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PSA: Downloading your Google Play Music library is a nightmare
If you’re like me, you’ve been using Google Play Music for a number of years to host your massive music library. Unlike a lot of people, I’m not interested in streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music — I want to own my library and curate it with the tracks I love and ensure those tracks are the versions I prefer at the highest quality possible.
However, Google has made it clear that Google Play Music is not long for this world. With the rollout of YouTube Music earlier this year — combined with the fact that Google Play Music hasn’t seen a significant update in a very long time — it’s very likely we’ll see an announcement of the shutdown of Google Play Music at some point in 2019 with a hard push for users to migrate to YouTube Music.
Many people, however, are not interested in YouTube Music. Those people might be planning to simply download their Google Play Music library once the service-termination announcement is made and figure out how to host the files somewhere else.
Well, here’s a bit of fair warning: downloading your Google Play Music library is a complete and utter nightmare.
Hopefully, you’ve got some time on your hands
There are two ways to download your Google Play Music library, both of which are awful. Let’s start with how Google wants you to download your library.
Google Play Music Manager
The way Google wants you to download your library is through the Music Manager desktop app. This simple application connects to your library and allows you to both upload and download files in batches. I’ve used Music Manager for years to upload files, as it’s a lot easier than using the web interface (at least for me). However, until a week ago I had never downloaded anything.
You have two options when downloading your library: download just the songs you’ve purchased directly through Google Play Music, or download your entire library. In my case, my entire library is 22,174 songs, which I estimate weighs about 175GB, give or take.
I started to download my library on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. Today is Wednesday, December 12, 2018, and Music Manager has downloaded about 7,500 songs.
Doing the math, that’s a little over 1,000 songs per day. At this rate, my music library will be completely downloaded a day or two after Christmas, likely taking over three weeks to complete.
Three weeks to download 22,000 songs. Ouch.
For the record, I have pretty fast internet (100Mbps speeds) and my desktop is wired into my router. In other words, the slowness of this download is not because my internet or computer is slow — this is just how fast Google is going to let me download.
Aside from being incredibly slow, downloading your files this way also has another major disadvantage: you can’t stop. If you stop downloading after you’ve started, the files you’ve downloaded will stay on your computer. However, when you click to continue downloading, Music Manager just starts again from the beginning. There’s no way for it to know that you’ve previously downloaded files and to thus skip those — it’s either “on” or “off,” with nothing in between.
That means for the entire three weeks of downloading, I can’t turn my computer off. If I lose connection to the internet for a tiny bit of time, that’s fine, as the download will just pause and restart. But if the program crashes or my computer crashes, oh well — I’ll have to start over again from the very beginning.
Using the Music Manager isn’t the only way to download your Google Play Music library. You could instead go through each and every album you own, right-clicking on the menu for that album and then downloading it. This would likely take less overall time than using Music Manager, but would require you to sit there and do all the work.
You could also create playlists and then download those, which might be a little faster. However, your download limit through the web interface is 100 songs at once, so your playlists would have to be exactly that big. In my case, that would be 222 playlists. Once I got all the songs downloaded, I would then have to spend the time reorganizing them on my computer, as the multiple playlists would not download in the traditional Artist > Album > Song folder structure.
Either way, I’m sitting in front of the computer for a long time, doing a lot of repetitive clicking. Ugh.
Google might make this easier — if you move to YouTube Music
When Google launched YouTube Music, it said that it would eventually support users uploading their own tracks to the service, just like we can do with Google Play Music. It’s therefore possible Google will develop some sort of migration tool that will easily move your uploaded Google Play Music library to the eventual YouTube Music library, thus bypassing this whole step of downloading your library yourself.
However, that only helps if you want to move to YouTube Music, which I definitely do not.
It’s possible Google could have a better download tool in the works for Google Play Music, which will make saving your library easier and faster than it currently is. Maybe the company will launch this hypothetical tool when it eventually announces the end of Google Play Music.
I am downloading my music now before the end-of-life announcement, because this is clearly going to be a long, difficult process.
That might be the case, but it also might not be. I wouldn’t put it past Google to not release a tool of that kind to encourage people to make the easy switch to YouTube Music (which, let’s face it, isn’t doing so well thus far).
That’s why I’m downloading my library now and moving it to my own Plex server. That way I’ll have control of the music permanently and will never have to go through this again. It’s going to take weeks for me to download everything, but I’d rather get it over with now than wait until the last minute.
If your music library is as big (or bigger) than mine, I suggest you get started with the download process soon. If you wait until the last minute — and Google doesn’t introduce a new way to download your files — it could take longer for you to complete the download than the service’s remaining lifetime.