The 7 Best Google Play Music Features

Joel Lee 16-02-2017

I admit it: I’m pretty late to Google Play Music. It’s been around for more than five years, and even though I’ve dabbled with it from time to time, I never gave it a proper “use it seriously for one month” chance. So when my new Chromebook came with three months for free, I decided to delve deep into Google Play Music.


Before we do that though, let’s clear up a bit of confusion. Google Play Music has two components: the music locker and online store (free) and the All Access subscription (premium). All features in this article should be assumed to be part of All Access unless specifically indicated as part of the basic service.

So, is Google Play Music worth trying? Here are the most compelling features you’ll find.

The 7 Best Google Play Music Features google play music library

1. Purchase, Stream, or Upload

Google Play Music offers the trifecta of modern online music playback: the ability to stream music from its online library, the ability to purchase music from its store, and the ability to upload your own music to Google’s servers as part of your collection. The latter two are available to free users.

This is such a killer feature because it satisfies nearly everyone Why Aren't You Taking Full Advantage of Google Play Music? Google Play Music is an excellent service, but it includes an extra program that lets you listen to your own music anywhere. It's worth checking out! Read More .


Google’s on-demand streaming library has over 30 million songs. Can’t find a particular song or album? Buy it off the Play Store for about $1-per-song or $10-per-album on average. Still can’t find it? Download it elsewhere and upload it. All of the songs you buy or upload can be streamed just like the rest of Google’s library.

As of this writing, the upload limit is 50,000 songs. Formats are limited to MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, Ogg, and ALAC. Also worth noting is that you can share music in your library with others (excluding uploaded songs due to copyright concerns). Think of all the hard drive space you can save!

2. High-Quality Audio

Google Play Music’s All Access online library consists of 320 Kbps MP3s, which is more than enough for most users. (What are audio compression and bitrates? How Audio Compression Works, and Can You Really Tell the Difference? In this article, we'll take a look at how music compression works, and whether it has any real effect on how your music actually sounds. Read More ) For comparison, Apple Music offers 256 Kbps AACs and Spotify offers 320 Kbps OGGs. (What are the differences between audio formats? The 10 Most Common Audio Formats: Which One Should You Use? You know about MP3, but what about AAC, FLAC, OGG, or WMA? Why do so many audio file formats exist and is there a best audio format? Read More )

In short, you’ll be happy with what you hear, even if you’re an audiophile.


Note that if you’re using Google Play Music on a mobile device, you can manually set audio quality to Low, Medium, or High, or you can let it automatically change audio quality depending on your current connection and whether you’re using Wi-Fi or data.

The 7 Best Google Play Music Features google play music top charts

3. Offline Playback

One of the main arguments against online music streaming The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s I've been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker Lala.com, and now as a monthly subscriber to Rdio.com. If you have a computer and a... Read More is that you can’t listen if you’re ever without an internet connection. That’s why every respectable music streaming service, Google Play Music included, now offers some kind of offline playback.

Or in other words, the ability to download a streamable song to your device so you can play it whenever you want. You aren’t buying the song, though — if your All Access subscription runs out, you won’t be able to play it.


So if the only reason why you aren’t using a service like Google Play Music is because it forces all of your music “onto the cloud” and you want to listen even when you’re commuting or stuck in a tunnel, then fear not. Offline playback is here to save the day.

Also note that Google Play Music does not limit how many songs you can download for offline playback, which is in stark contrast to services like Spotify, which has a limit of 3,333 downloads-per-device.

4. Music Discovery

Google Play Music has a handful of features that give it a leg up on other music streaming services when it comes to music discovery and music recommendation. Most people look to Spotify and Pandora for that, Google Play Music is quite capable of competing.

  • Top Charts — The most popular music right now according to Google Play Music’s back-end stats. Top lists can be filtered by genre, albums, or songs.
  • New Releases — The latest albums to be added to Google Play Music. You can filter them by genre, which is a great way to stay on top of your favorite music and expand your collection.
  • Music Stations — Hundreds of curated playlists that are categorized by genre, activity, mood, decade, and age. For example, there are music stations for exercising (activity) and introspective (mood). If you have ever used Songza, it’s basically the same — Google acquired Songza in 2015.
  • Song and Artist Radio — Dynamically generated music stations based on a particular song or artist. Want to hear more like Eminem? Or maybe you like the musical style of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid? Create radio stations for them!
  • Sound Search — Listens for a nearby-playing song and identifies the artist and title. You’ll need to install the Sound Search app, which is a separate download, but it integrates with Google Play Music such that identified songs can be purchased directly or saved for later.

All of these features are ad-free and have unlimited skips, so you won’t have to deal with the annoying restrictions that some other services tend to impose.


