Many people enjoy the convenience of having access to their entire music library (or at least 20,000 songs worth of it) in the cloud, and many also like the stock Play Music app that Google uses. However, many have clamored for months for Google to release APIs (application programming interfaces) so that their favorite third-party music players can access their Google Music libraries. Has any progress been made towards achieving this? What obstacles stand in the way? Is there any way to access our Google Music libraries now?
No Official Google APIs Yet
Some might consider it odd that Google, a company known for being open-source and with a reputation for allowing third-party access to its services, has not yet released APIs to allow third-party music players to access users’ Google Music libraries. Likely, there are concerns that the RIAA would try to shut down Google Music if third-party players were able to access users’ libraries. Without Digital Rights Management protection, there’s a possibility that users could download their music using third-party players, and then share them on file-sharing sites, or send the files to each other using MMS or similar services. Last year, both Google and Amazon launched cloud storage services over strong objections raised by record label executives (I will provide more details on this in a later article). Having defied the labels once, Google might be willing to do so again, but would run the risks of losing their Play Store agreements they currently have with some of the labels, and possibly provoking a lawsuit from the RIAA against their cloud storage services. Obviously, this is an awkward situation, and Google needs to carefully consider its next steps in addressing this issue (assuming they have any intention of releasing APIs for cloud storage access).
Unofficial APIs Being Developed
A developer named Simon Weber is currently making significant progress in providing unofficial APIs to allow access to Google Music, but these efforts are currently restricted to desktop platforms, as the APIs are encoded in Python (more details can be found on Simon Weber’s github and in the documentation provided here. However, Simon Weber has apparently been in touch with Cyanogenmod developer Andrew Neal, who recently posted on Google+ that third-party tests on Android were successful. Interestingly, Simon Weber will be interning at Google this summer, which means there are no real technical hurdles to overcome to provide these APIs. Additionally, Poweramp just sent a tweet yesterday (April 12) stating that its own efforts to support Google Music libraries are underway. While this is exciting news, a word of caution is in order: there is a possibility that Google will order a cease-and-desist on these unofficial efforts, to avoid further antagonizing the RIAA, or the company might demand that third parties incorporate some form of DRM protection in order to gain access to users’ cloud libraries.
You Can Already Access Some of Your Google Music Now
Well-known developer r2doesinc has made an app that provides a workaround to the current lack of API access for third-party players. Using an app called Cloud Music Sniper, you can already access music that you have made available for offline playback in the Play Music app. Cloud Music Sniper is currently available for $2.60 (Play Store link here) and will convert your offline music into mp3s while preserving artist, track, and album information. Obviously, your favorite third-party player can access these mp3s along with the information preserved by Cloud Music Sniper.
Sapien Mobile, LLC has released an app called Offline Music Importer (Play Store link here) that works in a way similar to Cloud Music Sniper in that it imports your offline music from Google Music to your SD card. This app is free to try, but is limited to 50 songs, after which you must purchase an unlock key (currently $3.99)
These apps come with the obvious limitation of storage space on users’ SD Cards, which for some users defeats the purpose of Google Music. Also, some may feel that Cloud Music Sniper offers no added benefit from simply copying the music stored on their computer to their phones (it should be noted, though, that each app provides the freedom of not having to be connected to your computer in any way).
Where Do Things Go From Here?
Exciting developments are quickly approaching to provide users the best of both worlds in having access to their music libraries in the cloud without having to copy files to your SD cards, and using your favorite music player to listen to them. This also would bode quite well for the Google Play music store, as it provides seamless integration with your Google Music library (once you click the purchase button, the song is already in your library without even having to wait a few seconds to download). While Google and/or the RIAA may yet force these efforts to cease and desist, it will be difficult to turn back the tide of cloud music storage (just look at what happened to SOPA). Meanwhile, there are options to work around the lack of third-party access to your Google Music libraries, if you don’t mind a few caveats.