Google Music All Access is the new subscription based service from Google that combines your existing music collection with access to thousands of albums for a monthly fee of $9.99 or just $7.99 if you subscribe before June 30th. You can try the service for free for 30 days. If this sounds appealing, you might find yourself asking how to move your iTunes library to Google Music. Thankfully, Google makes it relatively easy and it doesn’t physically move your files, so as an iOS user, you won’t be adversely affected.
Prior to the announcement of All Access, Google Play Music has been in many ways, very similar to iTunes Match. One major difference is how the two services handle your music. As the name properly implies, iTunes Match does just that. It matches tracks that you own in iTunes and will allow you access to them in the cloud, this as a subscriber to their service for $24.99 per year. You can download high quality iTunes songs that Apple has matched at no charge, to your iOS devices. As we noted in our tutorial, this makes for a great way to upgrade the quality of your music collection. Now back to Google Music. Google’s service requires you to upload the actual files, up to 20,000 songs, to their servers.
The first step is to download the Google Play Music Manager, available for both Mac and PC. As with everything having to do with Google, you will need a Gmail account, which of course can be setup for free.
When you first setup Google Play Music Manager, you’ll be prompted to enter the location of your music collection. As we pointed out in our tutorial on backing up your iTunes, it’s recommended that you keep iTunes Media folder organized. This is almost a necessity when using Google Music, since you can only provide it with one location for your music. On a Mac, your music folder is typically /user/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music. On my Google Music Manger setup, I have /chris/Music/iTunes and it works perfectly fine.
On your Mac, click on the Google Play Music Manager icon, which appears in the menu bar to begin uploading your music. On a PC, you’ll find the icon in your system tray at the bottom right. When I initially setup Google Music last year, I recall it taking hours, if not days to complete and that was for 7,318 songs. Your mileage will vary based on how many tracks you own.
There are a few major caveats. If your tracks still have DRM protection, you will not be able to upload them. There are also some unsupported formats, such .wav files. You can view the control panel to review songs that could not be uploaded, along with a description of the error. There are not ratings in Google Music, so your current iTunes ratings won’t transfer.
Having recently spent a fair amount of time cleaning my iTunes library and rating songs, the lack of ratings could have been a deal breaker. There is a workaround. Google Music supports playlists and continuously updates changes reflected to your iTunes collection. It does not support Smart Playlists, but you can create a standard playlist and drag songs from a Smart Playlist that has songs with a rating of 3 stars or greater. The key here is that playlists are supported and make a world of difference. You gain of the benefits of the hard work you’ve put into your iTunes library, but in Google Music.
Once you’ve successfully uploaded your songs and playlists, they are available for playback on any web browser, including Safari for iOS. There is no official Google Music app for iOS yet, but there are a few unofficial apps including App for Google Music Free, Melodies and gMusic.
With the new Google Music All Access, a monthly subscription enables you access to a wide variety of albums and artists for a monthly fee of $7.99. This music gets intertwined with your own collection. If you are an iTunes user, the process of uploading your music to Google is relatively painless, unless you have a large number of DRM protected tracks. Google Music by itself is free. Unlike the subscription based iTunes Match, the service actually uploads your physical files, making them available for download or streaming to iPhone, iPad or any device with a browser. At a minimum, the service is viable backup for your music collection, at no cost to you. At best, it allows you to combine your music with the vast library available in Google Music, allowing you to explore more music on more devices.