Cloud Drive: How Big Is Your MP3 Collection?

Update: Apple has now released their iTunes Match service, which also places a ridiculously small limit on the number of allowed songs. As with Amazon, music lovers with larger collections – the very customers most likely to pay for the service – are excluded.

Much hay is being made over Amazon’s new Cloud Drive music storage system, which lets you upload your music collection to the cloud so you can listen to it from almost anywhere without having to carry it with you or worry about backing it up. Most of the articles I’m seeing, including David Pogue’s NY Times piece, are calling the service “Almost Free” or “Very Cheap.”

Huh? After 30 seconds of surfing around their FAQs, I had already determined it was way too expensive. While most articles about Cloud Drive claim it costs $1/GB, the rate chart at the bottom of this page makes it clear that that’s not quite true. It’s a tiered pricing plan, which means that if you own 250GBs of music, you have to pay for the 500GB service plan, which costs $500/year!

Collection size polls follow after the break.

This got me wondering: Either I’m completely mistaken in my assumption that most people who have been collecting music for decades have collections that weigh in at hundreds of gigabytes, or that people don’t mind the idea of putting a partial collection in the cloud, which strikes me as 1) A pain in the neck and 2) Very unsatisfying.

I wrote to David Pogue regarding this point in his column and received a very nice reply (within an hour!) saying “But as I noted in the column, the high-end space amounts get expensive fast!” So he does acknowledge that this problem makes the service untenable for certain users.

But is a 250GB collection actually “high end?” Thought I’d do a reality check and find out. There are two polls here – one for the number of tracks in your collection and another for the total file size of your collection. The second is more germane to Cloud Drive pricing, but I’d like to gather as much data as possible for both counts, so please take both polls. Thanks for weighing in!

How many files are in your MP3/digital audio collection?

View Results

How large (filesize) is your MP3 collection?

View Results

23 Replies to “Cloud Drive: How Big Is Your MP3 Collection?”

  1. Sorry for the multiple comments, but I’m kinda thinking on my feet here…

    I think Amazon may be trying to discourage the mega-collections, at least at first.. Those people are going to be pretty demanding users which will likely show the seams more quickly than your ‘average’ user.

  2. I don’t measure it by the track. I have two iTunes libraries, one which is exclusively Apple Lossless format rips of my CD collection. The other is 320KBps AAC files of the same CDs, plus lots of other stuff from non-CD sources, + podcasts and some videos. Each of these two libraries is over 200 GB in size, and together they eat up c. 500 GB of hard drive space. It would be ludicrously expensive to try and have all this on the cloud. But I don’t need it on the cloud. I have a couple of smart playlists in iTunes that I use to fill my iPhone, and that’s all I need to have when I am not at home. I have a playlist that includes my 4- and 5-star rated songs, and another for the 1000 most recently added songs. Why must everything be available online? I like my pocket. :-)

  3. Sean, I suspect you’re right. It’s like they’re willing to subsidize millions of low-end users basically for free, while totally gouging people with “serious” collections. Good theory.

    In retrospect, I should have set this up to poll disk space consumed, not number of tracks. I’ve added a 2nd poll now – would appreciate if you guys could vote in the 2nd one as well, and pass this around – I’d like to get as large a sample size as possible.

  4. I’ve got 31,143 files in 152GB. My collection ranges from when I first started in the late 90’s with 128kbps to now where I do 320kbps.

  5. We have 145 GB of (legal) music, with over 20,000 tracks. And it’s growing. I usually spend between $1500 and $2500 per year on music. For my future I see a subscription method for unlimited music (e.g. RDIO, MOG), a’la Netflix, rather than the individual buying that I do now. I’m just waiting for these libraries to flesh out more, and get stabler clients on various home/mobile devices.

  6. Two things to note:

    1. The “average” user (as some have mentioned) is probably going to fit in the free category, or at most in the cheapest (20 buck for 20 gigs per year, or, if you buy one album ~8 dollars) category.

    2. For anyone who buys their music off Amazon (for instance, me), the songs can be automatically added and not counted against your storage total. Thus, you could store an unlimited amount of music purchased from their mp3 store if you wished.

    Now, a couple of thoughts: I personally think it is a nice service because it backs up any music I purchase, and makes it available to me anywhere–even if I am in an area that has a broadband internet connection but a slow cell data signal (which in Oklahoma is quite frequent).

    Lastly, why would one think that he/she needed to put their entire collection on the cloud at one time? As Larry mentioned, all he really takes with him is a couple of playlists with a few thousand songs. Seems to me that we usually have a whole lot of music in our collection that rarely gets listened to. Just some thoughts…

  7. Hey Wayne – Amazon’s MP3 store, like most digital music stores, only carries a fraction of the music in the world. As I’ve been going through the process of digitizing my LPs, I’ve wanted to repurchase digitally some of the stuff that’s too far gone. And it’s been amazing to realize that most of my stuff isn’t in Amazon, iTunes, or eMusic.

