Storing Your Music in the Cloud

May 2014

Okay, so I don't have a big music collection, and don't spend a lot of time listening to music. But if I were like my friend Ron, whose collection is huge, I'd do like him and store it in the cloud. (All my music actually fits on my iPad, with room to spare.)

He loves his music, and he wants all of it available to him at all times. Now that his music is in the cloud, whatever he wants to listen to is available on his iPhone as well as on his computer. If he had tried to store it on his iPhone itself, only a fraction would fit.

So that's today's simple point: the cloud does wonderful things for you, including storing your entire music collection so it's always available to you.

The cheapest way to go is likely Google Play Music, which lets you store up to 20,000 songs in Google Play for free. You go to play.google.com/music, click on the option for the free service, and then download the free Google Play Music Manager software. You can then upload your music and playlists in a few easy clicks.

Google offers an app for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device that lets you listen to your music that's stored in the cloud. Or you can listen to it via any computer that's connected to the Internet via the handy web interface at the web address above.

If you choose, you can instead sign up for Google's All Access music service that costs $10/month. That not only lets you listen to your collection of music, but also lets you listen to any other song in their catalog of 20 million songs. (Then why would you need to upload your music? Because no music service has a complete catalog.)

Another option is Apple's iTunes Match, which is what Ron uses. The service costs $25 per year and lets you upload 25,000 songs. The most interesting facet of this service is that if you, ahem, have a large collection of music you "borrowed" from an illegal file-sharing service, by subscribing to this service and uploading these stolen tracks, they automatically become legit. Apple worked out a deal with the music labels, and actually pays them royalties out of your subscription fee.

In addition, Apple's encoding format is often higher quality than any MP3s you might have illicitly collected. So you not only end up with legal music, but also better quality.

I think that in the case of iTunes Match (and likely also Google Play), they don't actually upload every song you own. They simply match what you have with their catalog, and keep a record of what you own.

With both services you can download subsets of your music (playlists) to your smartphone or tablet for offline listening, or you can stream the music via your cellular data or WiFi connection.

Apple's service is somewhat limited compared to Google's in that it's not available on Android devices, nor is it available via any computer with an Internet connection via a handy web interface like Google's.

Another service available is Amazon Cloud Player. They let you upload 250 songs for free. In addition, any music you purchase from Amazon is also added to your Amazon Cloud Player account. You can listen to your music on your computer or via an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Android device via the free Amazon Cloud Player app.

In order to upload your music, you'll need to download the Amazon Music Importer software available at the link above. If you want to upload more than 250 songs, Amazon Cloud Player Premium, at $25 per year, will let you import up to 250,000 songs.

If you're not into uploading music, or if you don't have your own collection, then a good option for you may be one of the streaming music services. Pandora is the most popular. You can easily create your own stations based on your favorite type of music. It's free, and ad-supported. And because it's free, you can't stream specific songs.

iHeartRadio is the second most popular. It, too, is free, but also it's without ads. Apple's new, free, ad-supported iTunes Radio is already the third most popular, but it's not available on Android devices. And like the others, you can't request specific songs.

The most popular services that let you play specific songs are Spotify and Rdio. Spotify is $10/month, and Rdio is $5/month for your desktop computer and $10/month for mobile devices.

That gives you a lot of options for cloud-based music. Happy listening.

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Box is similar to Dropbox but offers 10GB of free storage compared to 5GB for Dropbox.

© 2014 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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