I would send a trackback to Chris’ post on the subject, but since I can’t (and will continue to raz him for it) a link will have to do. I can’t help being perplexed by the concept of “the cloud” as it pertains to music. I can see documents, I can almost see photos, and I can easily see email and online services. Music is a tougher sell, at least to me. Most of that may be due to my usage of the medium. The vast quantities of music, both legally obtained and, well, not, that I consume simply wouldn’t fit into a cloud. At least not a cloud with limited space. I’ve mentioned my vast music collection in the past and in fact it was Chris who actually witnessed the majority of it being purchased. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have purchased nearly as many Global Underground collections if it weren’t for him, for which I am eternally grateful.
Part of me agrees with the concept of having things available to me, any time I want it. Being able to pull up a song from some vast sky based storage labyrinth with a couple buttons has great appeal when I want to have someone listen to something I’ve found. The other part of me cringes that the concept of sharing or physically handing someone the same content would be lost forever. Being able to access my music is inviting, but not having the physical item (file, CD, etc) with me or at least accessible in the end, is a deal breaker. That cage has always been a part of iTunes and Apple’s attitude towards music, but we won’t get into that.
What do you do if you put everything on the cloud, then want it back, and it says no?
From a technical standpoint, I would have to invest countless hours to upload and sync the collection initially and as Chris pointed out, there’s still quite a bit missing. While a “Search & Sync” feature is nice in theory, what about things it can’t find? The sheer number of “Essential Mix” mp3s I have is staggering. I also don’t cherish the idea of Apple/Amazon/Google knowing exactly what I’m listening to. If you think for a second that any of those services wouldn’t turn over information about what they’re storing if faced with legal action, you have far too much faith in them. I hate to be the paranoid type, but if I uploaded the music I had, through iTunes, into the Apple cloud, the flags it would raise in the legal department would rivial a semaphore competition.
I also lack the number of devices it would really take to make a service like that useful. I don’t have an iPod that I can plug into a stereo system. I don’t have a HTPC to stream music to. I don’t have an iPhone to listen to music on the go. In fact, I actually don’t have any music loaded into my Android smart phone at all except the few tunes I use as ringtones. The vast majority of my music listening is done in the comfort of my own home, where all the music current resides. If I’m 10ft from the music in the first place, I don’t really suppose it needs to be “in the cloud” to begin with. I do a lot more listening at home/work than I do on the go.
That actually brings me to an idea. Since the concept of the cloud is completely valid, and having things accessible on the go is nice, my only real objection to it is the services/companies running it in the first place. What if you could combine the old and the new? What I’m talking about is a personal cloud. A home server, or a home device, that synced and fed content on demand. Your own personal cloud, probably with a web interface. We’d most certainly need a few prerequisites: cheaper home high speed connections, IPv6, cheap physical storage media in large sizes. Just imagine the possibilities of having music.yourname.whatever and simply having the gateway to it on your portable devices. That would be magical.
Apple does a great job of taking ideas, refining them, making them great and then putting them in an iron cage with a fence around it. Your information is YOUR information. You should manage it. Having your stuff, on the go, without the need to pay someone else to manage it for you should be the end goal. Apple wants to hold your hand and help you make your things easily accessible, and that’s an admirable goal, especially for the less technical of us, but their failing has been in never recognizing that some of us simply want the mechanism, and not the hand holding that comes with it. Give me the concept, give me the tools to create it, then stay out of my way. Everyone should have a cloud. Everyone. It should be a concept that’s embraced, not bottled and sold by a single company.
Also, and maybe this shows my age, there’s something to be said about the “collection” in the first place. I want my daughter to SEE the music that her Dad has. I want to have her listen to everything from Miles Davis to the Beastie Boys to John Digweed and not have to buy the music a 5th and 6th time to do it. I have it all on CDs and tapes and vinyl, and whether or not the medium still exists is besides the point. It’s real. It’s in a box. It can be shared. The vast amounts of it speak to the diversity of it. If I had a bigger house I would literally have a room that housed nothing but music and movies. Something about digitizing it all into a 3×4″ device with a headphone jack seems to cheapen the experience, and removing even that device from the equation all together completely destroys it. I’m not suggesting that we all sit around our living rooms listening to phonographs, but there’s certainly something that was gained by doing so that we seem to have lost over the years.
In the end, perhaps it’s just my media lifestyle choices that define the way I listen to music. I have sympathy for the old ways. While I embraced digital photography, I still have a love for paper and chemicals and the darkroom. In the same way, I embraced the MP3, the software and eventually I’ll embrace the cloud, but I still have a love for record players, the fuzz and the pops, and listening to jazz on rainy Sunday mornings. I can’t wait to share that with my daughter.