My experience with Google Music Beta Cloud vs. Android Cloud System and my predictions for Apple’s iCloud
Warning: For the geeks…
So here’s the deal folks. I’ve experienced both Amazon and Google’s music cloud service. Amazon came first, I subscribed, uploading my 50 gig music collection and anxiously awaiting my Motorola Xoom tablet which was coming the next week. I had read about music.google.com and visited, realizing I needed to request an invitation to take place in the madness. I bit my proverbial tongue and waited it out, hearing that when and if I got a Xoom, it would instantly activate my Google Cloud Service. Uploading to Amazon’s cloud took 7 days to upload it all. Long… But worth it in my eyes. (It doesn’t help that my fucking Time Warner cable modem keeps freaking out and restarting, but regardless it went at a painfully slow speed). Still I had faith in Amazon’s cloud. Besides, it REALLY gives you an external drive to store ANYTHING, not just music. Theoretically I could store protools sessions, pictures, video games, movies, whatever on my Amazon cloud and access it and download it from any computer. For that reason, it’s worth the money (although I could get the same service if I just knew a friend in college who had a server account–we used to break into these type accounts in high school to access this ‘so-called-inter-net-thing’).
So I finally get all 9000 songs uploaded to Amazon. Painfully slow and song-by-song it moves with the grace and focus of an elephant. The cool thing about Amazon’s service is that it allows you to choose which playlists, artists, albums–whatever guidelines you choose–before you upload. This was cool because I didn’t want to upload any of my own material to my cloud drive (ESPECIALLY my upcoming album, which is to be released in 6 months–if someone hacked my shit, I’d be fucked… So all I had to do is uncheck Shooter Jennings on all my playlists and I was set).
At this point in the game, I’m feeling kinda special cuz I uploaded my junk to the first cloud on the market and my girlfriend can access my music when I’m outta the house. That’s a cool aspect, but as far as business and urgency goes, this is kinda a stupid accessory. Not needed for sure… For long! Until my Xoom gets here
Now while all this uploading and waiting for Android machines has happened, I haven’t explained the prologue to this technology adventure. To begin things, I am a geek. A SUPER geek, really. I’ve built many a x86 machine and had every apple from a IIc to 4 different Macbook Pros. I’m an Electronoisseur, if you will. I’ve had 5 different iPods. I had an iPad 1, which quickly became my daughter’s iPad 1. Then my girlfriend got an iPad 1. When my birthday was coming up, I knew my mom was good for one 500ish dollar gift. I could have had an iPad 2, but it just felt empty. I didn’t want ANOTHER iOS device that I couldn’t use to download a badass album Adam Sheets sent me to take in, or that I couldn’t use as an extension of my current storage compound I use for video games/editing/entertainment. I didn’t wanna be limited to yet ANOTHER electronic clink that I would have to beg to have a drink of fresh water in. I was ready to try Android, but not just ANY Android, Honeycomb. So I asked my mom for a Xoom.
(Oh by the way, Jailbreakers, don’t try and preach to me, I’ve Jailbroken every apple device to get 1/50th the experience of the Android device–and I am well aware of the bugs, lags, and growing pains of the PC of smartphones and tablets, I just needed a change)
Okay, so all 9k songs are uploaded to the Amazon Cloud Service. Its a great feeling but it’s nothing more than flair for my O’Charley’s suspenders at this point. I’ve seen an ad in the corner of the Amazon Cloud Player for the Android app… I’m dying to try it.
My Xoom finally comes. I’m almost dreading turning it on, to realize that my Google Music Beta is instantly activated and my Amazon Cloud is rendered useless. Thank God (and Satan) that it isn’t. I’ll have a good 6 days to experience Amazon’s Cloud through the digital eyes of my Xoom.
By the way, I didn’t mention before that my main computer is a Mac. I got too much shit to do in the digital art, editing, music, etc fields to rely on a PC, so whatever I use gotta feel right in my Apple Outfit. That’s a tall order for Amazon and Google to fulfill, but I have faith.
Amazon’s Android player is nice. I download it from the market and instantly install the widget to my desktop. I won’t gush about how sick the Android’s Lancher (homescreen) customization experience is,but let’s just say it’s like Universal Studios Jupiter to Apple’s Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse. The Amazon player is small and sits right on my desktop. With a click I can then access ALL of my songs from my Xoom. It’s a little clunky getting into the player. It always starts with songs arranged by song title, which annoys me because I always keep my shit arranged by Arist. Whatever, I can get past that, but it is a little lagged and I can feel loading moments all thru it.
