So I started buying music again…

I had a pretty large music collection – about 50GB. I honestly don’t even know how I got some of it, and there are undoubtedly songs I have and have never heard.

Over the course of several years, I have tried to rate all of the songs in my collection. Sometimes this was so I knew what to sync to my mp3 player with less storage than the full collection. Sometimes it was because I wanted to actually try to listen to all of it, and rating it as I went was the best way. Sometimes it was because I actually wanted to weed out the collection; deleting the stuff I had but didn’t actually like.

I have forgotten how many times I’ve lost my ratings. And how many different ways I’ve tried to track it. I tried storing my iTunes library in Dropbox, using special backup extensions in Songbird, even installing a custom music streaming web application with a MySQL backend. TWICE.

I gave up. It finally occurred to me recently that if I am going to successfully filter out my collection, I was going to have to go the other way. Rather than removing songs I didn’t like, I was going to have to wipe out my collection and build it back up with songs I knew I liked.

I decided to do this using Amazon’s MP3 store, for several reasons:

1) It’s legitimate. Like I said, I don’t honestly remember where I got all those tunes. At least some of it was ill-gotten. Now that I have the means to pay for music, I might as well. Multiple studies have shown that the people who pirate content are more likely to purchase content as well. Now I can act as an example.

2) No DRM. You can’t beat piracy’s price, but also its convenience. Pirated songs don’t have DRM. But since Amazon doesn’t either, I can move the new music I’m buying to multiple computers, phones, and operating systems for each without worrying about DRM making them inaccessible or incompatible. I would never have considered doing this if it weren’t for the lack of DRM.

3) I get points. I got an Amazon credit card, because I can earn points for purchases, and Amazon digital purchases earn triple points. It’s only 3 cents on the dollar, but eventually it will pay off. Plus, for the entire month of December, there are an extra 7 bonus points per dollar spent on digital content. Digital content is not just music, but also video, and kindle books. Essentially, for every 10 ebooks or albums I buy this month, I get one free. Now is the perfect time to buy a ton of music.

4) I can download it AND stream it. The biggest cause of losing ratings data across all the different ways I tried to store it was trying to figure out how to keep my collection, and my ratings, at home, at work, and anywhere else I may want it. Ampache, the MySQL backend music streamer, allowed me to do that, but it depended on a home connection with reliable upload speeds. With Amazon’s Cloud Player, you can store all of your Amazon MP3 purchases on their servers for free. Which means you can stream it from anywhere you can log in to Amazon. There is some weirdness with this, though. If you set your preferences to download all the music you purchase, it doesn’t go into the Cloud Player. You then have to upload it back to them later. The good news is that it detects it as an Amazon purchase, so it lets you upload it for free. Amazon allows 5GB per user for free uploads from stuff not purchased in their store, too. But it would be really dumb if you had to eat into that to re upload stuff you already bought there. The better option, then is to set your preferences to keep it in the Cloud Player, then download it from there. This doesn’t take it out of the Cloud Player, and then you can have your local copy.

It’s only been a few days since I finally started doing this. But so far, I am pleased with the result. Naturally, I haven’t actually deleted my old collection yet. But I have archived it, so I am not tempted to access it. That came in handy, too. I tried to add Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats album to my wishlist today, and Amazon doesn’t have the rights to sell the digital downloads. I had to upload it manually, eating into that 5GB limit. But that is a great album, so it’s worth it.

Now if only they would do the same thing for video, I could stop pirating altogether…

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