Purchasing music online and downloading it digitally to computers, MP3 players and phones has certainly changed the way we discover and listen to music, not least of which is releasing us from the need to own physical CDs. However, this freedom has come with its own, new, set of problems. The almost overwhelming selection of music, literally tens of millions of songs, available at low prices means that some of us now own too much music: too much to organize and too much to store, maybe even too much to listen to. If you add in the further complication of making sure that the music we want to hear is on the device that we want to use at the time that we want to listen to it, owning digital music seems like a lot of work.
But the Cloud has come along to relieve us of this drudgery. Three major music download services, iTunes, AmazonMP3 and Google Music all offer an alternative storage solution for our music downloads, enabling users to store their music in the Cloud (on another company's web servers). Each service offers storage space for at least 20,000 songs, creating a backup for your music collection - and making it easier to access. In each case, the Cloud feature is linked to the relevant music store, and keeps a record of your music download purchases. You have the option of storing your digital music files in the Cloud and/or downloading them to your music devices. And the main advantage is that you can access your entire music library in the Cloud 24/7 from any and all of your music listening devices, with just an Internet connection.
But wait, there's more. Google Music, Amazon MP3 and iTunes also allow you to store songs that you haven't purchased from them. You can upload your music library of tunes ripped from CDs or purchased from other music download services. And, generally, any songs that you do purchase from their music store don't count towards your storage allowance. In addition, if you like to share your music choices, these Cloud services are linked, at various levels, to social media networks.
So how much does all this cost? It varies. iTunes will store up to 25,000 songs for you for $24.99 a year. Amazon MP3 gives you 5 GB of Cloud storage free (about 1000 songs) and charges $20 a year for unlimited music storage. In contrast, Google Music, the newest service charges nothing to store up to 20,000 of your music tracks. Anytime and (relatively) anywhere access to all your music is within your grasp. Check out our report on music downloads for more detail.