So I go into Hank Jr territory. I wanna hear ‘Habits Old and New’ top to bottom thru my Amazon Cloud Service. Here’s the truth. I hit play, it starts _pretty_ fast, and I’m staring at the sterile Amazon cloud white environment (with a small pic of the album cover to the bottom left). My inner monologue: “okay, this is cool, let’s exit and cruise around on my device while it plays’. Instantly I experience some skipping, but it jumps back into steady play pretty quickly. But it isn’t perfect, and the loading lags have already taken me out of the Android experience. (For those of you that haven’t fucked around with an Android tablet, that shit feels like Blade Runner straight up and the Amazon player feels like Geocities circa 1999).
A little disappointed I try and give it a few more tries. It keeps resetting to ‘by song’ style listing which is totally annoying because switching to ‘by Artist’ takes a few seconds (and a few seconds too long in my ADHD 2011 world). Then I notice the Download button. Okay if this isn’t the music streaming system for me, then at least its a solid distribution system. I promptly pick my John Prine, Scott H. Biram, Dead Weather, Bowie, Waylon, Nilsson and Steve Young records for local download and wait patiently.
At this point, I’m over Amazon. Without comparison I give it a big fat 7. Its too foreign feeling. This gives an instant leg up to Apple or Google. Where is my Google Music Beta invitation!?
Two days later it comes. I’m glowing. I can’t wait to try it out. On my Macbook Pro I visit music.google.com to receive my secret instructions to my new music cloud. “This Cloud will self-destruct in 5 seconds”. That’s what I’m thinking. I download the Google Music Manager app. It installs and runs and a cool pair of headphones appears in my menu bar.
I didn’t get into the Amazon app much before, but like I said, it uploads 1 song at a time (slowly) and every time my Time Warner Crap Cable cut out, I had to restart the app to continue uploading. That sucks for me because I’m gone from the house 80 percent of the day. Maybe that’s why it took 7 days to upload it all, who knows.
The Google app is much more in control. You can’t choose which Artists or Playlists or Albums to upload, so for my top secret upcoming album I had to erase them from my iTunes for the upload process. That sucks, but I would find this was its _ONLY_ downfall. The Google Music Manager promptly uploaded all 9000 of my songs (actually 10,000 because Google’s Music program accepts more formats–Amazon only takes MP3 and AAC) in 4 days. Two at a time it zipped thru my entire catalog. And all of this with twice as many Time Warner drop-outs as during my Amazon upload period. (Incidentally I’m switching providers). The upload experience was so much more fun and rewarding that I kept checking it every 5 minutes when home to see which TWO songs that were uploading.
I read up on what was the next step and proceeded to visit the Android Market to get my newly upgraded ‘Music’ app. After a few seconds, my Xoom was ready to rock, literally. I clicked the ‘Music’ headphones-shaped icon and was taken into a beautiful digital record collection that made Apple’s cover flow look 8-bit. There for the next few days I watched my instant collection grow by the hundreds. All my music was automatically being added by this Google Music Manager.
I have a radio show on Sirius XM and each week I often have to dig for new songs to play. As I said before, my friend and com padre (and No Depression veteran) Adam Sheets will send me new albums to review for our XXX project (www.givememyxxx.com, sign the petition!) and I will add them into my ever-growing iTunes library with reckless abandon. Amazon required a restart of it’s uploader (which subsequently required me to re-login to Amazon, re-open the Cloud player, restart the upload process and re-select which artists/playlists/albums to send). Google Music Manager does it automatically, and quickly. It’s a one stop do it all shop and its fun to watch your collection build album by album
Now here’s the lowdown on Google Music. It uploads with it’s own mystical logic. It doesn’t upload Album by Album or Artist by Artist, I have now idea at how it comes to it’s conclusion of what it should upload first. At one point I glanced at the Music Manager and noticed it was uploading ‘Alabama’ by Neil Young and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd at the same time. That was trippy, much like Apple’s Genius system, but I don’t think Google Music Manager uploads your shit to Big Brother for it to analyze. The songs upload at a rapid rate and once in the system you have the option of flagging albums or songs with the ‘Available Offline’ option. This downloads it (in the background, quickly and seamlessly) to your device and allows you to access it offline. It also stores the latest and greatest of your plays for offline use, so if you forget to flag that brand new Hellbound Glory album you were listening to while boarding your flight, it’ll be ready for you. This made me curse the ground below my feet as I’d just spent a while downloading stuff from my Amazon Cloud to my unit to become what would be useless baggage in my internal storage locker.
