The End of An Era – Music Companies, ‘cloud’ services and the ISP’s are laughing all the way to the Bank, courtesy of you and me!

Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Google’s BetaMusic, iTunes upcoming ‘cloud’ offering, current subscription based music ‘cloud’ services and music ‘lockers’ ( eMusic, Spotify, Rhapsody, Thumbplay Music, mSpot, MP3Tunes, and others) are all similar in many ways.

There are slight differences in the cost and the amount of storage for free that you get initially. After that, users will find the old fashioned way we now store and playback music might in fact have been the best and most cost efficient after all.

Today, we all have mp3’s or m4p’s (iTunes) stored somewhere on our computers or in an external hard drive or both. We have our iPod and other devices to playback these files. Load up a playlist and take them with you. Soon, the above mentioned services will offer us the ability to ship all or some of our music collection to what effectively is a hard drive outside our house or computer – essentially letting them live ‘over there’ or wherever that service lives, be it Amazon, Google or Apple. Load up a playlist and playback the music just as we do now.

A few things will change however that will drastically alter not how or what we listen to but what it will cost us to listen to what we now playback for free. And the changes are subtle but substantial. And these changes are all designed to generate money, a lot of it, for 3 separate entities; the music cloud service of your choice, the music companies and your local ISP.

What has been an essentially free activity for all of us (creating and playing back music on our device of choice locally), will now very quickly become an expensive one, remotely. The change has been slowly evolving – with the ISP’s like Comcast, Time-Warner and others that supply us leading the way. They have all decided to ‘cap’ and meter our bandwidth usage under various tiered plans. Just like we get our water and electricity usage metered, so will our ‘internet’ usage.

And that’s old news – I’m not telling you anything you have not already heard before. Soon, we will keenly be aware of how much data we will be using monthly. And now, the new music ‘cloud’ offerings will present us with tiered pricing plans to store our music monthly as well. You might have 10 gigs of music (which is NOT a heck of a lot, personally) today that you want to store on Google’s Beta Music Cloud Drive ( they are just being used as one example). For me, I’ve got a ton more than that and I add to that monthly. So initially, I’ll choose a plan for 10 gigs, but I am 100% sure over time, I will eventually double that.

In addition to those charges I want to turn on my ‘cloud’ player and listen to some tunes being played back at my home, through my PC piped into my speakers in the house. Well that used to be free when I loaded up my player locally on my PC. Now with my house being metered, here’s a rough idea of what I could be faced with.

1GB streamed per month = a little more than half an hour of music per day
3GB streamed per month = about 2 hours of music per day
5GB streamed per month = about 3.1 hours of music per day

For music aficionados, that is not a lot of time spent listening to my music. Now mind you, I don’t have to use a cloud service to listen locally – I can continue doing what I do now. But that also means I’ve got to keep a duplicate set of files. And it does not include any bandwidth for any other activities on the Internet during the month I engage in. If you have a iPhone or other device that plays back music, sure you can stream your collection from that same cloud service, but wait, there’s a data cap on your phone too. But wait, there’s more. The new Chrome notebook offers a plan too when you are NOT connected to WiFi – and it’s not cheap:

• Free 100MB per month (what you get with the first two years of ownership under the current plan): 1 hour and 45 minutes of music playback for an entire month
• $10 for an unlimited day pass: listen all day
• $20 for 1GB of data in a given month: a little over half hour of music per day
• $35 for 3GB of data in a given month: nearly two hours of music per day
• $50 for 5GB of data in a given month: a little over three hours of music per day

All of this cost and metering does not include monthly cloud ‘subscription’ costs. Put it all together and you might be looking at some heavy fees every month that you don’t currently pay storing and playing back your music collection locally or playing back on the road through your iPhone, etc.

Now I am a big cloud advocate – there are some big advantages clearly in storing your collection outside of your house. The biggest single advantage I can think of is a disaster – and they DO happen. Replacing a 60gig collection is not only time consuming and expensive but just go and try to remember what was in your collection of say 40,000 songs – good luck! This alone is reason enough to consider storing your collection remotely. Other disadvantages include getting the songs up there to start and you don’t want to move the collection once you are there. Ever try moving 60gigs quickly – there is no quickly. So choose your service very carefully!

While all of these new music services sound great and offer us new and improved ways to listen to our music, I can’t help wondering if one day a few years back the ISP’s and the music industry got together in one big Hotel room and figured this out as a way to get back all of the lost revenue that the ‘Napster’, ‘Kaaza’ and ‘Limewire’ era sucked out of them. Maybe they will get the last laugh after all. Here’s a better one – how would a Netflix for example, replicate a ‘cloud’ locker storage scenario for movies I might purchase? Could it? Just think of THAT cloud storage plan!! Ouch!

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Amazon’s New Cloud Drive – an ‘almost’ step in the right direction.

While the announcement today from Amazon is a step in the right direction for all of us, in the sense that cloud computing is really the future, Amazon has made the same mis-step that other companies have made in a competitive environment by limiting and making certain music and movie file incompatible in its Cloud Drive (CD). Specifically, files not supported include Digital Rights Managed (DRM) files, ordinary files of over 100MB in size, ringtones, podcasts, audio books, and other non-music audio files. Unsupported file formats are .wma, .m4p, .wav, .ac3, .ogg, .ape and .flac.

READ: Apple music files and files that you could store on Google Docs.

So, it reminds me of the movie studios film rights ‘war’ of the nineties, when HBO and Showtime out bid one another and each ‘exclusively’ bought film pay rights for certain studios. The losers were the consumers (of course not in the mind of the pay services or studios). The consumers were forced to buy TWO pay services in order to get most of Hollywood’s prime films. Disney, Paramount and Tri-Star went to Showtime, Paramount, Fox, and Universal, and Warner Bros. Flash forward to today, none of this matters anymore.

Now, even though Amazon’s announcement today (http://bit.ly/hdbkTL) is very progressive and good for consumers, it alienates iTunes users. Ypu can’t store any music you bought from iTunes on Amazon and even if you didn’t buy it at Amazon, you can’t use your media player (iPod, iPhone or any Apple product) to stream that music back. I really hope that Google’s upcoming music locker will not prevent me from streaming and storing files I’ve purchase from either Amazon or Apple. I don’t want to have divide up and be forced to remember which files I bought from who in order to stream and enjoy my music.

What Content Can NOT be Pirated, Is still 100% Free and Millions of People See DAILY?

It’s not the movies. They are all over everywhere. It’s not music. It’s not photo’s or documents. C’mon…Its TELEVISION! What I mean is this: TV isn’t pirated out of the box because the episodes of LOST or V or the last NY Giant football game (sorry, I’m a fan) debut on TV. I can’t find the upcoming episode of V which is on ABC tommorrow -10/10/09 – on any torrent or newsgroup. It may show up AFTER its debut on TV, but never before. There are no ‘screener’s’ floating around the newsgroups. This being said, the content on these networks becomes all that much more important. And, I believe because its so accessable, that’s one of the reasons its NOT on the newsgroups or torrents as much as the movies and music are.

-Coming up:

Wal-Mart and Target – The last DVD standing

 

Free streaming music from You Tube, but w/o the video…from Songza!

I want my MTV Songza! Don’t know how they do it or where they pull the music from (some say a bit of it comes from the music-only part of music videos found on you tube) but they got it right for me. My favorite blog, Uncov, reviewed this a week back and loved it as well . Songza is free, and you can create playlists of your favorite songs and share those with friends. Not sure how they monetize this but hey its free and very responsive/quick in loading up what songs you want to hear. Try it out -its worth a look.