Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 12:06 pm
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    I’m extremely annoyed about this. I’m no fan of YouTube music.

    Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 12:16 pm
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    I’ve been using “Media Monkey” for years. It’s like iTunes on steroids with it’s sorting and organizing capabilities. It works smoothly on Wondows and on my Android phone. It has eliminated my need for an online player for the music that I own.

    Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm
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    Who cares about CDs? The people that go to smaller shows and buy one to support a local band that doesn’t have a presence on Spotify or YouTube Music and then would like to listen to them on the streaming service

    Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 2:28 pm
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    My main concern is about my playlist in Google music. This has been requested for years to export/transfer Google Play music playlists to YTM but nothing has been done yet. I would have done the transition. If I’m losing all my playlist, I’m moving to Spotify.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2020 at 2:50 pm
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      Google says they’re going to have a transfer tool that copies the playlists….. but who knows. I used a web app service called Soundiiz.
      The playlists I made transferred fine, mostly. There was about a 80-85% match rate on YTM. A lot of the missing was the files I uploaded, so to be expected.

      But for songs not included in an actual defined Google Play playlist, and not actually added to your Google Play Library by selecting that option in Google Play, they won’t transfer. This was thousands of songs for me – like all those tracks on albums that you don’t really want to hear all the time but are part of the collection. This was a surprise… I expected all tracks to transfer whether I had them in a playlist or not.

      Reply
    • May 24, 2020 at 1:04 am
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      I’m a total Noob when it comes to stuff like this, we actually bought a Google home and have been paying $10 a month for the privilege so that my elderly mother could listen to whatever music she wanted in the kitchen while she was having her breakfast. Now what are we supposed to do? If she can’t say Hey Google….play me some Roy Orbison, what the hell am I supposed to do now?

      Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 8:41 am
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    I explored the quality of the YTM product and compared it to my digital copies. I looked at about 10 random songs and 1) I feel that the quality of YTM is inferior to my digital copies. In addition 2) it seems that the version of the song in YTM is not necessarily the album version though it is included as a cut of the album. And finally 3) the production/equalization on the version in YTM is largely inferior to my digital copies.

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 5:09 pm
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    The comments here remind me of the bummer it was when i ended up transitioning from Rdio to Spotify. At the time, Spotify made the most sense for how I used streaming music. It hasn’t pissed me off enough to switch away yet. I haven’t seen anything leap out at me as better anyway.

    But I still miss Rdio!

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 8:50 pm
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    Is google going to release a youtube music app for android TV? Seems like an odd omission, although they never bothered with a google photo app either.

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 9:33 pm
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    Wtf? I have digital albums through Google music. This sounds like a disaster in the making.

    Reply
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