Cloud music lockers
Three months ago I surveyed the best cloud storage services for music. Those were generic storage services what you can use to store anything, although I focused on their applicability to music.
This time I’m focusing on music specific services. That means: online services that are geared toward music and allow upload of an existing music library. Sometimes they are called cloud music lockers.
More specifically still, I’m going to be concentrating on the suitability of these services to serve as the one-true location for your music library. That is, can you upload a music library and trust it will remain true to its original fidelity, both in terms of audio, and the library organisation? Can you edit the library and re-download it for potential upload elsewhere?
That might be ambitious. There are advantages to be had from one of these services simply being a secondary location for your music. For example, it makes remote playback of your library simpler.
As before, I’m going to try to summarise these in a table and highlight what I think are the best services for different use cases.
Online music libraries
A series of blog posts exploring online music library management.
- Cloud storage services for music
- Cloud music lockers
As with the generic storage services, I’m going to lay out some ground rules of what we’re trying to do. We’re aiming to use these services as, potentially, the ‘gold source’ for our music libraries, thus we want few restrictions on what we can upload.
- The service should take care of storage for you. Other services that allow you to bring your own storage are available, but aren’t covered here.
- We’ll need to be able to upload at least 5,000 albums, and ideally there should be no limit.
- We should be able to upload all music file formats.
- We should be able to upload and download our library.
Let’s take a look at the services!
Apple iCloud Music Library
The backend music storage service offered by Apple is called the iCloud Music Library. If you’ve not heard of it, that’s because it’s fronted by consumer services. It’s the same storage service used by both iTunes Match and Apple Music. Those two services work for different use cases; iTunes Match is an online locker for those that prefer to use self hosted iTunes, and Apple Music is a streaming service.
When you upload your library, your music is either ‘matched’ (by fingerprinting) or, if it can’t be matched, it’s uploaded.
Apple iCloud Music Library is not a good solution for audiophiles. If a file is matched, you can only ever stream the music back as a 256KB bit-rate AAC file. If you upload, any high quality WAV, ALAC or AIFF files are transcoded to AAC.
For those that aren’t audiophiles, Apple iCloud Music Library could still be a convenient solution as a secondary playback source. For example, it makes listening to your library remotely much easier, as your Apple devices can easily access the music you have uploaded.
The price of using iCloud Music Library via iTunes Match alone is very reasonable and cheaper than most alternatives. Therefore, it might make sense for an all-in Apple diehard that isn’t too bothered about audio fidelity.
Deezer do offer a music locker service, however it’s so limited it cannot be recommended for this article.
You can only upload 2000 MP3s, and it’s MP3s only. It’s only useful as a remote playback convenience.
iBroadcast takes more of a library-centric approach. They specifically call-out that they are not a streaming service offering an existing library, and you can only access the music you upload.
A good range of file formats are supported, including WAV and FLAC. You can either upload via the web uploader, or, given upload is often quite a long-winded affair, special software to sync the library. The uploader runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (although the Linux version must be compiled).
iBroadcast's album list
Good news and bad news for library maintainers: you can update tags and this affects how music is shown in the service. However, downloading the music retains the original tags. So if you want full flexibility and to be able to transfer your music, currently iBroadcast doesn’t work for full library maintenance. However, downloading with updates is planned
At the time of writing, iBroadcast doesn’t appear to be fully released. There are two levels of service - Core and Premium. The only difference between the two is that Core enforces lower bit rate streaming at 128kbps. Premium is $3.99/month and allows streaming at any bit rate, including the original uploaded quality. Both Core and Premium allow unlimited uploads.
Astonishingly, the Core service is free. I fail to understand how they can support this, and yet it is promised forever. This makes me hesitant to recommend the service because ‘forever’ is a hell of a debt to take on. For music library management, we generally want a service we can be assured will stay around for a while, because moving the library will be time-expensive. In the comparison table I’ve given the price for Core, because that’s all that’s required for the music library management use case.
Vox Best for Apple-only remote playback
Vox is quite closed, technically, and targeted at the Apple-using market. Nevertheless, it’s a slick looking service which ticks the boxes for many people.
The service is targeted at audiophile quality mobile playback of your music library rather than music library management. It’s Apple biased, being only accessible via its Apple-only apps, although it supports Sonos playback too. There’s no Web client.
Much of the benefits of Vox depend on the Vox player. The Vox player offers an awful lot, and the big news for music collectors is that it supports multiple formats (including FLAC).
However, it’s just about the playback. There’s no way to re-organise your music, nor re-export your uploaded music. It’s no solution for music library management.
Storage is unlimited, but one possible fly-in-the-ointment is the individual file limit is just 250MB. I’ve seen a number of FLAC files larger than this, particularly longer classical tracks, and as you get into high-res music this limit could easily be breached.
Because it executes well for its target market, I’ve awarded this service the best service for Apple-only users that are satisfied with remote playback only.
YouTube Music allows music to be uploaded. It superceded Google Play Music, to the consternation of many. Last year I wrote up ways of exporting your music library and re-organising the semi-mess that is provided.
YouTube Music's uploaded album list
YTM is another service which is really just a glorified secondary home for your music; it’s oriented around the remote playback use case. You can’t edit or organise the music you upload. File format support is pretty good though, allowing FLACs to be uploaded.
Both paying and free users have the same maximum file limit - 100,000 tracks. If you pay, you get more features rather than more space - stuff like casting your uploaded music, avoiding adverts and offline playback.
There are a number of services that also allow you to connect existing storage with a music library to an app. Examples are rekordbox which allows a DJ’s rekordbox library to be synced with Dropbox and Evermusic. There’s also Plexamp which, like Evermusic, allows self hosted local storage to be used.
As these services don’t also organise and manage storage for you, I’ve left them out of this article. Which gives me an idea for another article…
For quick reference, here’s a comparison table of the services:
|Apple Music||Deezer||iBroadcast||Vox||YouTube Music|
|Platform restrictions||-||-||-||Apple devices and Sonos only||-|
|Free storage (files)||0||0||Unlimited||0||100,000|
|Maximum storage (files)||100,000||2,000||Unlimited||Unlimited||100,000|
|Monthly subscription ($)||2.08||9.99||Free||4.99||9.99|
I was hoping to award a Best for online music library management badge, but unfortunately there’s no service that ticks the required boxes right now. iBroadcast is closest, but until it allows editing of tags (and therefore music library organisation) and download of those edits, it’s not quite a full library organisation solution.
Almost all the services here are aimed at solving remote playback, rather than being a home for your music library. That’s understandable; playing music is the entire point! But, for some, a cloud based music library management service would be more useful; an inevitability of having a lot of music is thinking of ways you can better browse your library, find music and then play it.
For now, it seems there are no good online music library services.