There are plenty of ways to stream music these days — I've been an avid Spotify user since the service first rolled out in the U.S., and new services are cropping up all the time, including the new YouTube Music. But Google Play Music has always been different — it isn't just for streaming music from Google's selection, it lets you stream from your own, with the ability to upload your personal catalog to its servers.
That's a great feature for listeners with a wide collection of music that isn't available on streaming services. Maybe you listen to a lot of local bands who haven't distributed their music yet, or maybe your taste in music is just that underground. Whatever the case, it's a great feature that separates Google Play Music from the likes of even the best alternatives.
I have quite a bit of music uploaded to my personal GPM library — mostly demo tracks, local artists, and my own recordings — but while it's nice to have the files stored in the cloud for safety's sake, it doesn't do me much good when it comes to streaming because I'm far beyond my device limit.
In case you didn't know, Google Play Music has long imposed a 10-device limit for playback. Once you try to sign in on an eleventh device, you have to deauthorize one of the others before you're allowed to stream anything. That's fine, just deauthorize an older device and move on, right? Sure, except Google only lets you deauthorize up to four devices a year. There's really no winning here.
There's virtually no alternatives to Google Play Music when it comes to streaming your personal library.
Of course, most people aren't going through ten phones a year (unless you're a tech blogger), but it's easier to reach that 10-device limit than you might think. Every device you connect with, be it your laptop, desktop, a work computer, or a tablet, counts against the limit. Add to that the inevitable phone upgrade and any replacements from incidences like insurance or warranty claims, and that limit can quickly rear its ugly head and leave you without your music.
It's easy to dismiss this problem and say that the newer YouTube Music service (which is more or less replacing Google Play Music) doesn't have such strict device limits, but there are two major problems with that: the free version of YouTube Music is dramatically worse than the free version of GPM (ads between songs, no offline downloads, etc.), and YouTube Music doesn't allow you to upload your own tracks.
So Google, why not just drop this ridiculous device limit already? Google Play Music clearly isn't a priority these days, especially as the company continues to push users toward YouTube Music instead, but that's simply not a viable alternative for the people that have their own libraries to keep track of.