When it came to playing the songs downloaded, there is a longer start wait with the songs on my Google Cloud vs the Amazon Cloud, but I’ve listened to about 10 hours straight of my Google Music and haven’t gotten one skip in service. Now that may change when I’m traveling thru the Holland Tunnel streaming on my Verizon Wireless service, or when my Time Crap Warner Fucking Cable goes out again, but as for the usual usage, it seems flawless. It takes about 5-8 seconds for a song to start if it’s not stored offline, but I can deal with that. For the ease of use and beautiful atmosphere, I’ll take this any day.
To end a long story, Google wins BIGTIME. Amazon is a great idea and really is a great (but not superior) choice among other Cloud Locker systems, like Dropbox. But as far as the music system goes, Google has them beat. It’s seamless, beautiful, and perfect in many ways and now my Xoom has 10,000 songs at it’s fingertips.
This brings my last part of this discussion. Apple. My first bit of criticism comes for the record industry. Shame on you for trying to make Google and Amazon feel like they’re breaking some kind of rules or law for creating an online storage space for people to upload their PRE-PURCHASED music. Why don’t you pressure Dropbox and Yousendit too? They both allow for the transfer of copyrighted material. I understand Apple being in bed with and giving pillow-talk to the labels makes Google and Amazon look like the outsiders, but Apple is knee-deep in it’s own endeavors and Google and Amazon DO NOT HAVE to adhere to the same ass-kissing that goes on at Apple just because they are the leaders of online music distribution.
I understand what Apple is doing. They are setting their cloud up to be in cahoots with the labels so that when I want to upload my 9000 songs to my cloud, I will only have to upload the tracks that aren’t available on iTunes. Those tracks will be ‘matched’ by the Lala service which Apple bought earlier this year. The convenience here is pretty amazing and will probably be their big ace in the hole, but Apple is notorious for sub-par software. Mobile Me is terrible, Safari is the worst browser out there and iTunes leaves a lot to be desired. Mac OS X is incredible, but it is it’s own entity. Most of it’s other programs are knockoffs of previously designed programs, made to be easy for monkeys to operate, and full of regulations.
I don’t want to go into this acting like I hate Apple. I love and DEPEND on Apple for a lot of reasons, so I can’t act like a full PC guy all the time, but I am fully educated in all formats. I love that I can install Linux on my Xoom if I want. I might. I probably won’t, but having the option is one of it’s many advantages over iOS. But the one thing Apple has a problem with is ego. It’s tyrannical control over the user’s experience isn’t short of comparable to Saddam Hussein. They don’t allow you to download music or anything besides pictures sent in emails. You aren’t allowed to download ZIP files or anything, for that matter, from the web. And now they’re totally in bed with the labels with this iCloud project and I can’t help but feel that, while it will be more convenient to spend 40 minutes uploading your music vs. 4 days, that it will also come with the same Orwellian sense of imperial control that comes with iTunes, Ping and all it’s other music-industry endeavors.
Now, I could end up regretting this essay, and realizing that Apple had it right all along, but I can’t help but feel like I was part of the guerilla years of Music Cloud expeditions. Google and my Xoom are my friends at this point, and I really kind of in my heart hope Apple fails. I hope Facebook and Google both open music stores that compete with Apple, so at least there will be a fair firefight going on in the music industry like there has been for years. Right now we, the musician and music lovers, are at Apple’s disposal, and the world of the Cloud feels fresh and exciting. I would love to see Google Music stay as popular as Apple’s and really force Apple’s hand as far as freedom goes. I know this is a pipe dream, but a dream none-the-less. And I guess at the end of the day, I am a dreamer, and I want to dream with the limitations of my own mind, not the limitations of a single organization. I want favored nations clouds. I want options. And for now, I highly recommend the Google Music system. It’s free now, go and get an invite, and take part in the Wild West of the Cloud generation. It works on ALL Android devices and will change the way you listen and store music forever– and I will be waiting with my six gun, 10k songs and a wicked XXX posse for more of my Google Music friends to ride over the horizon.
Oh and my Amazon account has been cancelled. But not after I let my girlfriend download whatever she wanted from my Amazon Cloud Drive first. That took 5 minutes.