Google Music Beta v. Amazon Cloud Drive

Problem #1 – Should I Spend $659 for a Proper Storage Rack for My CDs

Currently, my wife Susan and I have 1,500 music CDs we store on a built-in shelf behind the door of our spare room.  This isn’t a good place for them because it’s not easy to get to, and it only has 9 shelves, and I need 15, so we have to go double high on some shelves, and even double deep on others, so finding and shelving a CD is very annoying.  This whole system is so annoying that I don’t like playing my CDs.  The solution would be to buy a nice CD rack from and put the CDs near where we play them.


Convert that to this

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Problem #2 – We Hardly Ever Play CDs Anymore

Susan plays her music on her iPhone, and I play my music through my work computer, my home computer and my HTPC in the den that’s connected to the big stereo system.  The only time I like playing the CDs is when I want to sit in the den and play them loud so I can enjoy the music’s full fidelity.  That’s happening less and less often.  And for 97% of the time I play music from my Rhapsody subscription.  So why spend hundreds of dollars and hours of efforts to organize my CDs?  Could we get rid of the CDs altogether?  They are our proof that our digital copies are legal, so I suppose we could box them up and put them in the attic.  But when I retire I’d like to move around and dragging 20 storage boxes of CDs will be like carrying a boat anchor everywhere I go.

Problem #3 – Making and Maintaining a Perfect Digital Copy of Our CD Collection

A couple years ago I spent weeks ripping our collection, but since then we’ve discovered the results had been imperfect.  Here and there a cut will be missing, and on rare occasions a cut will be bad.  And since then we’ve bought many CDs that we haven’t ripped, but we’re not sure which ones.  And we have the worry of maintaining a backup.  I have the whole library copied on external drives, some of which we keep off-site, but each copy has gotten out of sync and we’re not sure which one is the master anymore, and all of them are now incomplete.  What a pain.  I love Rhapsody, but I’m being forced to maintain my own digital collection of music because Rhapsody doesn’t have everything.  For example, no Beatles.  Or if the CD goes out of print, it’s removed from their collection.  Basically Rhapsody provides most of what music is being sold at any given moment, with the exception of a few butthead bands that won’t sign with them.

Problem #4 – I Don’t Like Most of the Music in My Collection

Of our 1,500 CDs, or 18,000+ songs, I’d guess I really only like less than 6,000 songs.  And that’s only a guess, it might be much less.  Most albums have only 1-2 songs I really like, some CDs I never liked any of the songs, or have since turned against them.  And Susan and I like different songs.  What we’d really love is two digital collections:  His and Hers.  And we want each collection slimmed down to just the songs we love.  But going through 18,000+ songs to find those gems would be months, if not years of work.

Solution #1 – Forget CDs Completely

I could probably live without my CDs because I have Rhapsody.  Susan has most of everything she already wants in her iTunes library, and whenever she wants something new she buys a CD and rips it to iTunes.  If we weren’t worried about proving our digital songs were legal, we could just get rid of the CDs completely.  We could start buying MP3 songs instead of CDs.  This is a very appealing solution because it would be the most hassle free.  The downside is we’ve paid a lot of money for our CDs, and I don’t want to buy those songs again.  Many of those albums we bought as LPs, and then bought again as CDs, and some of them I bought a third time as SACDs, and many CDs we bought a second time as a CD when the remastered version came out.  I hate the idea of buying MP3 songs that we’ve already bought one more more times, and then getting a lower fidelity copy.  Will MP3 be the last format?  Is this the last time we have to buy our favorite songs?

