Google Music in your browser and on your computer and Android and iPhone

In the old days (say 5-10 years ago), when you migrated from one technology to the next generation, there were only two-to-three possible platforms you were migrating from, so it was easy for developers to test, and ensure a relatively smooth migration process. Now we have a myriad of mobile platforms (iPhone, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, MP3 players), hardware platforms (Mac, Windows, iPad, Android Tablet, Unix, Google Chrome), each having multiple apps for any one function; such as storing and playing music. Creating hundreds of permutations. It is prohibitively expensive for developers to test. So the process has evolved. The result is that it is up to the users to troubleshoot migration problems, and share their success and failures in discussion forums, social media and blogs like this.

Take digital music, for example. For the past five or so years; many of us have, with little fuss, been loading digital music on our computers and mobile devices. Then along comes the cloud. The cloud is a beautiful thing. You can load or copy your music to remote servers (in many cases, for free), providing you a backup of all your music, and the ability to listen to it, or download it from any capable device connected to the Internet. But if you’ve been using digital music all along, you will likely encounter problems.

One example that I’ve experienced, and judging from the various forums, many others have suffered as well, is ending up with duplicate songs in Google Music, and on your Android device. I would try deleting the songs from the device, and they would reappear. Then I’d delete them from Google Music, and they’d likewise reappear. I was beginning to think it was groundhog day. Then I saw a post that pointed to the source of the problem. If you had metadata (artist, album artist, genre, etc.) linked to the song that was even slightly different than the duplicate song’s metadata, Google Music would see them as different. For example, if one copy of the song had nothing in the album artist field, and the other copy had the album artist, then Google would see them as different. To add complexity to this process, various media players such as Windows Media Player, MediaMonkey and others would search the web looking to match metadata and each program populates these fields differently. Add to this, the fact that Google provides the default option to use WMP to populate Google Music, so playlists, metadata and everything else is managed by WMP.

The final problem was complicated by my copying music directly from my computer to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone which runs Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android version 4, that handles memory differently (better) for transferring and storing music. So, by copying the music directly from my computer to the GNex, and then uploading my music from my computer to the Google Music cloud storage, I now had slightly different versions of every song in 10GBs worth of music. This meant that I was using close to 20GBs on the phone with all of the duplicates. To get rid of it, I had to have one clean set of music data in Google Music, from which everything else was to be populated.

So here’s how I fixed it. This process assumes that all of the music you want is uploaded to Google Music (duplicates and all).

  • Backed up all of my music from my computer to an external hard drive. I have a 1TB drive I use to backup everything on a regular basis anyways. I know it’s another layer of redundancy, as I already have a backup of everything from my computer backed up in one Google service or another. I have my data files in Google Drive, my photos on Picassa Web and my music on Google Music. If I had any videos, they’d of course be on YouTube. So having a copy of everything on an external drive is just another level of backup. Part of my ADD.
  • Deleted all of my music from the music folder on my PC (you’ve got the backup from the prior step, so it’s safe).
  • Manually cleaned out all of the duplicate songs on Google Music. It took me about an hour to clean the duplicates, deleting around 2,500 songs. The Google Music interface made this fairly easy to do. Although, I had to go into each Album, and using the Ctrl key, Ctrl-click on each of the duplicates, and then hitting the delete key.
  • Use the Windows Google Music Manager (app that loads on PC) to download all of the cleaned up music from Google Music (cloud) to the PC.
  • Now to get the full set of music on your Android device:
  1. Don’t be frightened when you look at your Android device, as there may be a lot of music missing.
  2. Go to the album view.
  3. Make sure you have the settings option that says “Offline Music Only” un-checked so you see all of your music.
  4. Then click on “Make available offline”
  5. On any album that doesn’t have a green check in the box next to it, click the box so that it does.
  6. Then, depending on your WiFi speed and the amount of music to be downloaded, after some time… may be an hour or more, you’ll ultimately have all of your music downloaded.
  7. From this point on, no more duplicates. Done!

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