Users with standard accounts can upload and listen to up to 50,000 songs from their personal libraries at no cost. An "All Access" subscription, sold in combination with YouTube Red, entitles users to on-demand streaming of any song in the Google Play Music catalogue. Users can purchase additional tracks for their library through the music store section of Google Play. In addition to offering music streaming for Internet-connected devices, the Google Play Music mobile apps allow music to be stored and listened to offline.
The service was announced on May 10, 2011, and after a six-month, invitation-only beta period, it was publicly launched on November 16.
Google Play Music offers all users storage of up to 50,000 files from their music collection online at no cost and the ability to listen to it through the service's web player and mobile apps. Songs purchased through the Google Play Store do not count against the 50,000-song upload limit. Songs can be downloaded on the mobile apps for offline playback. Standard users located in the United States and Canada can listen to free, curated radio, based on "an activity, your mood, or your favorite popular music". American and Canadian users of a Standard account can skip up to six songs per hour when listening to curated radio.
When subscribing to Google Play Music, users get access to 40 million songs, without advertisements during listening, no limit on number of skips, and offline music playback on the mobile apps. A one-time 30-day free trial for a Premium subscription to Google Play Music is offered for new users.
On computers, music can be listened to from a dedicated Google Play Music section of the Google Play website.
On smartphones and tablets, music can be listened to through the Google Play Music mobile app for the Android and iOS operating systems. Up to five smartphones can be used to access the library in Google Play Music, and up to ten devices total. Listening is limited to one device at a time.
Music can be downloaded for offline playback on the mobile apps, and on computers through the Music Manager app.
In January 2012, a feature was added to Google Music allowing users to download MP3 copies of any file in their library from the web, with a two-download limit per track.
Google Play Music was one of the first four apps compatible with Google's Chromecast digital media player that launched in July 2013.
In October 2014, a new "Listen Now" feature was introduced, providing contextual and curated recommendations and playlists. The feature was adapted from technology by Songza, which Google acquired earlier in the year.
In February 2015, Google expanded the capacity of each user's upload limit from 20,000 music files to 50,000.
In November 2016, Google introduced the Google Home smart speaker system, with built-in support for Google Play Music.
Google first hinted at releasing a cloud media player during their 2010 Google I/O developer conference, when Google's then-Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra showed a "Music" section of the then-called Android Market during a presentation. A music service was officially announced at the following year's I/O conference on May 10, 2011, under the name "Music Beta". Initially, it was only available by invitation to residents of the United States, and had limited functionality; the service featured a no-cost "music locker" for storage of up to 20,000 songs, but no music store was present during the beta period, as Google was not yet able to reach licensing deals with major record labels.
After a six-month beta period, Google publicly launched the service in the US on November 16, 2011, as "Google Music" with its "These Go to Eleven" announcement event. The event introduced several features of the service, including a music store integrated into the then-named Android Market, music sharing via the Google+ social network, "Artist Hub" pages for musicians to self-publish music, and song purchasing reflected on T-Mobile phone bills. At launch, Google had partnerships with three major labels - Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music Entertainment - along with other, smaller labels, although no agreement had been reached with Warner Music Group; in total, 13 million tracks were covered by these deals, 8 million of which were available for purchase on launch date. To promote the launch, several artists released free songs and exclusive albums through the store; The Rolling Stones debuted the live recording Brussels Affair (Live 1973), and Pearl Jam released a live concert recorded in Toronto as 9.11.2011 Toronto, Canada.
Google announced in October 2012 that they had signed deals with Warner Music Group that would bring "their full music catalog" to the service.
According to a February 2012 report from CNET, Google executives were displeased with Google Music's adoption rate and revenues in its first three months.
In March 2012, the company rebranded the Android Market and its digital content services as "Google Play"; the music service was renamed "Google Play Music".
At the Google I/O developer conference in May 2013, Google announced that Google Play Music would be expanded to include a paid on-demand music streaming service called "All Access", allowing users to stream any song in the Google Play catalogue. It debuted immediately in the United States for $9.99 per month ($7.99 per month if the user signed up before June 30). The service allows users to combine the All Access catalog with their own library of songs.
On November 12, 2014, Google subsidiary YouTube announced "Music Key", a new premium service succeeding All Access that included the Google Play Music streaming service, along with advertising-free access to streaming music videos on YouTube. Additionally, aspects of the two platforms were integrated; Google Play Music recommendations and YouTube music videos are available across both services. The service was re-launched in a revised form as YouTube Red on October 28, 2015, expanding its scope to offer ad-free access to all YouTube videos, as opposed to just music videos, as well as premium content produced in collaboration with notable YouTube producers and personalities.
In December 2015, Google started offering a Google Play Music family plan, that allows unlimited access for up to six family members for US$14.99/month. The family plan is currently only available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In April 2016, Google announced that podcasts would be coming to Google Play Music. Its first original podcast series, "City Soundtracks", was announced in March 2017, and "will feature interviews with various musicians about how their hometowns influenced their work, including the people and the moments that had an impact".
Standard accounts on Google Play Music are available in 62 countries. The full list includes: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Premium subscriptions are available in the same countries as Standard accounts.
Availability of music was introduced in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain in October 2012, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Russia, and Switzerland in September 2013, Mexico in October 2013, Germany in December 2013, Greece, Norway, Sweden, and Slovakia in March 2014, Canada, Poland and Denmark in May 2014, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, and Ukraine in July 2014, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, and Venezuela in August 2014, Brazil and Uruguay in September 2014, 13 new countries in November 2014, Brazil in November 2014, Argentina in June 2015, Japan in September 2015, South Africa and Serbia in December 2015, and India in September 2016.
In 2013, Entertainment Weekly compared a number of music services and gave Google Play Music All Access a "B+" score, writing, "The addition of uploading to augment the huge streaming archive fills in some huge gaps..."