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Music, Files, and the Cloud

Posted on 10 August 2011

Over  the last couple of days I’ve seen two posts from people whose opinions I respect indicating that putting files in the cloud would soon be a thing of the past. First, Fred Wilson:

“I was in DJ Woooo’s Dance/Electro Turntable room last week. I heard a remix track that was super fun. I hit the button to send the track to Rdio. I went to Rdio and listened to it a few times. Then I went to SoundCloud, found the track and then reblogged it into Tumblr. Not once in that experience did I have to touch a file. If Turntable and Rdio had good links into SoundCloud (I’m sure they will in time), I would not even have had to do any searching. It would have been click this, click that, click this and I would have been done. That’s how I think things are going to work when everything is in the cloud.”

This was followed shortly by Bijan Sabet, who also indicated that he loved using ex.fm/soundcloud/tumblr to share his music.

I love Soundcloud and ex.fm, too. But when it comes to using them to share music on my Tumblr and especially to replace my music collection, I’m hesitant.

The reason I’m hesitant is because when I add music to my mixtape or to my music collection, I have the expectation that I will be able to access it a few months and preferably a few years into the future. When I use music from the cloud, that is not necessarily going to be the case. Not because I don’t have faith in the companies providing them (though mistakes can be made), but because I don’t necessarily trust that the users behind them have the same investment in keeping things up.

Say, for example, I like a track by my friend’s band Wisconsin Dream Guitar. And he’s posted the song to Soundcloud . That’s great for sharing it to Twitter and Facebook, because people aren’t generally browsing through archives of those services, and I don’t have the expectation that everything I link to will always be there. As long as the link works for the next week it’s all good.

But if I share it to my music Tumblr I’m hoping it will be there in perpetuity, because I want my mixtape to act as an ongoing music sharing project. And one of the things that awesome about it is the ability to hit “random.” In this case, I’d like someone hitting “random” two years in the future to be able to hear entries I posted today.

But what if my friend has uploaded more than two hours of music to Soundcloud (the limits of a free account). And he figures there’s no need to provide access to his old songs because they’ve been shared. Now that track is inaccessible. And if I’ve shared it on Tumblr, when someone gets to that entry all they do is hear blank noise.

The same thing can happen with ex.fm and Tumblr. Whoever posted the song I’ve reblogged or shared can take it down. Or move it somewhere else. And then I’m left with a blank.

That’s why I still get my own music files. Then I put them in Dropbox. Yes, I deal with the same risks of things disappearing (I also run the risk of Tumblr going away, too), but at least if it’s MY files or MY services that disappear, I’ll be aware of it. If someone who I’ve reblogged or a Soundcloud artist I’ve shared deletes or moves their track, I’d never know until I stumble across that fact. I know this, because it’s happened before.

I’m sure there’s some sort of network architecture that can be used to solve that issue. It will probably involve a paid service like Rdio. But for now, I’m sticking with files– in the cloud.

Filed under: music, technology

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