The Cloud, Day 11: Music in the Cloud

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30 Days With the Cloud: Day 11

So far in this 30 Days With the Cloud series I have selected cloud-based solutions for writing, emailing, and storing my data. Now, it is time to move on to perhaps the most important function of my PC and mobile devices--playing my music.

As with other cloud tools and services, the options for storing and streaming music from the cloud are rapidly proliferating.

There are services like Pandora, or Spotify, or Microsoft’s Zune Pass, and more that let you subscribe to complete online database of available music rather than buying individual albums or songs. These services have their pros and cons.

I have used Pandora for some time and I like the way it plays similar songs and artists to the ones I select. It has exposed me to artists I might not otherwise have heard, and expanded my horizons. However, I found Pandora was often repetitive--both with the songs from my chosen artist(s) and with the alternate tunes it tossed in.

The other problem I have with streaming services like these is that not all artists are represented. One service may have artists that aren’t available from the next one. Some artists I really like—like Coldplay and Adele—are not interested in licensing their music to any streaming providers.

All of this adds up to an inconsistent experience. I can listen to a lot of music for a reasonable price, but not necessarily all of the music I’d like to listen to. It seems silly to me to have to use a subscription music streaming service 90 percent of the time, and then switch to using my local PC for listening to Coldplay or Adele.

I’d rather use a service that puts my personal collection in the cloud. I have been a beta tester of the Google Music service. But, my Google Music account only contains about three percent of my music collection. Uploading my library of digital music to Google was an interminably slow process, and ground the Internet connection for my entire home network to a virtual standstill. Basically, my family and I would have had to just not use the Internet for a month or so if I wanted to get my music uploaded.

I have a Box account, and although it is not a streaming music service I thought it would be a good idea to have my music backed up somewhere. That process has also been ridiculously slow, but it has been something I have been able to manage better in terms of the impact to my network so I have at least continued on. After about a month of off and on uploading I have about 85 percent of my music stored on Box.

The solution that works best for me is Apple's iCloud and iTunes Match.
The solution I like best so far is Apple’s iCloud and iTunes Match, but it’s not perfect either. The Apple approach is awesome because not only does it not require me to upload my music collection, but once it matches up my library it is actually delivering my music collection to me at an even higher bit-rate than I had originally stored it.

Once I got the collection scanned and matched, it became instantly available from my Windows PC, my MacBook Air, my iPhone, my iPad, and on my Apple TV. I just bought the new Nickelback and Daughtry albums today from my MacBook Air, and those purchases were immediately synced and available across all of my iTunes Match-connected devices.

The problem I have with iTunes Match is that the matching process is faulty. My PC got about 90 percent of the way through matching each time before iTunes would crash. Each time, I would have to log out of my iTunes account, log back in, and begin the process of adding my PC to iTunes Match and scanning the library again.

When it finally claimed to have completed the scanning process, there were roughly 1,000 songs that Apple apparently didn’t have a match for. My understanding is that it should upload the tracks that it didn’t already have in iTunes, but that never happened. So, I have 7,500 or so tunes floating about in my iTunes Matched iCloud, but another 1,000-ish that aren’t available there.

The bigger problem is that iTunes doesn’t seem interested in uploading the missing tracks, and I don’t believe there is any (easy) way for me to identify which songs are the ones that didn’t get uploaded in case I wanted to try and resolve that situation somehow.

All of the cloud music options are great to a point, but they all have serious pitfalls as well. Apple’s iTunes Match is by far my favorite, but it is also far from perfect and there is significant room for improvement. On the bright side, I have about 7,500 songs I can play before I need to worry about it.

Read the Last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Windows Phone 7

Day 10: Storing Data in the Cloud

Day 12: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

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