Small review of cloud music options

Some of you know that I’m kinda a music nut. I have a fairly eclectic music collection and love to hear it all the time. Years ago I converted my albums to FLAC and MP3, bought Cowon audiophile devices, and realized that MP3 is really all I need. My CDs, for the most part, are in boxes now, and I only listen to my music from these MP3s. Between buying from Amazon, CD-Baby or other online (legitimate) retailers, my collection has not stopped growing.  Now that cloud services have started to embrace music in a real and meaningful way, I’ve gone through the trouble of using them, trying to find what works best.

Some bias I have that will no doubt color my impression of the services include that it has to work on my Linux computers and android phones. If I have to use windows or mac, it won’t work for me.  The following list is done in order in which I discovered the services, starting from what is hardly considered ‘cloud service’ now-a-days, to the real thing.

mp3.com (original site, defunct) The old site was a great way to find music, download and listen to it. I was able to find new artists such as Sarah Fimm. The current version of the site is useless to me. I have to mention the old one because it was really the first way I was able to find music online. Its not a ‘cloud service’ in that I couldn’t upload my music to it. But I do miss them.

Last.fm (formally scrobbler) was my first real use of online music. It logged what I listened to, and made suggestions of other music from friends I were connected to, or ‘neighbors’. Neighbors were people with similar music style, and I could find other bands to listen to. It didn’t work that well for me at first, but did expose me to new music so I stuck with it. Its not a way to manage my own music files, but does provide an online catalog of what you actually do listen. To this day its probably the best way for me to find new music and I’m glad I stuck with them.

Pandora is another service to expose you to new music, and discover what friends listen to. Some success for me here in finding new music, such as Mankind Is Obsolete, and Emilie Autumn. But I found myself going back to Last.fm to learn more about the band, and hear more of their tracks. Unlike Last.fm, I couldn’t really see or manage what I listened to in the past without an additional step of bookmarking. But unlike last.fm, I really could create a radio station (for free) and listen to it at work, home, on my Tivo or phone. This killed ‘real’ radio for me. I’ve not found new artists from Pandora anymore, so I guess I’m in a statistical maximum. I actively use them now, still free version.

YouTube was easily discovered as a juke box by others long before me. Suffice it to say its fun and easy to create ‘playlists’ of music other people uploaded and play in the background. The only issue is that to use it this way tends to be a time-sink. I do still use it, but not as much.

Amazon CloudMusic made me fall in love with Amazon all over again. Stuff I buy from Amazon (from when it came out, not before, but I’m not bitter) are hosted free on amazon, and listenable to my browsers, android phone, etc. I can also re-download it again from amazon whenever I want. I can create playlists online and they exist everywhere.  I can also upload free up to 20G worth of music (or other files) and listen to that music later as well. (Its only 20G if you buy an album a year, otherwise its 5G. For me, that’s not a problem.) Streaming works well, the android player is good for local music as well as cloud music. Browser can only handle cloud music. Can use a native app to upload music or the browser.

Google Music is similar to Amazon, but they only deal with music files, you have to use their native app to upload music, which until recently didn’t run on Linux. It seems more ‘buggy’ then Amazon as a player, but does work. Also, Google does not let you re-download your music, which bugs me. Playlists work fine. Right now, Between both of these services, I need to merge in features from Amazon and Google to be happy. I want to download again, don’t bug me about storing stuff I bought at amazon, and 20k files upload is a good place to be, more then 20G of storage. I’m less likely to use Amazon for that simple reason (and because uploading via the browser basically sucks, no linux client for Amazon)

GrooveShark is a different approach that is wining me over right now. You can upload what you want, listen on a browser or via the phone app if you have a paid subscription. You can listen to whatever was already uploaded even without an account. Lots of music choices. I’ve not paid for the service so I don’t know how good the streaming option is, but from a browser perspective, its the easiest way to create playlists, removing most of my usage of YouTube.

Spotify I mention only because its kinda like Grooveshark, seems more polished, huge library but without their native linux client (for free users) I can’t try it at all. Hopefully that will change soon, but since its been that way for a year, I doubt they care enough to change it. (Side note, on Spotify you can use it free on a paid OS, but you have to pay for it on a free OS. Feels weird. And no, wine isn’t an option here.)

Where does all this lead me? I use my android phone instead of my Cowon even though the Cowon has better quality sound. Browser instead of Banshee, currently enjoying grooveshark as my browser player. In the car, I use google music to stream, setting it to shuffle. Listen to Pandora via TiVo at home. I buy new music from Amazon, finding new music from last.fm, pandora and sometimes from Amazon suggestions. What’s apparent is that no single service is ‘perfect’, and each does something somewhat different. Last.fm is the best social experience for me so far, in that I can integrate it with almost anything. What’s really great is each service I list above is improving itself (maybe not pandora) so I have no question that they will continue improve over time.

Its a good time to be a music nut.

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One thought on “Small review of cloud music options

  1. Nice summary! I haven’t tried either the Google or Amazon services yet. I was a fairly early user on Pandora and still use it so much that I finally updated my account to a paid one. I use on computers and my phone, mostly. The thing I got a kick out of with last.fm was to periodically hook my iPod up to it, let it scrobble everything off, and then check out all the interesting statistics of what I’d been listening to…. which really says more about my data-geekiness than the quality of music service 😉

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