Which One Will I Choose?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve spent time and money on assessing a variety of streaming audio solutions. My assessment has considered many factors. But chief among those factors was the mobile experience. When I was at home, I used iTunes. It’s not that iTunes is necessarily the best. Indeed, I’ve used dozens of tools at home.  As a general rule, I have always favored things that also provide for metadata management (e.g., MediaMonkey). But iTunes has always been the “gold standard” for both “look and feel” as well as for application compatibility. Everyone is “compatible” with iTunes because it IS the de facto market leader.

But that market may be shifting – at least for me.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve assessed two different audio streaming tools: Amazon Cloud Player and Google Music.  Both have their pros and cons.  Google has much more storage available that is (currently) free of charge.  Amazon has a pre-exisiting (and built-in) retail channel that allows for easy (and impulsive) music purchasing.  Both have good web clients.  And both have good Android clients.

But both suffer from one key problem: I can’t capture and record my listening data on Last.fm.  Yes, I can scrobble data from the web client (if I use third-party scripts to do the job).  But neither product has any native capability to scrobble from an Android device.  There are music players that do scrobble from Android.  If you use the Android Music player, you can use tools like ScrobbleDroid.  And if you are a fan of Winamp, you can scrobble through the Last.fm Android app.  But neither of these players can stream audio from my library.  So I was stuck in a quandary.  Should I store music on my phone and utilize a player that scrobbles?  Or should I use a cloud-based music player and forego the ability to scrobble my music?

The only solution was to either code up my own solution – or use something that already does both.  Since I still have another wedding in five weeks,I chose the latter approach.  Based upon some searches in Google and Twitter, I decided that I would try out the Audiogalaxy product.  Based upon its marketing, the product provides streaming audio (from your home and through their servers) and the product scrobbles via the Last.fm Android app.  So I began yet another quest in search of a mythical chalice.

Audiogalaxy is relatively simple to install.  The site provides the step-by-step instructions that will get you going.  But the basic process is as follows:

  1. Create a free account on the Audiogalaxy site.
  2. Download and install the Audiogalaxy “helper” application.
  3. Point the “helper” application at your music files.
  4. Wait for the helper application to collect metadata and send it to the Audiogalaxy service.
  5. Install the Android app on your phone.
  6. Start listening to your music.

The process is relatively straightforward.  And I had no technical issues with the setup.  I can now listen to my music library from my phone.  And as I listen, my listening habits are recorded at Last.fm.

Unfortunately, Audiogalaxy has the same privacy issues that are present in Amazon’s service and also present in Google’s service: all of your music is streamed through a third-party service.  So the architecture of all of these products is an architecture of control, not anonymity.

As I’ve said before, this doesn’t pose a problem for me at this time.  After all, my music is positively pedestrian.  But what would happen if my musical tastes were more scandalous?  Or what would happen if the government decided that rock music was not to be tolerated at all? Then where would I be?  I would need to rethink my listening habits.  Of course, if something that draconian ever happened, then I would rethink my need to scrobble at all!  And for those kinds of over-the-top situations, I might need to assemble a BOB (bug out bag)! 😉

After this exercise, I now have a streaming solution that I can utilize.  And I think I know what to look for when it comes to government snooping into my private life.  And there is one more option that has to be noted: Apple has not put its offering on the table yet.  Maybe that offering will be announced this week.  If so, I suspect that my options will grow even broader.

Finally, I really ought to point you to a vey fine comparison of all of these options.  David Ruddock (and the folks at AndroidPolice) put together a great comparison of music apps on the Android platform.  Check it out for a comprehensive view of all of the Android options.

-Roo

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