    As for storing a partial collection in the cloud, that would be a huge pain in the ass having to curate that all the time, re-sync, etc. And very unsatisfying every time you couldn’t find that one album you wanted.

  8. Scott (by the way, hope you’re doing well) – I understand your points, and agree with them on principle, but also think that you might fall into the ‘exception’ category instead of the rule. I would guess that the percentage of online music buyers who digitize their LPs is in the low single digits, for instance. I can totally see that, for your situation, this service is probably not worth your money.

    For the majority, though, I think it could be. Also, while it would be a pain to curate your cloud music if you are doing it often, I was just making the point that many of us already do that on our personal devices. If someone is listening to music in a compressed format, and has a decent broadband connection, the time difference between moving the music to your device vs. storing it in the cloud is not too large, and very possibly worth the added convenience.

  9. I have near 90K mp3 files spanning a wide variety of genres. I only collect complete albums and Google Music is the way to go…. Fight the power!

  10. In case you missed it, Amazon no longer puts limits on the amont of music you can upload as long as you pay for one of their storage plans. For instance, the lowest priced plan ($20/year) gives you unlimited storage for music plus 20GB of storage for anything else. Even with the free plan, any music purchased through Amazon does not count towards the size limit.

    Unlike Google, they also don’t put a limit on the number of songs/tracks that you can upload. I have over 37,000 tracks currently stored on Amazon. The only slight down side at this point is that they don’t currently support FLAC (or any other lossless format) for Cloud Drive. I had to convert my entire library to AAC (obviously keeping the lossless files as well) before uploading it.

  11. Another reason for Cloud storage to target the mainstream is that people will often have identical copies of the files (esp. if they were purchased from the storage supplier in question) which means it costs them nothing in terms of storage, whereas people in the long tail by definition will have stuff that isn’t in the service yet, and are also more likely to fiddle with metadata themselves, thus creating unique copies of the files that must be stored individually.

    Since Apple allegedly stuffs user info into the file to trace file sharing, I suspect they store the files in the cloud without this information, and only inject it when downloading them.

  12. Jeff, that’s excellent information, and completely changes the game. Suddenly Amazon becomes a viable option for me. Thanks for pointing that out! Will experiment.

    Though isn’t it the case that Amazon still uploads every file in your library, while Apple “matches” what you’ve got to their own index?

  13. Yes, that is true that Amazon does require that the whole collection be uploaded. It took several weeks to complete the upload of my whole collection. You would also have to be really careful if your ISP limits your bandwidth use.

  14. I’ve been betaing Match for a few months now. For what it’s worth, Apple’s 25k limit does not include tracks purchased from the iTunes Store.

    Thanks to this I am *just* able to sneak in under that limit. I believe my overall library is around 25500 tracks .

    Other than the 25k limit, though, iTunes Match is pretty impressive. It matched all but around 6k of my library, and the vast majority of those tracks were live bootlegs or other obscurities. For the ‘normal’ album tracks it couldn’t match, some of the ones I’ve checked out were dirty rips (which would trip up the fingerprint algorithm, I presume). So in general I’m pretty sure this is going to be a great exercise in helping me clean up my collection.

    When I have iTunes Match activated on my iPhone 4, the initial launch of “Music” takes a few seconds. I’m not sure if this is an overall Match problem, or just a side effect of my large library. It also seemed a bit snappier (though still slower than before) once my library upload was finalized. I’m guessing that the faster processor in a 4S would help.

  15. I guess another downside to Amazon is that you would have to use their inferior player, rather than iTunes. I haven’t tried it but have heard it’s pretty primitive. You’d lose all of the smart and dumb playlists you’ve made over the years, lose the nice integration with other tools and services….

    Sean, a lot of my collection now consists of what I’ve digitized from LP. Many of those LPs are not going to “match” but even if they do, LP rips are all going to fingerprint differently, so I guess they’ll all be considered “dirty.”

  16. I’m not sure how ‘dirty’ the track would be before it fingerprinted differently.. When I used ‘dirty’ I really meant “bad, almost unlistenable rips from scratched CDs”… When I bulk-ripped all of my CDs it was impossible to quality-control all of them.

  17. Ah, I see. No, I’ve gone to great lengths to make the LP rips as pristine as possible. Just meant that recording from analog means by definition that every rip is a unique snowflake and probably won’t be matched (though it would be nice if they provided a “fuzzy match” UI based on the metadata like the one in VinylStudio.

  18. I think it would ultimately come down to their matching algorithm… Clearly if I can hold my phone up and use Shazam to identify a song playing in a crowded bar, it is possible to successfully match ‘noisy’ tracks…

  19. If you have more than, say, 10mp3 that you keep despite the horrible sound and for fundamentally sentimental reasons, you simply are an ignorant. Not sure how someone would keep a blog on music and promote mp3 usage. It’s equivalent as running a foodie site and polling people on KFC.

  20. @aldebaran – I wrote a book for O’Reilly about the mechanics and engineering of MP3 audio formats, which includes results of double-blind listening tests at various bitrates, intermixed with lossless sources. You might benefit from reading it. It’s still available here, if interested.

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