Dear Google Play Music: Why’d You Change?

google play music update featured

Google Play Music just updated to version six. Now it’s free, but ad-heavy and graceless. Daniel Zweier sums up his heartache in Dear Google Play Music …

aNewDomain – Dear Google Play Music,

Breaking from the mold is a stalwart of excellent musicianship. To be inventive rather than obligatory; to produce something new, at once distancing yourself and defining the sound of the future. You were like excellent music, once.

google play music update deltron 3030You were this strange, orange haven for the music masses and aficionados alike. You gave us paid, ad-free access to millions of songs with killer personalization options. You gave us thumbs up or down, material design and a determined lack of social features to remind us that music can be just about music – about me and my ears.

You also gave us a veritable treasure trove of space – 20,000, and then 50,000 empty chests of silicon gold so that we could upload our precious music collections to the cloud. You let us access it from any device or computer, and feel good about it, and gave us no hassle.

And then, just like that, you took it away.

Freedom and Don’t Be Evil Collide

No, you didn’t take away the treasure troves, or add social awkwardness or even change your color scheme.

But you did, with one sweeping update, introduce “free” radio streaming for every user. In theory that sounds like a plus. Now I, the lucky non-paying user, can access every single song on Google Play Music.

Not only can I, but I have to.

google play music update instant mixThere used to be a brilliant option in Google Play Music – the “Instant Mix.” This was jargon for an automatic and endless playlist based on a song, artist or album. And, in my opinion, the algorithm was great. I hit Instant Mix on Deltron 3030 and could listen to alternative West coast hip-hop for hours.

The real beauty of that system, though, was that Google separated the paid users from the non-paying users. An Instant Mix on the paid side would include songs you’ve never heard, sourced from Google’s own million-song library. For the non-paying users, it would only include songs from your own library.

google play music update playlist instant mixNow the Instant Mix is hidden under a scheme of menus, and I feel like you’ll soon axe it. I can still access it, but the ease-of-use factor has gone down significantly, and it no longer proudly stands on your home page. The Instant Mix used to be saved automatically, and I could pull up any of your mixes with a click. Now I have to save it as a playlist, which makes it a finite list of songs.

The new featured algorithm structure is the “Radio.” Radios consist of preselected, highly specific musical categories, like “Focusing (No Lyrics)” or “Summer Break.”

google play music stations

Now, I’m not a complete Grinch. Google bought Songza a while back and we all knew a more specific playlist oriented feature would show up soon. It’s here and it even works well for what it does: showing me new music.

I have two gripes with your update: first, trust me with my own music, and second, don’t become an imitator.

The former is simple. Please, Google, return Instant Mix to the home page, and please allow me to select where I want to source my music from – your massive library, or my personal one.

It’s offensive that you presume I am not listening to precisely the things I want to listen to.

google play music update instant mixIf I had wanted to explore, maybe I would have paid for your service already. Or maybe I do that through YouTube, or by attending concerts, or just plain word of mouth.

Give me a button to turn off access to your huge music library – I don’t always want to listen to something new, and I want to navigate my own library effectively, swiftly and with your sweet algorithms. I have used Google Play Music for two years as my only manner of playing music — and it’s all my own music. I was dedicated to your service because it was hassle-free. Now, though, it’s a complicated process to listen only to my own music.

The latter issue is quite problematic. I love you, Google, for the variety of strange ideas you bring to the world. But starting an ad-based fake free music service is about as boring and typical as we get right now. With Spotify reeling from Taylor Swift, Apple Music launching, Pandora crunching hard and a dozen other services vying for streaming control, why have you changed your model so seriously?

Why are you forcing me to pay and be subject to the way the music world seems to be turning? Where is the innovation? I realize I’m in the minority — your system likely works for everyone who wants to click one button and not really focus on the music coming at them. But people like me are still around, and I loved your service!

You were the last bastion of music hope in the streaming world, and now you’re just one of the others.

Sincerely,

Daniel Zweier, for aNewDomain.

P.S. You’ve got to change that name. It’s getting silly.

All screenshots by Daniel Zweier

About the author

Daniel Zweier

Based in San Francisco, Daniel Zweier is an editor and writer for aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.

14 Comments

  • The update hasn’t really affected me as a paid subscriber. But yeah i’ve had beef with the algorithm also. Nice read.

    -RAP, II

    • Agreed. I’ve avoided paying due to this exactly. They need a way to toggle the two different types. I don’t feel like it would be that hard.

  • So they took away I’m Feeling Lucky Instant Mix, that’s ok, I can still play Instant Mixes from any song, album, or artist with ease. What they RUINED is the Instant Mix itself! It’s no longer endless!!

    PS The new feature is not “stations” but “radios.” Apple has “stations.”

      • Oddly enough, it says “Browse stations” in the left slideout menu in Google Music app. Yet the stations are still called radios when you click on them.

        • It’s almost like they need a quality control team, and a copy editor. Maybe I should apply! (or you should!)

    • Avi,

      The way I do this is select a song, artist or album and click the three dots. There should be a “Start Instant Mix” rather than “Start Radio Station,” click that it should choose only your music. I say should, because it’s been funky.

      I do this for sure by turning on “Downloaded only” on my iPhone, and in that category you can control what you actually download to your device. That is just your music, and when you start the instant mix it can only pick from the downloaded. Of course, this requires a decent amount of space on your device…

      • This is gone for me now. I have no way of doing an Instant Mix for Artists or Playlists. What a bummer! @Google, you’re messing this one up.

  • Losing endless instant mix has hurt me so badly. It was my favorite feature for listening to music, bar none. Like you said if I pick one artist or song I can just listen to exactly that type of music from my own library for hours and hours. No random crap that I don’t like but sounds similar. No ads. Nothing but what I want. I hate Pandora because it only gives me songs similar to what I like, but not what I like exactly. I just hope they bring back the endless instant mix. Hell even if it’s a paid feature. If I can set it to only look at my library and be endless I would pay for that.

    • Matthew,

      Totally. Maybe Google will hear us and change it back. I’ve found through further use that the Instant Mix is still there, and only occasionally (seemingly randomly!?) throws in an ad before the mix starts to play, but the rest is ad-free. Not sure what’s going on there, but the feature isn’t gone completely.

  • The “instant mix” still has music I don’t own, just like the “radio stations” do. no doubt this bait and switch was their plan all along. “we’ll hold your 50,000 songs for free, just long enough for you to get comfortable. Then you’ll need to subscribe.”

  • The best music player on the planet is now one of the worst. A classic case of “more is better” gone wrong.

    Unfortunately, other apps can’t access Google Music songs due to their locked up APK. So, you can’t even try a different app. It’s intolerable — and its only gotten worse since the debut. Thousands are over in the forums asking to be able to access their own music freely again, but only silence from Google… 🙁