Update: Google Play Music no longer capable of casting to smart speakers.
Google has officially shut down their Play Music Store globally. This means that the era of purchasing MP3 music tracks that you can download and truly own, at least from Google, has come to an end. Before, they made it extremely difficult to find music in the Play Store by burying it in the hamburger menu instead of featuring it as prominently as they used to. The Youtube Music team began transitioning your personal Google Play Music library over to its service back in May as the latter began to wind down.
It’s weird to even write about this in 2020 because while I’m sure there are plenty of casual music listeners who may be upset by this news as they prefer to own their music directly, the world as a whole has moved on. I don’t say that lightly, but streaming music has become such a common way of life now that for us average folks, I imagine it’s hard to truly be broken up about this. Maybe I’m just new fashioned though, because while I did store all of my old CDs in Google Play Music back in 2011 when the service first launched, I’ve completely forgotten about them and just click on the streaming version of that song instead. I think that music upload, at least for me, has become a sort of free Google Drive storage space exclusively for audio tracks. Sure, they may matter one day if Google went down for some reason, but I use Google Takeout to grab a copy of all of my data periodically, so for the most part, they’re invisible to me. Besides, my mentality is that I’ve listened to more than my share of them, so what I paid for them two decades ago has already been well worth the investment. Streaming also allows me to explore new tastes and experience new sounds without limitation for the price of eating out once per month.
This does call into question those who prefer higher quality music though. Audiophiles that I’ve met usually don’t even bother with streaming sites like Youtube or Google Play Music, so I only mention it here to lend credence to the fact that it’s still something that should be discussed. There are high fidelity streaming sites like Tidal available to those who want to walk the line between quality and convenience, but since I’m not an audiophile myself, I can’t speak to whether or not these offerings are sufficient.
For those who still have an interest in finding outlets where MP3s can be purchased to own, the iTunes store and Amazon still deal in them. While we are seeing the death of MP3s from a large company like Google, it’s important to note that they are, as a whole, still very much a part of our culture. Compact discs, on the other hand, are going the way of the Dodo as big box stores like Best Buy chose years ago to stop carrying them. Those that still do keep some in the store have relegated them to the bargain bins where there is little foot traffic. If you opt to go the Youtube Music route in order to stay within Google’s ecosystem, your Play Music tracks have already been transferred over and you can upload 100,000 of your own as well, which is double what Google Play Music offered. Here’s to hoping that Youtube Music continues to improve its offerings with feature parity, so that it can win over those who have decided it’s inferior to its predecessor.