It has been two years since Google put Google Play Music on death row, and today Google finally announced the major step that will let it kill Google Music: YouTube Music library imports. People who were using Google Play Music as an online music locker can now import their uploaded music collections to YouTube Music, letting them leave Google Music behind forever. Leaving Google Music behind is going to be a non-optional situation, too: today’s blog post includes the news that Google Play Music will be shut down “later this year,” and Google says it will provide “plenty of notice” before the axe falls. RIP Google Music.
YouTube’s Official Blog has the details on how exactly this is going to work, saying, “Starting today, we’re excited to officially begin inviting Google Play Music listeners to effortlessly transfer their music libraries, personal taste preferences and playlists to YouTube Music.” YouTube’s language that it’s going to “begin inviting” people should let you know that this feature is on Google’s frustrating “rollout” system, meaning it announces features and services before they are ready to be used by consumers and then takes weeks to deliver them to every Google account. If you can’t transfer your music yet, keep waiting! Google says you’ll get an email when the transfer process is enabled for your account.
If you have access to the feature, you’ll be able to go to music.youtube.com/transfer (or hit a pop-up in the YouTube Music app) and begin the transfer. Google says “your uploads, purchases, added songs and albums, personal and subscribed playlists, likes and dislikes, curated stations and personal taste preferences will move right over.” Apparently it’s a one-click process, but in a video, Google says the transfer could take “a few seconds, or a few days, depending on how much content you have to move over.”
Google Play Music had a few options for pricing. The radio was ad-supported, and a subscription service could remove the ads. The online music locker was always free, though, with hosting for 50,000 uploaded songs for $ 0 a month and no ads. YouTube Music is bumping this number up to 100,000 songs, which is nice, and playlists, which were previously limited to 1,000 songs, can now be 5,000 songs long. Google says that “existing pricing is the same between Google Play Music and YouTube Music,” but for now, it’s hard to see what the free features are like without actually having access to the service.
Google Play Music covered every piece of audio functionality you could want in a single app. It had online streaming radio, podcasts, purchasable music, music videos, a monthly subscription service, Google Home and Chromecast support, and an online music locker. Cramming all of that into a single app made Google Play Music a sprawling, confusing mess of a service. The app had a huge navigation drawer for individual sections, and then those sections could have tabs upon tabs, and you could get lost forever in little corners of the app. Search is a great example: when you search for a song, did you mean a radio station? A podcast? Are you looking to purchase something? Did you want some of your uploaded music? How about a music video? You would get all of that in a flat list, so it was always full of junk you didn’t want.
Even though Google Play Music was a dated, ugly mess of an app, it worked. For people with music collections that can’t be replicated by a streaming-service catalog, Google Play Music let you easily get this music on nearly every device, for free, with a simple upload process.
Google Play Music has been abandoned for several years now, with the last major feature—AI-powered radio stations—coming in 2016. The accelerated death march of the last two years has led to the service’s functionality being duplicated by other Google services, mostly YouTube Music, which launched in 2015. The one feature that didn’t make the jump to YouTube is podcasts, which are now covered by the Google Podcasts service. By the way, if you have a ton of podcasts in Google Play Music and want to transfer those to Google Podcast, you can now do that, too, at podcasts.google.com/transfer.
If this YouTube Music library transfer thing turns out to be a huge disaster, there aren’t a whole lot of alternative options for an online music locker. Amazon was Google’s major music locker competitor, but that service was shut down in 2018. Apple’s iCloud Music Library looks like the only main remaining service out there, though you’ll need to pay Apple a subscription fee every month, and support on non-Apple devices looks iffy (Windows still uses iTunes!). If you’re tired of the turbulence of this whole cloud-computing thing, hosting your own music collection online with something like Plex is looking like a more and more appealing option.