Our social lives are already being played out via the social networks. Our blogs are the extension of that life, when we can’t seem to fit all of our ideas, opinions, and rants into a 140-character snippet on Twitter or an appropriate length status update on Facebook. We’re watching everything float up into “the cloud.” Every industry is flirting with moving what was once their hard-drive based media into the cloud, where everything will be immediately accessible from any computer or mobile device—heck, even Microsoft is in for the ride (see Microsoft SharePoint)! The music vertical is no exception to this, and why should it be, music is the soundtrack to our lives (at least it is for the most engaged of music lovers).
The emergence of radio streaming applications such as Pandora and Spotify signal the dream of easy access to playlists tailored to your specification and the availability of endless amounts of music. If customizable radio stations aren’t your thing, and you really just want to play your own music rather than search for new tracks, that doesn’t mean the cloud isn’t for you. MP3tunes is a perfect example of the convenience of the cloud: sync all your music and video with your designated “locker” on their site and it will be available for your use on any device, be it your iPhone or Android, your computer, or whatever future device you might have. That’s the beauty of it: ANY future device you might have. Their Open Music API allows for any manufacturer or developer to write an interface for use with MP3tunes. Michael Robertson, founder of MP3tunes, joyfully explained on This Week in Startups that their iPhone app was not even written by them—their users wrote it for them (of course they had to wait to get past the Apple gatekeepers and their approval process). The battle between open and closed systems might temporarily hinder the ideal of cloud-based technologies, but we have made serious progress. We are not yet free from the limitations of corporate interests, though those same corporate interests might have propelled us to the source of many innovations in the first place. What a conundrum, but I digress.
How are the leading tech companies reacting to cloud-based technology in music? Well, Apple acquired LaLa, a service that stores your music on cloud servers, so now we know they want to get into the cloud game (UPDATE: LaLa is shutting down so maybe we're not SO close). The question is who and when others will follow—Google and maybe even Facebook will enter the cloud music terrain in the near future. Technological limitations still exist: we are still not free from the potentially fleeting problems of bad Internet connections and limited bandwidth, but with time those problems will be rectified. You must pay for extra space on MP3tunes if you want to have extra storage for your music and videos, so we are not living in a utopia of unlimited bandwidth yet. Internet connection provides another technical problem with cloud technology, though LaLa has a partial solution to that problem. One unique and vital feature of the LaLa technology is that it keeps the last few hundred songs you listened to in a cache in case you lose Internet connection in a remote or underground location (i.e. subways, tunnels, between mountains, etc.). As technology rapidly improves, these problems will be in the past and we can all live happily in the cloud.
In the cloud, convenience and speed is the name of the game. I don’t know who can argue with that; I’m certainly not willing to experiment with dial-up or getting rid of my very organized iPod. Robertson explains that with music, unlike with videos and other media, you will want to listen to the same thing 100 times. If your music lives in the cloud, you can essentially listen to all your music, whether you are in your car or about to go to bed, from any device you have. Now I’m just waiting for the cochlear implant that gives me access to the Internet and the U.S. Library of Congress read and played aloud to me.