A look at Google Play - another option for DRM-free music in Australia

12 April 2013, 19:34

The whole collection

A couple of years ago I had a CD collection with over 300 albums. Being a renter I move house every couple of years, on average. I realised having a collection of physical artefacts where, for the most part all I did was digitise them and then never look at them again, was pretty silly.

So I decided to take the plunge and go digital-only. I made sure my CDs were all ripped, took the discs and put them in a CD wallet, and then tossed the majority of the cases. I decided I would try and buy digital-only from that point on (although I still buy CDs at concerts a few times a year).

But how and where to buy MP3s, as a non-Apple user? And DRM free? I’m not really into the “streaming” model of buying renting music, either. I want to buy something that isn’t going to evaporate if I stop paying a monthly fee, and that I can easily transfer across multiple hard drives.

I did a bit of Googling and it seemed that my best option at the time was Telstra’s Bigpond Music. Which was rather unexpected, but there you go. High quality DRM-free MP3s I could buy (even if rather cumbersomely) with a good selection of Australian musicians.

The worst thing about buying things from them was needing to individually click each song to download it. Who knows why, but there is no ‘download all in a zip’ option. There is a Windows plugin for easier downloading but unsurprisingly nothing to help out a Linux user.

Bigpond Music download list

Bigpond Music - Windows only downloader

This week it was announced that Google Play Music is launching in Australia. I did a bit of investigating to figure out if it would be a good DRM-free option for me.

Firstly I checked to see if they had an album I have been waiting for ages for BPM to sell – Regina Spektor’s “In the Cheap Seats”. For some reason they have her back catalogue but not this one, her latest, but to my joy GPM had it!

Secondly it appears that their prices, on average, are a little cheaper. Here’s the last six albums I’ve bought:

Bic Runga – Belle: BIGPOND 15.35 / GOOGLEPLAY 12.99
The Sapphires soundtrack: BIGPOND 15.35 / GOOGLEPLAY 12.99
Pitch Perfect soundtrack: BIGPOND 15.65 / GOOGLEPLAY 15.99
Kaki King – Glow: BIGPOND 14.95 / GOOGLEPLAY not available
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob: BIGPOND 12.10 / GOOGLEPLAY 11.99
Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats: BIGPOND not available / GOOGLEPLAY 11.99

Don’t judge me :) (free tip: Pitch Perfect soundtrack isn’t worth it…)

Surprisingly Google didn’t have the latest from Kaki King, so I guess that’s one black mark against each.

I think it will still be worth checking, especially as I found this anomaly:

Paul Kelly A-Z recordings (8 discs/105 tracks): BIGPOND 34.05 / GOOGLEPLAY 65.99

(well worth $34, also)

Google Play experience:

Google Play music purchase checkout

OK so it’s easy to buy things… where’s my “Download” button?

The web-based music library:

Google Play music library - download album

Google Play music library - download only twice

Interesting… maybe the Android app makes it easier?

The generically named “Play Music” app:

"Play Music" app "keep on device"

“Keep on device” seems to be an inane name for “Download somewhere obscure”. I was not surprised that digging around didn’t reveal the files to be stored anywhere obvious.

Android engineer Dan Morrill in November 2011:

One of the core Android principles is that you never need a file manager. Ever. We wanted to avoid the obnoxious “sneeze and a file picker appears” syndrome of basically every other OS. Local data that apps know how to handle should just be magically available within the apps, or stored in the cloud. You shouldn’t have to go spelunking on your SD card to find data.

Yeah, and if you need to because you don’t really want to participate in “the cloud” — too bad.

There are lots of forum questions asking “where are these files downloaded to?” The standard path doesn’t seem to have any files in it, on my phone, so I guess I will revert to the old pattern of “download on desktop and manually transfer to phone”. It’s a brave new world, quite like the old world. :P

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