Google Music - Still a Mystery

After reading some interesting reviews of Google's new "cloud"-based music service, [Editor's note: can we please stop calling anything hosted online "cloud-based?"] imagine my delight (go ahead, imagine it) when a beta invitation arrived in my inbox yesterday.  I was particularly interested in its playlisting abilities - i.e. how well it performs in the task of "recommend a bunch of songs from my own collection that have qualities in common with the seed song/artist/album."  Over at Echo Nest, Paul Lamere (one of my music tech heroes, who's involved with a really cool company) did an in-depth head-to-head comparison of Google Music, iTunes Genius, and the Echo Nest's own API.  The result:  Google Music fails what Paul calls the "WTF Test."  Meaning, way too many songs in Google's playlists would cause the listener to say "WTF?  This has nothing in common with my seed song."

I've written about music recommendation engines in this space before, and generally I've found them to be a mixed bag.  While I do sometimes hear about new artists I might not have heard otherwise from the web-based tools, these days I'm actually more interested in diving deep into my own collection.  I have about 80,000 tracks in my digital collection.  I use a variety of tools to manage this beast, primarily SqueezeCenter, which is the software that enables streaming to a device such as the Squeezebox.  One of my favorite features of SqueezeCenter is its integration with a nifty little product called MusicIP.  MusicIP used to be a great tool for generating playlists based out of your own music library.  It's perfect for someone like me with more tracks than I can handle.  It finds hidden gems, reminds me of things I forgot I had, and of course generates a few WTF moments.  Sadly, the folks over at Amplifind Music Services discontinued support for this product a long time ago, thus ensuring that some of its most maddening bugs (my personal favorite is the one where it has trouble analyzing FLAC files on a network drive, but can analyze those same files perfectly on a local drive) will never be fixed.  Kudos to folks like whoever runs Spicefly, who keep the torch burning for MusicIP, but the fact is, it's never going to get any better.  And I haven't yet had the time to devote to learning the Echo Nest API enough to have it analyze my whole collection and thus fulfill the same function for me.  Which brings me back to Google Music.

Despite its purportedly high "WTF factor," and the fact that you can only upload 20,000 tracks, and the fact that they will delete any track that Google deems to have violated copyright (I'd love to know how they know which track is the one I ripped from my own CD, and which is the copy I might have given to someone), I was still hopeful that Google Music might, one day, fill the coming void in my life when I finally upgrade Windows and MusicIP breaks down altogether.  So now that you've imagined my delight at receiving an invitation to the beta, imagine my disgust when the stupid thing told me I already more than 2 authorized user accounts tied to my current device, whatever that might mean.  This for software that I've never installed before.  So I consulted their help page, which told me to simply go to my Google Music settings in my browser, and de-authorize my devices.  Now, finally, imagine the words I uttered upon discovering that, according to Google, my authorized devices numbered exactly zero.  I wrote to support, but haven't heard back yet.  So for now, Google Music doesn't even have a chance to fail the WTF test for me, it's too busy failing the WFI test (Won't Fucking Install).

Anyone else used this thing?  Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: Google support got back to me, apparently this was an issue where by default the software assumed if you had any virtual machines on your computer that you were already using Google Music.  They have released a fix, so I'll be trying again soon.


Music Without A Net

Hello loyal readers.  I'd like to take a break from my usual spotty coverage of music and technology plus the occasional playlist to let you all know that next weekend, I will get not 1 but 2 opportunities to do one of my favorite things in the world:  perform musical improv in front of an audience.  And if you're going to be in New York City the weekend of May 20th, I'd love for you to come out and see me.

Friday May 20 @ 8:00 PM
Vox Pop Presents:  An Evening of Musical Improv

My 2-person group Vox Pop will be hosting an evening of musical improv, with a ton of amazing guest groups from the Big Apple.  Vox Pop performs an entirely sung show - every word you hear will be sung, every tune and lyric will be made up on the spot, and it will be entertaining as hell.  My co-star Karen Lange lives in Washington, DC, and I live in New York City, so we don't get to perform together as often as we'd like, which makes this show a big deal.  So come on out and see an event that's way more rare and entertaining than a triple rainbow or a super moon or any of that other crap.


Friday 5/20 8:00 PM
Theaterlab, Studio C

137 W. 14th St., btwn 6th & 7th
New York, NY
$10 - Tickets
More info

Saturday, May 21 @ ~ 8:00 PM
iMusical:  The REUNION Show!  (Part of the Queens Fringe Festival)

Washington DC's acclaimed iMusical is coming to New York to participate in the Queens Fringe Festival.  iMusical has performed to standing ovations up and down the east coast, and was called "spot on" by the Washington Post.  Despite these accolades, various cast members (including yours truly) have left the group over the years to pursue life in the Big Apple.  Well, on Saturday May 21st you can see these all-stars back together on stage for the first time in years.  This is bigger than [some awesome all-star sports game that I can't reference because I don't follow sports]!!!  You don't get a chance to see this many musical improv heavy-hitters on stage at the same time very often, folks, so don't pass it up.

Saturday 5/21
We are in a slot of groups which starts at 6:40 PM.  We're expected to go on around 8:00 PM.
The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd St
Long Island City, NY
$15 for an all-day pass which also gets you $3 beers all day(!)
More info

I hope you can make it out to one or both of those shows, I can pretty much guarantee [Editor's note: not a guarantee] that they are going to be awesome.