Google has decided to sunset its music platform Google Play Music by the end of the year in order to transition users over to Youtube Music. I wasn't happy to hear this since I've been using GPM as my primary mobile audio player for a number of years now- basically ever since getting an android phone, and I found many of its key features work well with how I listen to music.
Pictured: my musical modus operandi - cd, vinyl, & digital collections
A bit on that- firstly, I remain a music collector. I still buy quite a bit of music- mp3s, vinyl, and even the occasional CD. I'd rather pay $10 (hopefully to the the artist) and own the music outright than pay a monthly subscription to a platform in order to access it. And I find I connect with music better when it is part of my collection. Secondly, I tend to still listen to albums front to back rather than playlists. And when I do listen to playlists, they are typically ones I created rather than playlists curated by someone else.
Basically I've retained many of the listening habits that I developed from when I started buying CDs as a teenager in the 90s. And I found GPM always worked pretty well with that. Sure, the interface to upload the library was a bit clunky, but at least it provided a backup of my entire music library to the cloud, and made it easy to steam anywhere or download to my phone so I could listen in my car without worrying about having to use mobile data. GPM also allows for some degree of library organization, although it was always annoying that the default picture for some artists doesn't exist or is wrong with no apparent way to change. And (aside from the occasional "upgrade to the premium version" reminders) I liked that Google Play Music didn't require a subscription or play ads like Spotify does. Basically it was free and worked pretty well overall. So it was unwelcome news to hear that it was going away, and I started looking at what my other options were.
Apparently paying the monthly subscription fee for YTM makes ads go away and enables background music play. But seriously fuck YouTube Music. Maybe I just got spoiled by a free app that I found really useful for years, and bitter about them removing baseline app functionality, but after dealing with Youtube Music I was seriously considering dropping Android altogether and getting my first iPhone. But that was all before I found a couple other options to better handle my music library.
Plex is a whole multimedia platform associated with the Tidal music, and includes a media server that makes your music library available anywhere. Setting it up wasn't too bad (just pointing it to the music library folder on my laptop and letting it do it's thing), and playing music on my laptop worked fine after fumbling around some to actually find my music library among all the other stuff on there (Movies & TV, Live TV, Web Shows, etc.).
This is a platform that I didn't see as much info on when I was searching around for GPM/YTM alternatives. But the bit I read about iBroadcast made me feel it was worth giving a test drive to before shelling out $ for the premium (aka "usable") Plex membership.
First, it's totally free and at the core provides the same functionality that I enjoyed from GPM - a cloud backup of my personal music library with a mobile app the supports both streaming and offline play. The FAQ says there is a "premium service is currently being tested and actively developed. It will offer additional options, features and device support," but so far it seems like the free service provides all the features I'm looking for.
The interface doesn't have the slick (and frankly corporate feeling) design of Plex or others, but still provides a lot functionality and I find it to be highly usable. Uploading my library took a while, but was pretty straightforward. The parser did a pretty decent job automatically arraigning all my tracks into their respective albums, but even where it got confused I found I could customize anything I needed to using the Library Editor. Artist/Album artwork is easily customizeable, which is a step up from having to just live with the occasional wrong artist background picture in GPM.
So goodbye Google Play Music, fuck you Youtube Music, and long-live iBroadcast.
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