Google Play Music is Google’s music streaming service. It’s been available since November 2011 and has become one of the biggest players in the industry, vying with both Spotify and Apple Music for the top spot.
If you’re thinking of standing out from any of its competitors, we’re sure you’ll appreciate Google Play Music’s impressive array of features.
But what happens when you dig a little deeper? What features lie just below the surface? In this article, we’ll introduce you to cool things you can do with Google Play Music that newbies and veterans might not know about.
1. Improve your recommendations
Recommendations are one of the most important parts of any music streaming service. With the disappearance of street record stores, music discovery tools are quickly becoming the primary means of discovering new artists.
Spotify’s Discover Weekly has been the go-to since it launched in 2015, but thanks to an update in 2016, Play Music now has a feature that can rival it.
Rather than just using your past listening habits and favorite artists to organize its recommendations, the app also relies on your current location and activity. For example, it will know when you are at the gym or at the office and recommend music accordingly.
But did you know that you can further refine the recommendations? This is a feature that sets Google Play Music apart from Spotify and Apple.
To tell the app which genres of music you like the most, go to Settings > General > Improve your recommendations.
You can tick as many boxes as you want. When you’re ready, click Next.
Now the app will show you a list of suggested artists from the styles you selected. Again, choose as many as you want and click Finish.
2. Google Play Music Labs
Google Chrome and Gmail users will be familiar with the concept of Labs. These are features that Google is working on behind the scenes; Sometimes they end up becoming an integral part of the app, other times they get tossed in the trash.
Google Play Music offers experimental features. To activate them, go to Settings > Labs and slide the toggle next to the feature you want to enable. Currently, there are three features to choose from.
To note: All lab features are experimental. There is no guarantee that you will get the expected behavior on your own system.
Desktop notifications will give you a pop-up notification on your desktop whenever the song changes, even if you have minimized your browser window.
The notification will include the artist name, song title, album title, and album art. Apparently, Google hopes to add more features like track skipping and a volume slider in future updates.
Google Play Music lets you upload 50,000 of your own tracks to the app. You can then access and listen to the tracks from anywhere in the world.
Enabling this lab feature places an additional meta field next to these tracks, allowing you to add custom notes, comments, or genres.
Chromecast Fireplace Viewer
Fireplace Visualizer turns your TV screen into a virtual fireplace when you stream your music through a Google Chromecast device.
3. Mini player
Desktop versions of music streaming apps tend to be more comprehensive than web versions. Look no further than Spotify’s recent disastrous update to its own web player for a concrete example.
Unfortunately, there is no official desktop player for Google Play Music, so the Mini Player is the next best thing.
Finding the installation link is not easy. First, start playing any track in the web app. Next, you need to locate the diagonal arrow in the upper right corner of the Now Playing panel at the bottom of the window.
The app will take you to a new screen. Click on Install.
Once installed, the mini player gives you a play/pause button, thumbs up/down icons, a skip track button, a way to shuffle and repeat tracks, and a link to the station radio station “I’m Feeling Lucky”.
4. Link to any music video
One of the biggest paid perks for Google Play Music is a free YouTube Red subscription. Red offers some great features including ad-free videos and offline playback. However, one of the best Play Music YouTube integrations has nothing to do with the paid service.
Did you know that you can link to the music video of (almost) any song right from the playbar?
Again, functionality is not immediately apparent. When a track is playing, hover over the Now Playing panel and click the little YouTube logo.
Even better, clicking the logo doesn’t kick you out of the Play Music app. The video will appear as a standalone item in the middle of the screen. Clicking anywhere else on the screen will make it disappear and you’ll be back to your music.
5. Shazam Slayer
Shazam has been the go-to music recognition tool for years, but Google Play Music is starting to give the ubiquitous app a run for its money.
To identify a song, launch the app and tap the search icon. The first entry you will see will be Identify what is playing. Tap it and your phone will start trying to recognize anything playing in your immediate vicinity.
If you’re on Android, you don’t even need to open the Play Music app. You can create a home screen widget for the feature by going to Widgets > Google > Google Sound Search.
To note: This feature is only available on the mobile version of the app.
6. Use Shortcuts
Who needs a mouse? They’re so 1992. Don’t manufacturers realize that everyone wants touchscreen laptops these days?
Okay, that’s not entirely true. But using a mouse is slow and tedious compared to learning a few vital keyboard shortcuts.
Want to optimize your Google Play Music desktop experience? Learn these eight essential keyboard hacks:
- Play and Pause: Space
- Next song: right arrow
- Previous song: left arrow
- Increase the volume : =
- Decrease the volume : –
- Thumbs up: Alt+=
- Thumbs down: Alt+-
- Random music: S
7. Start over
Sometimes your music streaming app knows too much about you. We’ve all read the stories of Spotify users who consistently receive songs from one of the service’s weirdest and most wonderful genres in their Discover Weekly or Release Radar playlists.
Unlike Spotify, Google Play Music offers a way to prevent this from happening: you can force the app to delete everything it knows about your music preferences and tastes and start all over again.
To start over, go to Settings > Delete recommendation history and click Wipe off.
Click on Wipe off a second time on the confirmation screen to complete the process.
To note: Using this feature will not delete your play count or song ratings.
Give us your advice!
In this article, we’ve introduced you to some lesser-known features of Google Play Music. Hopefully they will help you enjoy the service even more.
Of course, there are even more tips and tricks. So now it’s your turn. What cool features did we miss? What should all Play Music subscribers do to get the best value from the streaming service?
It is also important that you know how to switch to YouTube Music.