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Fans of the streaming service Google Play Music may soon want to hold a moment of silence. Google has announced that the app will be shut down and replaced by the YouTube Music app, which has been available for a few years.
If you’re a Google Play Music user, it will be easy to move your files, playlists, and other data to the new service.
There’s no word on exactly when Play Music’s final days will come, but the company says it will be later this year. Right now, you can still use both services. Google promises to give users “plenty of notice” before the app shuts down for good.
Google Play Music never had the success of competitors such as Apple Music or Spotify, but I’ve been part of a relatively small but loyal group of users for a long time because the app has a feature that most others don’t.
Google Play Music lets you upload up to 50,000 of your own files to the company’s servers and listen to them from the cloud.
That’s important to me because I have an embarrassingly large collection of bootlegs and rare songs from my days as a record store clerk that you can’t find on most streaming services. Search for the song “Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith on Pandora or Spotify, and you’ll find the official 1997 album cut. Thanks to Google Play, I can also stream almost a dozen other versions I’ve collected over the years, including live recordings and demos.
Google has been moving features like that to YouTube Music—and just like Google Play music, YouTube Music doesn’t cost a dime. Moving the 20 gigabytes of MP3s and WAVs I uploaded from one service to the other was easy, along with the songs I’ve purchased, my playlists, recommendations, and more.
How to Transfer From Google Play Music
You might not have the file transfer feature yet. Don’t worry. Google says it has begun rolling it out and will be gradually providing it to everyone over the next few months.
When it’s your turn to transfer your files, you should get an email and pop-up notifications in the apps. You’ll see a transfer button in that prompt, but if you want to go back and do it later, here’s how.
First, make sure you’ve set up an account with YouTube Music, and that you have the latest version of both apps.
Next, open the YouTube Music app, click on the menu icon in the top right corner > Settings > Transfer from Google Play Music.
The steps are the same whether you’re listening to YouTube Music using an app or a web browser.
The time it takes to transfer your files will depend on the size of your library. When I did it, the process was done in about an hour. You’ll get a notification when the transfer is complete, then you can access your files from the Library tab in the YouTube Music app.
Podcasts and Paid Subscriptions
You’ll need to take separate steps if you’ve been using Google Play Music for podcasts. So far YouTube Music isn’t supporting podcast subscriptions, and the company is encouraging users to adopt the Google Podcasts app instead.
However, if you’ve been using Google Play Music for podcasts, the company makes it easy to transfer your downloads, subscriptions, and other data to the Google Podcasts app. You can start the transfer by clicking on a big button on a dedicated page Google has set up.
If you pay for a Google Play Music subscription for ad-free streaming, the company will move the account to YouTube Music. You’ll get equivalent access to YouTube Music Premium or YouTube Premium (which includes both the music service and ad-free YouTube videos), based on how much you’re paying now. For users in the U.S. and most of the world, prices won’t change for now.
For people who use just the free ad-supported tier of Google Play Music, there’s some bad news and some good news.
The bad news is that YouTube Music’s own free tier has an annoying quirk that’s not present in Google Play: You can’t lock your phone screen or switch over to another app without the music stopping. That means the service isn’t great if you want to do anything else with your phone while you listen to music—and keeping the screen on will drain your battery faster. There are other free music streaming services that might work better for you.
The good news is, this drawback doesn’t apply if you’re listening to your own files that you uploaded to the service. That means I’ll still be able to scroll through Twitter while I listen to my various unreleased Tom Waits live recordings without paying for a subscription.
Keep in mind that once you transfer your files, YouTube Music gets a copy of only the data you’ve generated so far. If you keep using Google Play Music, you’ll want to do another transfer if you add new songs, playlists, or other data that you want to save.
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