Music in the Clouds

Finally got my Google Music Beta invite. So this will be another music inspired post. You can check out the last one (April 2010). The is a growing,  media managed, push for more of our personal collections of anything to be in the cloud. What is the cloud? Let the Wall Street Journal answer that for y0u: What is Cloud Computing?. I already use a number of platforms to manage my work and personal storage of things. So my short list of cloud apps, you have got to have

  • General Document Management:Dropbox, pair it with Truecrypt and you have a safer, encrypted online storage environment
  • Photos: Flickr (pictures I share publicly) and Picasa (my private photo albums, has a nice desktop app too)
  • Document Authoring: Google Docs (Not enough praise for this, I have done Twitter data collection with it, Project Management, Drawing up quick budgets and dont even get me started on the forms interface)

There are many more applications that have taken us to the cloud and back. The reason I am very much appreciative of the cloud is that I work on multiple computers and on my phone. There used to be a time when you were tied to your computer, the PC era as it is called, to do everything. You bought applications, dreaded "apps", that did your word processing, photo editing etc. Then you had your portable storage, Thumb Flash drives, that you carried around to transfer files etc. How I fondly remember this age. Now though I have a service like Dropbox that syncs all my work across my computers and phones. I can access my files anywhere, edit and all the changes are synced and backed up, in the cloud. Now I have 500 GB harddrive that I have to send in for repairs but have not been bordered for a while because I have found storage mechanisms in the cloud. I know that this does not bode well for me when I finally return full time to South Africa. Fid I ever tell you that South African bandwidth is expensive? Anyway I am getting sidetracked lets get to the Music.

Google Music

Google Music Album View

Google Music Album View

Google Music was announced not too long ago, but long enough for me to forget that I had asked for a Beta invite. I got the invite about two weeks ago and started playing with the service about a week ago. Google Music has a simple job. It backs up your whole personal music collection on the internet. You can access it anywhere (without downloading it at the moment). You can play it on your Android phone or whichever contraption that has Adobe Flash I guess. Isn't that awesome? Yes it is. Yes it is. So let me explain my workflow when it comes to music. I normally have to copy music from my desktop that has a lot of storage and has my whole music collection that has been amassing since about 2001. I copy it to my laptop, my phone and any other gadgets that need music to live. The problem that normally comes up is when that sone that I want to listen to today is not on my laptop or on my phone. I normally am away from the desktop in some exotic location and which I could just listen to that song through accessing my desktop. I have looked at multiple ways to do this but never got really interested in any of the solutions. So this is where, for me, Google Music Beta comes in. It monitors my desktop music collection and uploads it to the cloud. When I am in the lap, under a tree somewhere or travelling I can just go to the website and still listen to my music collection. Its backed up so in the event of loss you can still listen to it. Yes I said listen, not download, because for the moment there is now download functionality.

The service is a good concept. We might all start arguing then about how well it will do compared to Amazon Cloud Player (Offers free 5GB storage) or the iCloud offering that is coming from Apple. There will also be the shift of the legal lines of music and how artists (Ahem Music companies) will make money out of these services that might just store 10% legal music and 90% illegally obtained music (See what I did there, I am optimistic arent I?). Even just after the Google Music Beta was announced and the reviews started coming in, the whole question of the legal grey areas started. Ars Technica:

"The Google Music service is operating in a bit of a legal grey area because Google has not obtained licenses from the music labels. During a press briefing at Google I/O, the company said that it had initially sought licenses but was unable to establish mutually acceptable terms with the music industry. The negotiations eventually broke down and Google decided to continue the project on its own. "

For iCloud it is different as they are getting buy in from the major music labels, but what is interesting is the iTunes match feature. Basically it will match your music collection to better quality versions of your music and make those available to you to also download. Now how could this not go wrong. Basically you could get that illegal copy of a cd from wherever people get them and then get it matched with iTunes match (for a fee that is so nominal its crazy) and voila you have the legal album. Obviously I am glossing a lot of details here. There are agreements between the labels and Apple most probably for royalties for songs played or downloaded through iTunes Match but the amount from royalties would require lots of music to be useful for the record companies. Indie labels are already backing out: Gizmodo. For small labels and artists this would mean their music would sell for a pittance while legitimizing illegal music.

The music business landscape is changing constantly. There has been a large fight between old world and new world. I have not really offered any view on this yet but I thought it was something interesting to write about given the services popping up. This post was not even a survey of these services, there are much much more of them. I just wrote about 3.

U2 Playing in the Cloud

U2 Playing in the Cloud

Lets finish this off with a music inpired item. Checkout the Kollaboration cover of my song of the moment, Lupe Fiasco's "The show goes on"

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