This week brought a painful reminder that for as awesome as the ol' World Wide Web may be, it's still a pretty sorry state of affairs when it comes to online music. As a quick recap, Google implemented a limit on the number of devices you can unauthorize from Google Music in a year. You can still have up to 10 activated at any given time, but you can only swap out four of them for new devices. Sounds simple enough, right? And for the vast majority of folks out there, being able to play your music anywhere (in supported nations, anyway) from 14 different devices -- from smartphones and tablets to desktops and laptops and Google TVs -- is overkill several times over. But for others of us, our 10 slots were full, and any attempt to unauthorize a device -- something we'd previously been able to as often as we pleased -- was met with an orange-and-white message:
"Sorry, you've unauthorised too many devices."
Funny, I didn't feel like I'd unauthorized too many devices. (Also funny is that I've got the British spelling, where z's are traded for s's, but that was the least of my worries.) The problem I and many others had run into was that duplicate devices were taking up slots, and we now had no way of getting rid of them. for most folks, it was from flashing custom ROMs. For me, it was from my janky Logitech Revue, which requires a hard-reset every few weeks when it decides to forget some of the apps installed on it. (The latest victim to get sucked into the ether, ironically enough, was Google Play Music.) And so when the hammer came down, I was stuck with a Galaxy Nexus, the EVO 4G LTE, Nexus One, AT&T One X, international One X, a PC, a laptop and two instances of the Logitech Revue taking up precious device slots, with no way to get rid of any of them until 2013. Or, God forbid, until May 2013, if it doesn't go by calendar year.
(I'll be the first to say that that's hardly an embarrassing list of devices, though.)
Google's made me lazy, I think. I've gotten too used to having my music in the cloud. No longer do I have to worry about keeping my music synced from my desktop and laptop to my home NAS. So long as I'm not traveling, I use Google Music to listen to my music when tooling around town. When mowing the lawn. On the odd occasion that I exercise.
I say "my music" because that's what I think of it as. My music. I've got the files somewhere and uploaded them to Google Music. It's my music.
Only, as soon as I decide to upload it to Google Music, it ceases to be mine. Well, it's still mine, but I've lent it to Google to share back to me. So it's no longer mine. It's subject to the rules and regulations of Google, which means it's subject to the wiles and whims of the music labels. Never mind that it's my music. I bought (most of) it. It's mine.
This week's deauth debacle is a reminder that while it might be my music, it's not my cloud. And while Google Music is the object of my ire, it's hardly alone here. Amazon Music's also subject to the record labels. Same for the streaming services. Even Apple has to go through negotiations with a bunch of old white men so that you can get your Bieber on over the air.
This isn't a new issue. The good news is that Google's sorting things out on its end and in the meantime is letting us clean up our authorized devices. (A personal plea: Maybe some sort of exemption for those of us who test phones for a living?) But this week serves as a reminder that it's easy to become complacent, to accept the ease of streaming in exchange for sharing our files with a master whose best interests seldom are in line with our own.