Cloud Music Players – Why Do You Need Them and Which One Should You Use?

This week, Amazon launched their Cloud Player in the UK.

What precisely is a ‘Cloud Player’?  Well it’s an alternative way to store your music collection. Rather than getting your PC or Mac all clogged up with tracks, you upload them all to Amazons ‘Cloud’ – that is, Amazon stores them for you. Not only does it free quite a bit of space up on your computer, it also means the armageddon  scenario of your PC expiring and taking your music collection with it is something you no longer need to lose sleep over.

The other advantage is that once you’ve uploaded your music to the cloud, you can stream any of your tracks on virtually any device – as long as it’s got a web browser – be that your phone, tablet, iPod Touch, Mac or PC or even your friends’ devices. And there are apps for both Android and Apple devices.

The process of uploading your existing music collection to Amazon’s cloud is relatively straightforward. Amazon’s software will scan your music collection and then search a catalogue of 20 million tracks for matches.  All of the matched songs are automatically stored by the Cloud Player for you.

OK, that’s the good news – now for the not so good.  You can only store up to 250 tracks for free. At that point you have to pay £21.99 per year, although that does allow you to store up to 250,000 tracks.  And any tracks you purchase from Amazon don’t count towards that limit.

This isn’t the first cloud music service launched – there is already a rival service on the market from Apple called iTunes Match. The services are almost identical in how they operate, and are priced the same, but there are a couple of key differences.

Firstly, if your music collection is small, Amazon offers the free ‘up to 250 track’ option.  There’s no free option on Apple.

Alternatively, if your music collection is seriously chunky, Amazon’s Cloud Player has 10 times the storage capacity – iTunes Match only allows storage of 25,000 tracks.

And finally, as is usual with Apple, you can only stream your music through your iTunes account and registered Apple devices – be they iPhone, iPod Touch etc. There’s not the flexibility afforded to those using the Amazon Player.

However, for those looking to clean up a music collection spread across several devices with multiple dupes, iTunes Match does offer the ability to automatically de-dupe, something that Amazon’s service doesn’t do.

Of course, the downside of both services is the fact you have to pay for your music twice – once to download it and then again to store it. And what happens to your music collection if you forget to pay your annual subscription one year?

Still, for those with big music collections who want the flexibility to listen to their music whenever and wherever they want, Amazon’s Cloud Player in particular is probably worth the investment.