Solution #2 – Move Our Collections to the Cloud

Google Music Beta is promising some lucky people storage for up to 20,000 songs for free.  Right now if we moved our collection to Amazon Cloud Drive it would cost us $125 a year to maintain.  And since Susan and I would like to have our own separate collections, if we both uploaded our collection to our Amazon accounts, it would be $250 a year.  Of course, we’d both like to thin out our collections, so eventually that cost would be smaller, but it would take us months to get to that ideal music library.  Google is promising free for awhile, and that might be enough time to reduce our collection to just the songs we love, but we don’t know what Google’s final cost will be.  More than likely, we’d want our collections in both clouds as backups, or case one service is down, or one goes out of business.  Is it possible that Google Music or Amazon Cloud Drive will survive for the rest of our lives?

The down side of this is I’d still be managing four collections:  CDs, Rhapsody, Amazon and Google.

Solution #3 – Give Up Music Ownership

I could go with Rhapsody, Pandora and other streaming music sites and just forget about owning songs at all.  This has a tremendous appeal to me, but it also has a scary downside.  If I get in the mood to hear a certain song and it’s not on Rhapsody I’m shit out of luck.  For $120 a year I get access to 11,000,000+ songs through Rhapsody.  That’s almost perfect, except that once in awhile I want to hear a song that Rhapsody doesn’t have.  Can I live with that?  It’s not like I don’t have more music than would ever have time to hear.

Solution #4 – The Compromise Solution

The compromise solution for now is to put our all-time favorite music into our personal cloud storage sites, save out my all-time favorite CDs to play loud, continue to listen to Rhapsody, and put the rest of the CDs in the attic.  This is still a big mess though.

Hope for the Future

If Rhapsody and other streaming music services could serve every song ever recorded then I’d give away my CDs and forget about owning music forever.  I wouldn’t even mess with cloud drives.

Amazon Cloud Drive is very appealing because I can buy music from Amazon which they promise to store for free and hopefully they could manage my music collection for the rest of my life.  If my music collection could be slimmed down, and their prices came down some, Amazon Cloud Drive might be a great long term solution for owning music.  I buy all my books, CDs, and DVDs from them now anyway.  The downside for Amazon is their lack of an app for iOS for Susan to use, and their player is rather primitive, but I’m sure that will improve.  They should offer some kind of incentive like for every $10 spent on music they will add 1gb of lifetime storage to your cloud drive.

Google Music Beta is even more appealing because it’s free right now.  I could put my whole collection online at no cost.  Another big plus that Google Music has over Amazon Cloud Drive is its player, which I’ve only seen in demo videos.  It looks far more sophisticated than Amazon’s player.  The downside is Google doesn’t sell music.  It would be weird to have to buy songs from Amazon and then copy them to Google.

Apple still hasn’t come out with their cloud drive yet.  Susan is very tied to iTunes because of her iPhone, and depending on what Apple charges, it could be a great solution for her.  I have an iPod touch, but portable music isn’t that important to me.  I’ll probably get an Android pay-as-you-go phone, so it will work with Amazon or Google.  If Apple came out with free unlimited for life music storage and offered a streaming service, I might be tempted to go with them, and then start buying my songs from iTunes.  Their downside is iTunes isn’t very good for managing large music collections, but that could be improved too.

I have yet to see any rumors that Rhapsody will offer a cloud music drive for its users, but it could be the best of both worlds.  Especially if Rhapsody could develop an app that looked at my collection and then upload only the albums they didn’t provide that were out of print.  And they could warn users when an album was going out of print and offer their users a chance to buy songs before they disappeared from the streaming collection.  In other words, Rhapsody could manage both of my collections.

Who knows what will happen, but these new cloud music services could be solutions to some of my problems.

And I can imagine another solution.  Why have millions of copies of “Hey Jude” stored on drives all over the world?  Why not have an international music registry, and when people buy a song they get a license to play it for life, and then music services would only have to cache one copy of a song wherever they stream music.  There would be no need to have massive server farms storing everyone’s songs.  That would save a lot of energy.  You could buy and play songs from any service you like and they would register the license for you.  All music services would be given rights to check the license registry.

Why make Amazon keep a million copies of “Hey Jude” on their servers for a million users when they could link to just one copy?

JWH – 5/15/11

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