Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Listen to Music Anywhere without MP3s

I love listening to music. I like listening to it in the car, at home, in the office, on the plane, etc. But what mood I'm in dictates much of the music I want to listen to. And I didn't want to carry all of my music with me. Inevitably I'd want to hear a song I didn't bring. Syncing up an mp3 player with the music I anticipated to want to hear was a chore that quickly grew old. To make things even more complicated, my car didn't have an mp3 player, I wanted to play my music out from the speakers when I was either at home or at work and I didn't like carrying my mp3 player with me to and from work.

Music Everywhere

Basically, do you ever wish your music library could go where you go? I don't mean carrying it around in an iPod, which isn't always practical. I'm talking about streaming your tunes to any internet-connected PC, be it the desktop at your office, the notebook you take on the road or even the iMac at your in-laws' house. In my case, I had internet connection most of the time; with the exception of when I'm flying (and that's slowly changing). I loved the idea of streaming my music over the internet. And thanks to broadband, the internet's pipes are now fat enough to ferry our music just about anywhere. What any one of us needs to decide is how to go about it: stream songs directly from your own computer, or use a hosting service that stores your library online.

Call me crazy, but I'm not comfy with the hosting online solution. It seems like I could show the actual bought CD or mp3 (from the likes of Amazon) and the RIAA would still not be convinced. No thank you. But hey, there are plenty of reasons where hosting online might make sense for you. Especially when one realizes the huge bonus/benefit of an online back up. Alternatively, you could listen to music from online services that are becoming more popular with time; but it's not of your own collection.

For me, though, streaming music over the 'net from services like Last.fm and Pandora is great; but they don't let you queue up music for later, unless you're a monthly subscriber. If you're the DIY type, however, then Opentape might be the service & set up for you. Another, not so cumbersome, DIY solution can be found at the Wired How-To Wiki. On the other hand, if you're looking for a pre-built web solution ready to search and stack your picks, Mixtape.me and Grooveshark are a couple of good choices among many others. But if you're anything like me, and particularly fond of your own collection but can't or don't want to bring the whole collection with you (or host it online), then taking the path of least resistance might suit you too --That is, to leave your music library in its current home: your home PC. Because, simply put, there's nothing to upload, you can start streaming almost instantly. You just need to choose an application/service that satisfies your needs.

Orb Logo
Amongst such services are JukeFly, Subsonic and Orb. I personally use Orb and love it. It's free, easy to set up and streams to any browser with an internet connection. Not only does it stream music, but it also streams photos and TV too. All of these service basically run a small server on your desktop that scans any music folders, which you configured/added to them, and makes all of that music available through their slick web interface.

I wished I left it at that! Despite the size of my music collection, I still get tired of listening to them and seek new or old-but-long-forgotten beats. I guess I could listen to one of the many local radio stations that also broadcast online; but I wanted more. I wanted to listen to music on demand. Enter Songza. Search and play a wide variety of popular music for free with Songza. In a nutshell Songza is a search engine for music that can stream songs as soon as you click on them and create and organize playlists on-the-fly.
Songza Logo
This one feature, the ability to create a playlist that I could come back to, shuffle and play at my leisure is what sets apart from the rest. Join us and listen to Ahmadism's playlist here (keep in mind it's constantly changing). Beyond that with Songza you can share songs via email, with a simple link (like this one), or embedded on a web site. Did I mention that they play the music from YouTube whenever the video's available? Songza isn't the first site aiming to fill the YouTube-of-audio shoes, but if you've got limited options for listening to music at work and recommendation sites like Pandora aren't really your thing, and you're tired of your own collection, then Songza is worth a look. I'm definitely enjoying it.  ▣

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