Music Tech

Why Google Music’s New ‘Scan And Match’ Is Not Enough

Google_play-591x315By Eliot Van Buskirk of

When Apple launched iCloud, it included a feature that let you put your music in the cloud without manually uploading each song, which takes forever. That’s why we thought Apple, ironically given its download slant, might be your best bet for this ‘cloud music’ thing.

Today, as reported by Engadget, Google added the same feature, meaning that it too has made special arrangements with copyright holders (artists, labels, songwriters, and publishers) to scan the MP3s and other music files on your hard drive and send them up into Google’s cloud — up to 20,000 songs, for free, with no option to pay for more space.

That’s fine, but for most music fans, it’s probably irrelevant.

Why music fans should like scan-and-match: We are desperate for a good way to reunite our music collection with itself. I have different music on several computers and devices plus vinyl, CDs, cassettes, hard drives, Spotify playlists, MOG favorites, an Rdio collection, Pandora preferences, Hype Machine hearts, a account, hundreds of jams, and countless other ways of trying to keep track of the music I like.

I am not alone in this. For all of us, lockers with “scan and match” represent the possibility of uniting, at the very least, all of our downloaded music files in one place, assuming we run it against all of our computers and hard drives — and it’s faster than uploading each song one at a time.

Why it doesn’t matter: Like Apple iCloud, Google Music doesn’t really support apps — meaning that developers can’t build apps that combine that music with other music. Also, neither is part of an unlimited music subscription, so although it unites your downloads into one music locker, you’re still sort of trapped with what you have, unless you want to purchase, pirate, or hunt down (on blogs) more tunes. This leaves us with (roughly speaking):

  • Apple and Google can scan-and-match your library but can’t import that music into a cloud-based subscription.
  • Spotify can import your downloads and even transfer them to certain devices, but they don’t get scanned-and-matched into your Spotify collection.
  • Samsung Music Hub, not that you use it, can import your MP3s into a cloud-based music subscription that also has a radio feature, but there’s no scan-and-match, so it takes forever to upload everything.
  • MOG can take a picture of your CDs, tapes, and records and add them to your MOG collection with a feature called Moggles, but I don’t think anybody uses that either.
  • Regardless of what you use, your stuff will be all over the place, and there’s little you can do about it except for learn not to care.

Why can’t we have nice things — by which I mean why can’t we just, like, pay for music somehow and have it forever, rather than forever fretting about what we put in each walled garden? Really, what we need is “one big database,” or some other solution for tying music to people regardless of service or device. For more on that, see this recently-published white paper (.pdf), which quotes this and mentions this, and perhaps check out the following articles:

If this gets figured out, here’s what it might look like for music fans:

1. Buy a song, like it, or collect it in a subscription-type environment.

2. Access the file, preference, or stream anywhere, forever, manually or through APIs.

3. That’s it.

Would you buy, like, and collect more music in a world like that? I know I would.


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  1. Spotify comes closest to this now, since it can import and sync your local files and combine them with Spotify tunes in playlists.
    What it’s missing is a feature that will scan your local collection and create a playlist of all your local songs that are NOT in Spotify. That way, you could then sync that playlist with your devices and have all your music, either in Spotify or on your device. This seems relatively simple, since Spotify already links your local files to the cloud files upon import.
    Right now, there’s no way to know which of your local files aren’t in Spotify without checking one-by-one. Ideally, this match program would re-run periodically to account for new files in your collection and for songs added and removed from Spotify.
    MOG, Rdio, and Rhapsody seem to want nothing to do with local files, so Spotify would do well to add this one basic feature and support “everything, everywhere, easily”.

  2. I’m busy uploading all my tracks into Google Music right now. I’m beginning to regret it – 6 hours in, it’s only got 4400 of my 13,000 tracks uploaded. Clearly this scan and match thing isn’t working. At least it’s free.
    What I really dream of is Google buying Spotify or Rhapsody or one of the other competitors, or maybe Dropbox or Amazon doing the same thing. Then we’d have our tracks, plus subscription services, all in one place. The only reason I can think of that this hasn’t already happened is the typical backwards music industry reluctance to let us listen to our music the way we want to. But I think it’s inevitable. Having people tote around massive collections on individual hard drives forever just seems so wasteful. I’d happily pay $10 or more a month for a combination subscription/cloud storage service.

  3. @Jason: I hear what you’re saying, I am working on a new system to solve this file sharing problem. Artists should be compensated for their music, and the community deserves to have full information and access at any time to their favourite albums and tracks at a fair price. is an affordable subscription based service that can be free with community participation. As long as i can access music at any time, i really don’t care if I ‘own’ it.
    In my apartment I have a large vinyl record collection (thousands and thousands), a healthy CD collection, and terabytes of music. Ownership of music used to make sense, but it’s a totally new mindset today that the industry simply does not understand. File-sharing is also way too easy, and leaves a lot of Indy artists in the cold. Sure, they get exposure, but their music loses its context as per the culture from which it came.
    I also have a lot of music i have found, but know little or nothing about the artist. Personally, that bothers me, I like to find out more, and explore other work they have done, or check out similar artists. Since the local record store is pretty much a thing of the past, there are few guides out there to direct you in interesting directions.
    Check out the project, spread the word and help out when we do our crowd-funding on IndieGogo later in the New Year (2013)

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