The 7 Best Google Play Music Features google play music stations

5. Podcasts

If you listen to podcasts, you’ve probably lamented the difficulties of finding a good podcast manager app. Well, if you’re using Google Play Music for music, you might as well use it for podcasts too. Keeping all of your aural pleasures in one app is very convenient.

There are many ways to find new and interesting podcasts, but iTunes has been the king for quite some time. Google Play Music is doing its best to catch up — and while it has room to improve, it’s pretty darn good. Podcasts are split into two dozen categories and the selection grows every day.

Never listened to a podcast before? Start with some of our favorite podcasts for everyone The 12 Best Podcasts of 2016 You Need to Hear In this article we share the 12 best podcasts 2016, all of which we thoroughly recommend you hear. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, to discover something new, or simply need to be entertained. Read More .

6. Family Plan Subscription

As of this writing, Google Play Music All Access is available for $10-per-month, which isn’t bad at all — on par with other subscription services like Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. But if that’s too much for you, there’s always the Family Plan.

Family plans are awesome. Services of all kinds are starting to offer them, and taking advantage of a family plan is a great way to reduce your monthly expenses. In the case of Google Play Music, you can get six accounts for $15 per month, which is the equivalent of $2.50-per-month per account. Which is incredible value when you think about what you’re getting for it.

Each Google Play Music account can connect up to 10 devices — five smartphones plus any combination of tablets, laptops, and desktops — but you can only stream music on one device at a time per account. Accounts on a family plan can share purchased items using the Family Library.

The 7 Best Google Play Music Features google play music artist

7. YouTube Red Is Included

Although it’s the last item on this list, YouTube Red is one of the main reasons why users choose Google Play Music over the alternatives. We’ve looked at YouTube Red before, but here’s a quick summary of benefits you might find useful:

  • No ads when viewing YouTube videos.
  • Access to original content only for YouTube Red subscribers.
  • Audio-only playback of YouTube videos on mobile devices.
  • Offline playback of YouTube videos on mobile devices.
  • Background playback of YouTube videos on mobile devices.

YouTube Red costs $10-per-month on its own, but comes included with Google Play Music. Which makes Google Play Music even better value for money.

Google Play Music Competes With the Best

Some of the above features are available with Google Play Music’s biggest competitors Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music: Which Is Best? Here's our comparison of music streaming services Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music on price, quality, and catalog. Read More , such as music discovery in Spotify and an online store in Apple Music. But when you look at each service as a whole, Google Play Music may just offer the best and most versatile overall package.

Plus, there’s one more benefit: Google has the widest ecosystem Apple vs. Android: Buy the Ecosystem, Not the Gadget You love your Android phone and want to buy a tablet. Everyone tells you the iPad is the best tablet, and it really is the best; but you should still buy an Android tablet. Read More , and these days it’s more convenient to buy into the ecosystem you’re already using. Most of us already own a smartphone powered by Android and a Google account, which, in the opinion of this writer, makes Google Play Music a no-brainer.

Try It Now — Google Play Music on Web | Android | iOS

How do you feel about Google Play Music? Is it on par with, or even better than, alternatives like Spotify and Apple Music? If you don’t use it, why not? Please let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: Google, Google Play, Streaming Music.

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  1. Skye Shane
    August 12, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    Just upgraded to premium after only buying music individually on Google music before. For the cost I was like why not. But only a day after using premium I have had one bug after another. It keeps saying all my music is unavailable because there is another device listening. There isn't. And there never has been for the years I've been buying music. I can't even listen to the music I have bought previously, before doing the monthly subscription. Also YouTube red and the YouTube music feature that it says are included don't work. I can't watch any red shows. There are still ads and I can't listen with my screen off. I called Google play who redirected me to google music and they were just like hmm odd and then tried to get me off the line as quickly as possible. Said their engineers would get on this problem and it would be fixed in 24 hours. And that they would be emailing me constantly with updates about my problem and what they are doing to fix it. Way past 24hours. Not fixed. No calls or emails. I haven't had time to call and be on hold for hours again just to speak to someone for a minute. I understand technology will have bugs and I wasn't too upset about that but their customer support is really awful. I'm paying for something I can't use and they don't care. I really liked the service for the day I was able to use it tho.

  2. Joop van Dijk
    May 11, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Is it correct that you can only play offline / downloaded albums through the native Google Play Music app? Or can I use any app I prefer to Google?


  3. Thomas Goplen
    March 26, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Anyone know if Google Play Music ever will have volume normalization?

  4. Leslie Platt
    February 10, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Google Play Music is the BEST!! In addition to all of the features listed about, if you have a Google Home/Mini, GPM is a must have to fully enjoy either of these two. I love being able to call up any song I want to hear!! Haven't tried to radio component yet, but definitely will now!

