Music Wars: Attack of the Clouds

We all know that there are a bunch of different programs to play songs in. Some websites, like Hype MachineSoundCloudElbo.wsGroovesharkPandoraShuffler.fmTurntable.fm and Last.fm don’t require you to install anything and that is considered to be an advantage. You don’t own the music and it’s mostly for a mix of songs that you are looking for. It’s a great way to be introduced to music that you would not have normally listened to and I highly recommend supporting these websites. Spotify is also coming to America soon which will give a lot of services a run for their money. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple actually starts getting a little worried at that point. I personally use Last.fm and Shuffler.fm if I am away from my computer and need (NEED) to listen to music that I can’t listen to on my iPhone. 

With iTunes, Windows Media Player, and Winamp beating our heads with their DRM protection and bloated software, it means that there are ample opportunities for competitors to enter the field. Enter Google Music. 

Google Music (still in Beta at this point) has you upload all of your albums up to 20,000 songs and you can then play them from any place in the world, granted that you have internet, a computer to handle it, and lots of money for data charges should they be incurred. I signed up for an invite a little while back and right before I got my Google+ invite, I got my GM Beta invite. So, I’m giving it a shot considering I would rather see Google succeed at this than Apple. Apple seems so cutthroat and Google is my old buddy, ya dig? Apple also wants you to rebuy all of the music you downloaded outside of iTunes which is crazy. I don’t trust the iCloud after I saw that Apple really only wants your soul and doesn’t give a fig how many times you pay for the same thing.

MP3Tunes tried to do this a while back with their “Locker” but it is limited to 2GB (free) and that means a lot of people are deterred. With the lowering prices of mp3 players, it’s no surprise that 2GB is not enough, especially when the norm is around 30GB of space. Still, you have to hand it to these guys who have been around for years now and are still doing good enough business as far as I can tell. I mean, their website is still up so that means they must be doing well, right?

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One really important thing which determined to me whether I would use Google Music or not was the support for Last.fm. I love having a record of what I listen to and finding patterns in my habits. So, until tonight I was still using iTunes because I had downloaded the Last.fm Scrobbler and it made sense to use it. Well, I just did a simple Google search for Last.fm Scrobbler support and voila! there it is! Or rather, here it is

The Amazon Cloud Player is also a big contender in this match. If you buy an album, no matter the cost of the album, you get free space on their servers. However, their “20GB if you buy an album for the first year but after that you pay $20 a year” deal is a little suspect and has put me off from using them, no matter how darned convenient it is. Actually, I just checked and now it’s unlimited files for $20 a year. Although, it’s not “forever” or for you to use at any time. But, you can update your Amazon Cloud Player with music you download from Amazon without limits. Still, there are a lot of caveats with it which isn’t cool and it’s not very explicit. 

Songbird is a good alternative as long as you don’t mind a slow music player that doesn’t really have support anymore. I tried it out twice within the last month and nothing had really changed so I’ve given up on that dream. Originally, I loved Songbird because I could go to my Google Reader which houses tons of mp3 links and play them all as if it was a playlist. It’s a great concept that Winamp only barely tried and then I looked again, it had gone.

Dropbox is not really in the music service business but their total ease and availability make them an awesome alternative to storing your music in “the cloud” if you want to do that. There is a limit of 2GB which kind of sucks but if you get a bunch of your friends to sign up and install it, you can bump that number up to at least 8GB. While there isn’t the ability to play songs as if it was in a playlist, it’s cool if you want to make your friends listen to a song that you don’t have on your iPhone (because there isn’t enough space on the darned thing.).

A lot of this comes down to licensing and the bigger companies have the upper hand because they have more money. It’s hard for smaller companies to compete in this business, especially since they get way less PR coverage than the bigger companies do. I couldn’t possibly cover this all in one blog post but it’s an interesting and dynamic topic that changes every day so at this point in time, this is what I think about all of these services and programs.

What do you use? Is it because of convenience or just laziness? What best fits your habits?

PS. Personal gripe. I had my laptop PC revived recently and I had lost all the files on my computer. So, I thought that perhaps I needed to find a way to get the music that I own off of my iPhone considering I OWN IT. Well, it turns out that if you sync your iPhone or iPod with iTunes, you’ll erase everything on the player. That’s not cool so I’ve been trying to find a free, reliable service that does it without too much complication. I’ve found services that want me to pay $20 but I’m not doing that. Not on my nonexistent salary. Have any suggestions that would work on an iPhone 4?

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