Cloud-based music storage just got a little more appealing.
MP3tunes, the online music locker service headed by controversial tech figure Michael Robertson, is a promising idea. Like Robertson's original MP3.com service, which was purchased and then shut down by Vivendi Universal almost a decade ago, MP3tunes.com lets you store your personal music collection on its servers. You can then access that music from any computer by using the MP3tunes Web site, or from various devices, including the iPhone (through the free Airband app built by Centroid PIC) and Android phones, as well as the Logitech Squeezebox Radio (which has connectivity to MP3tunes built in). The company has also built specialized versions of the Web site to work with the browser on PlayStation and Wii game consoles. It's an intriguing concept, but it hasn't been without its drawbacks.
The service has been around for a few years now, and the technology works well. I particularly like the LockerSync app, which can upload your computer-based library to the MP3tunes service on a schedule--I had it work at night so the uploads wouldn't suck up my bandwidth during active Web surfing--and which automatically queues new songs for upload as you add them to your computer. The Web-based player has most of the features familiar from iTunes, with some interesting additions like slideshows of album art and artist pictures. The Airband app for iPhone worked perfectly over my Wi-Fi connection.
But I've always balked at the price of the service. Until last week, MP3tunes only gave users 2GB of free storage. I already find the 8GB on my iPhone to be limiting, so 2GB seemed worthless by comparison. To store more than 2GB, you needed a premium account, which offers 50GB of storage for $39.95 per year or $4.95 per month. Paying that much money for the convenience of having my music collection available from anywhere didn't seem worthwhile--if I want to listen to my music away from my computer, I'll simply take an MP3 player with me. If I really want to have certain music files (like QuickTime videos of Pink Floyd's Live8 performance) on all my computers, I'll swap it around with a 2GB flash drive, which now costs less than $20.
Using MP3tunes has other benefits. For instance, if I download a new piece of music onto any of my computers or devices, it's automatically available on all my other devices without requiring me to connect any cables to sync files back and forth. And it's always nice to have extra backup in case the PC with my music collection on it dies. But these benefits aren't worth $40 a year to me.
Last week, MP3tunes upped its free storage allotment to 10GB. The storage increase is still in testing--you need to request an invitation to get the larger locker--but the change makes MP3tunes worth another look. I think it could be particularly useful if you use an iPhone or Android phone as your primary MP3 player, and are becoming frustrated with your storage limits. You can transfer the "must have" files using your regular wired sync, then use MP3tunes to gain another 10GB of storage at no charge.