    • Leslie
      February 10, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      (listed) *above & (tried) *the

  5. Mollie
    January 7, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    I need to cancel my subscription but I can't find a place to do it. Please help!

    • Leslie
      February 10, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      On PC, open Google Play Music and log in to your account. Then, click on hamburger menu in top left corner > settings. On the main screen, you will see a red rectangular "button" that says "Cancel Subscription".

      Hope this helps!

  6. Karen
    August 9, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    I need a voice recorder at no cost to record songs we are singing during choir practice. This recorder needs to be able to be paused as well. When I go to listen to it, I need to be able to click on that song and it plays and also has a high volume because I listen to it while driving with the windows down on the highway.
    I have tried downloading a free voice recorder and it is not user friendly. I have to open it, click one button, click on the song(if I am lucky it will allow me to then click Listen) Too many steps and when the manufacturer asked for my feedback and I explained my issue, he said that I could get a paid version. I volunteer as a choir member so I am not willing to pay for a recorder.
    I am leary about downloading a free one from the Play Store since I got a virus on my previous phone. This phone was an LG 4 and had a great voice recorder built in. I now have a Pixel XL and could not find a voice recorder built in on this phone and Google Play Music does not seem to have this feature. Any suggestions.

  7. Darren
    February 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    I have used Google play for a few years now having uploaded most of my music collection. My only little gripe is that you can't set where it caches' the music, ie it uses my internal memory on my phone where I wish i could set it to my external sdcard. Other than that, it has served me well

    • Gavin
      November 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      You CAN set the storage location. Just go to settings, and it's right at the bottom, just above "About Play Music".

  8. Watcher
    February 19, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    I have always preferred Google Play Music over all of the other music apps. Viper4Android works flawlessly with it! I have uploaded over 35,000 songs from my local collection to their cloud for FREE! Name me one music service that will let you do that!?

  9. John Cunningham-Smith
    February 18, 2017 at 7:43 am

    If you have an all access subscription, distinguishing between your own music and Googles is tricky.

    It needs a setting so you can immediately change to your uploaded music or all access.

    Just one reason I stick with Spotify and just use Play music as the locker for my own music.

  10. Ryan
    February 18, 2017 at 12:44 am

    I've been on since Google Play Music subscription started and it continues to improve. One of the other great features with the family plan is that it again works with Google Play Movies and TV. As we've had kids and bought Disney movies it's pretty awesome that my parents and in-laws have access to my content using their logins. Happy kiddos.

  11. Richard
    February 17, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    a few years ago I uploaded all my Apple-purchased and personal CD music to Google Play and it's quite good
    I like that I can buy music via Google and stream it to any device
    however it has some catching up to do
    last time I checked (early 2016) Google only permitted two downloads of a song... so there could be an issue if you change devices...
    the main reason I continue to use Spotify is due to its suggestion algorithm. It is far superior to Google's... suggesting [generic] New Releases and offering Music Stations is very basic and isn't really that useful for finding new artists. And to my knowledge Google doesn't offer TV soundtrack playlists

  12. Richard
    February 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    for three+ years i have all my music on Google Play. being able to upload music from any source is a nice bonus and one of the many reasons i ditched Apple Music
    last time i checked: Google Music only allows a song to be downloaded twice. so if you change devices... then what? happy to be updated on this policy
    i use Spotify as their suggestion algorithm is far superior - it recommends artists i would not have known about. Google Stations and Genres totally miss the point
    plus Spotify has TV series playlists, which is very nice
    I like Google Music however it has some catching up to do

    • Watcher
      February 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      That's only 2 downloads if you don't use Chrome Apps with Play Music. Otherwise, it's unlimited downloads.

  13. Doug
    February 17, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I have used it to stream my uploaded collection and occasionally purchase music for years. I just upgraded to the subscription service however and am loving it. I rarely use monthly subscription services but with YouTube red this is a great value.

  14. Johng
    February 17, 2017 at 1:35 am

    I too like google play music, but stick with spotify for its larger device support, roku, car radios, etc.

  15. Dave
    February 16, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    And don't forget about the YouTube Music app. Videos or audio only, with some offline playback features.

  16. Al Hayes
    February 16, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    I've been using the free version for about 2 years now & I just surpassed 40k songs uploaded! Hopefully they'll increase it again.
    The only thing missing that most other services have is "normalisation" or volume leveling.

    • Jeff
      February 17, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      I absolutely agree with regard to normalization. They really need to add it, replay gain support it something!

      The Android auto support, and voice commands are great for in the car where I use it most. But no volume leveling kills it.

      Unfortunately I have yet to find any player that had all 3; Android Auto support, voice commands, and volume leveling.

  17. Jim
    February 16, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    I love Google play having left Apple Music for it 3 months ago.