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The problems with digital music purchases

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

This weekend, I finally reached my breaking point with Google’s music offerings. I had, at one time, been a big fan of the Google Play Music app and service for streaming and downloading music. The service had, early on, allowed you to upload music you had already purchased to stream over the service from your various laptops and devices without having to have them all physically stored on a hard drive or memory card. 

I also really enjoyed the convenience of purchasing individual tracks, or full albums, from the Google Play Store. With limited space, and an already massive CD and record collection (most of my cassette tapes have been lost or disposed of over the years), I was a strong proponent of the digital purchase option. 

I was wrong. 

Last year Google began the shutdown of the Google Play Music app, and started encouraging everyone to move over to their new YouTube based YT Music app. At first, this seemed like a fairly standard reskin and rebrand that wouldn’t have any real impact on how you access your music. You were prompted to “migrate” your existing library to YT Music, so you could access it later. No big deal. Or at least it shouldn’t be. 

However, it is. With YT Music, Google isn’t just pushing a music streaming and purchase app. They are pushing a subscription service. If you aren’t down with a monthly fee to access music, especially music you’ve already purchase, too bad. YT Music is going to prompt you, repeatedly, to subscribe. Every time you start the app. It even prompted me to subscribe in order to stream music from albums that I’ve already purchased from Google. 

Subscription services are fine, but at no time should a consumer be required, or prompted, to subscribe in order to access music they’ve already purchased from a company. This makes the whole purpose of purchasing music moot. 

Granted, part of the benefit of a streaming subscription service is that you don’t have to purchase albums. But in those instances where an album has already been purchased, locking a consumer out and suggesting they subscribe to access it is infuriating. 

There is a work around, but it involves accessing your uploaded library and downloading the audio files to your device. This is the only way to access any content you’ve previously purchased – and then only if you bothered to upload them before the original app was shut down – but it partially defeats the purpose of storing content in the cloud in the first place. If you have to store it locally to listen to it, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the cloud. 

Downloads are great for places where you don’t have decent cell service. But it shouldn’t be the default way of accessing content you already own from a company that is offering that music to subscribers. 

The method of accessing your old Google Play Music content isn’t readily apparent or obvious either, and takes some time to figure out. 

So, this weekend, my Independence Day celebration included plans for independence from the Google ecosystem. I’m in the process of downloading all of the content that I migrated to YT Music, and once I have it all on my phone I’ll delete the YT Music app and go with my old standby VLC for all of my audio listening needs. It streams just as well to the Bluetooth receiver in my car, with a fraction of the headache. And none of the annoying prompts to subscribe. 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com



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