19,013 Songs


That is what it says on my Google Play Music account. 19,013 songs.

Look, I realise that all the cool kids are renting their music on Spotify. It might not actually make any money, but it’s so much more convenient paying £10 a month and having access to all your music. Except when the album you want isn’t on it yet. Or the album you listened to yesterday isn’t on there today.

I may be old fashioned, but owning your own music gets around such issues. Plus there are high-tech solutions to give a Spotify-type experience and access to my music.

Which brings me to Google Play Music.

I think it’s a great service. I signed up before you could even get it in the UK (which led to issues over what I could buy for a while later, but they’ve all been sorted). You upload your music – or Google matches your local music to save uploading times. And then it’s safely stored and can later be downloaded. Plus, you listen on your IP connected devices including laptops, tablets and phones.

Pretty much all my music listening comes via Google Play Music now. The mobile app has an offline mode for all those times when you either don’t want to be streaming on your mobile data plan, or are simply out of service (e.g. the underground).

Certainly, its “Instant Mixes” could be better. And it’s not as good as Apple’s iTunes at finding album art, although iTunes is pretty ropey itself unless you’ve given it precisely the right wording in its various fields. Google is working at trying to improve this. They bought Songza and have apparently rolled out mood and activity playlists (except if they have, I’m either being very stupid in not finding it, or it’s more for those who rent their music via Google’s subscription service a la Spotify).

But it’s pretty good. With one big proviso.

There’s a 20,000 song limit.

Now I’m not sure if that’s an agreement that Google came to with the music companies (who really seem to object to people safely storing the music that they themselves bought); or whether that’s a Google imposed limit based on average usage etc. But I’m getting close to the 20,000 limit.

If there are an average of 12 tracks an album (I’ve no idea if that’s true), then I am 82 albums away from filling up my allocation. What then?

I think I’m probably going to hit that mark in the next couple of years!

You will also note that it says I have 70 days’ worth of music among those 19,013 songs. Why on earth do I want more? I can’t possibly listen to everything I’ve already got.

Well that’s true. But one way or another, I’ve accumulated a lot of music – legally – over time.


– I bought magazines, like The Word, that came with monthly cover mounts (and then I’d sometimes buy the albums of artists featured on those cover mounts);
– I’ve bought BBC Music Magazine for many years and that keeps coming with CDs;
– I once subscribed to one of those part-works on jazz, leading to me owning many many CDs of jazz;
– I worked at a commercial radio station that in the late nineties was positively awash with CDs (it tends to be more about downloads now, and I was never really on the list for them);

What you also need to know is that 19,013 songs doesn’t represent my complete CD collection. There are many more CDs still sitting in boxes that have yet to be ripped. These include many of the CDs listed above. Notwithstanding the time-spent-ripping issues, I’d obviously fill my Google Music allocation instantly.

Songs bought on Google Play don’t count towards the total. But I would never want to limit my buying options to one store or vendor.

Now despite loathing iTunes as much as I do (hideous new look in the latest version incidentally, making it ever harder to navigate your music), I do keep all my music locally in an iTunes library stored on a NAS drive. And iTunes has no upper limit. So there is that.

This is all a long way around of asking: if Google is unwilling or unable to up its 20,000 song limit, and I want to Google Play Music functionality, where can I go?

Is there a paid for service that allows me something like this?

Amazon allows you to store 250,000 songs for £21.99 a year. That might be worth experimenting with. Songs bought on Amazon don’t count towards the total either. I’m unsure what Amazon’s player’s functionality is like. But the massively increased size makes it something to seriously consider if Google doesn’t up its limits. And it might get me into a better regime of digitising my life (Currently: photos, CDs, video and magazine articles).

Incidentally, this is all why I was also terribly sad to see the end of the iPod Classic – aka the iPod. I still have a 140GB model. I may not use it very often today, and I was already having to make hard choices over how I filled the device (there are podcasts to consider too!). But roll on somebody making affordable devices that can use dual SD or microSD cards that I can load up with 128GB or 256GB cards with.

The future is always just around the corner…

[Update – February 2015: Well Google must have listened to me! Yes – I’m sure that was it. They’ve just upped the limit on music from 20,000 to 50,000 songs! I reckon that I’m safe for at least another ten years or so. And no need to switch to anyone else just yet.]


  1. Like you I also have ~ 19k songs in my iTunes library and unlike the kids these days, I don’t use Spotify either. iTunes on my Mac connected to speakers when I’m home. 160GB iPod Classic when I’m commuting to/from work.

    I have so much time invested with playlists in iTunes that switching to something else doesn’t seem appealing at all. Being able to make a smart playlist of “all indie songs that I haven’t listened to in 6 months” or something silly like “all songs with less than 10 plays” is what I love about iTunes most of all. Being able to make a genius playlist derived from one particular song and have that list be scary accurate still amazes me to this day.

    Agreed that the iTunes interface is a little dodgy, a friend calls it “a spreadsheet that plays music” and it’s a fair point. Over the years I’ve gotten used to the quirks. When iTunes 11 came out and the default font changed, I wrote a quick script to change it back to the font used in iTunes 10. Tried iTunes 12 and hated it so restored from backup to get iTunes 11 back.

    With the demise of the iPod Classic I’ve often wondered what I’ll do when either (a) the device gives up the ghost (b) becomes full. I’ve yet to come up with a decent solution and only have a few gigs to play with. Having a 200GB iPhone would be lovely as then I could carry one device with all my music. But that’s s a few years away yet

  2. I think my problem with iTunes – Apple’s vandalism of it notwithstanding – is that it has been built very clunkily over the years. Essentially something new comes along that Apple engineers require it to support, and it gets shoehorned into the current product. So as well as managing your media library, it’s a standalone store, backs up and installs phone updates and generally has to handle anything and everything thrown at it. It’s one of those products that if you were starting today from scratch would be entirely different.

    That said, people have come to know and “love” its abilities and it can indeed do a lot. But a new user coming at it fresh today can find it quite baffling. Which of the many menus in many different parts of the program do you go to do to do things?

    I’m not really using my iPod Classic at the moment (although it’s going nowhere) so I’m only really invested in iTunes by default. I don’t even make massive use of its playlists – smart or otherwise. Genius is better than Google’s Instant Mix. But then iTunes forever seems to be taking ages to upload and download Genius data in the background.

    I’ve got another blog coming up on some possible hardware replacements, but it looks like Apple has abandoned iPod Classic lovers. An updated Touch might get 256GB at some point, but even that device feels like it’s not long of this world. And Apple makes too much money on memory to really up levels decently. I don’t even know why they still sell the 16GB iPhone. But they do, and it’s the best-selling model because it’s cheap. Yet you pretty much have to delete everything off it to do an OTA OS update.

    I think the key will the fast-increasing microSD card sizes. They may not be writeable massively fast (but then it took nearly 24 hours for me to replace audio on my iPod Classic after a previous one was stolen), but they are readable fast enough for music. I see all the high-end players aimed at the audiophile market with lossless codecs seem to support them. The Fiio X5 for example which is quite hefty but has two microSD card slots. Currently you can pop 2 x 128GB cards into, but in due course it should handle 2 x 256GB cards. That’s a really quite decent amount of data. That said, the prospect of re-ripping my CD collection in a lossless format doesn’t appeal – I use iTunes’ higher bit-rate AAC setting which is fine to my ears.

    Of course such a beast might not work with iTunes – I’ve not looked into it enough. But I believe that there are other options for software that will carry over playlists. Whether you can carry over all your current functionality, I’m not sure. I guess it’s one of those things that the more tied into a system we get, the harder it is to shift to something else.

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