Concierge offers Google Play Music listeners a human touch (review)

3 Mar 2015

Google Play Music is continuing its attempt to challenge Spotify’s music-streaming dominance with the help of ‘Concierge’, a ‘hand-picked’ music selection to suit various moods and times, but is it worth it?

As is often the case, us here in Ireland are often the last to get cool new things to play with after our American and British cousins have had a go first and, with Google Play Music, this again proved to be the case with Concierge.

Google’s music streaming service, while growing in popularity, still struggles to compete with Spotify, which has established itself as the go-to source of music, despite major artists like Taylor Swift pulling their catalogues from such sites.

One such feature that Spotify has had over Google Play Music was its curated feeds, which use an array of algorithms to figure out what your tastes are by seeing what songs you’re playing, and now, Google has decided to do the same.


Aesthetically pleasing

When you visit Google Play Music now, you should see a set of colourful boxes that change depending on the time of day, or even the weather that is happening in that location. So, for example, as it approaches midnight a ‘Bedtime’ playlist will appear.

You can then choose what type of music you want from pre-selected playlists which are impressively curated by actual human beings sitting at computers around the world, something which Spotify can’t claim to have.

Also, given that they have the financial power behind them, Google don’t just use your average Joe off the street, but are hiring DJs and music enthusiasts to use their tastes and knowledge to make playlists that – from what I’ve seen – host a rather diverse and unique combination of songs.

Curated, but for who?

I should make it clear that I’m a regular Google Play Music listener and subscriber and was smitten enough with it to ditch my Spotify premium subscription in favour of Google’s product. I think it’s much more aesthetically pleasing than its black-and-green competitor and has a better catalogue of songs, at least for my own tastes.

Saying that, however, I don’t find myself flocking to see what this assortment of humans in Concierge have curated, unless I’m stuck for something to listen to. I don’t know what it is with these lists, but rock music appears to be a major blind spot with just the occasional heavy rock playlist getting a mention.


Also, the fact you’re limited to between four-and-five options is hardly groundbreaking – although, in its defence, these usually branch off into two or three different sections, albeit with a few small differences.

It’s certainly a step in the right direction for Google, but it still has a way to go before it feels like it’s really got the scope of something that would feel like it speaks to me as a music listener.

In the meantime, better news was had last week after it was announced that Google had upped its cloud storage capacity from 20,000 songs to as many as 50,000 songs on their servers, which can help audiophiles satisfy their desire to move all their old MP3 files to the cloud.

This, in my opinion, is a much better advert for Google Play Music than what Concierge offers at the moment, but with more time this could turn out to be a nice alternative to the ones and zeros that make up Spotify’s curation system.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic