Remember CDs? You’d spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to unwrap the thing and peel that stupid sticker off the top … then the next few hours poring over the minute details of the album and its booklet. Those days are all but gone—now you download an album and you’re lucky if you even know what the art looks like. But even that may be changing, thanks to a host of new services that let you listen to millions of songs without physically (or even digitally) owning them at all.
Some services, like Rhapsody, allow you to stream an unlimited number of songs from their extensive library for a fee each month. Spotify, already wildly popular in Europe, is currently conquering the U.S. market, making its millions of songs available to stream for free, with some limitations (including ads). Another program called Rdio does pretty much the same thing. Of course, services like these—paid or unpaid—have been around for years, but they’re really only just now becoming feasible alternatives to a per-sonal music library, as smartphone apps make streaming music on the go possible in ways it never has been before.
Smartphones are also the impetus behind the new cloud options off ered by Amazon.com (the Amazon Cloud Drive) and Apple (iCloud). Th ese services mean your music library can travel with you anywhere. You’ll still download digital ver-sions and store them on a home computer or hard drive, but it means you don’t need to take up any precious space on your phone in order to have full access to your music library.
So what does all this mean? It means you won’t need to actually purchase any music at all—or, if you do, it’ll be on a localized hard drive you might rarely use. And it means you can have your entire music library (or a library of millions of songs) on hand all the time. Th ere will always be arguments for owning physical albums, but, for now, convenience may very well trump your inner audiophile.
THE BEST CLOUD SERVICES (SO FAR)
There are plenty of options for insane amounts of on-the-go music. Here are some of the best:
• SpotifyFree and paid tiers mean you choose how much you want to listen to each month. Plus, the connection through Facebook is awesome.
• iCloud You already have iTunes. So for $25/year, you can carry around your entire iTunes library (even if you didn’t buy it there) on all your iOS devices.
• Amazon Cloud DriveOnly available for non-iPhone phones at the moment, a 20 GB “cloud drive” is free for a year with any purchase from the Amazon MP3 store.