I grew up in a musical household, attended church where singing was a regular activity, and learned a couple of instruments (piano and violin). Unfortunately, as I moved into adulthood, I let go of the playing of music and transitioned my passion into developing a very deep appreciation by listening and critiquing music rather than creating. Therefore, I’m always looking for the best method to consume and manage my music hunger and addiction. To complicate matters, I listen to music at home, in my office, and on my 45-minute commute.
In 2011, I feel like I’ve finally landed on a formula that meets my needs. A combination of services and software have made this possible. Since I have about 15,000 songs in my personal music collection, it isn’t practical to carry that around on my iPhone or iPod (especially since I keep most at 320Kbps), so operating my own media server is the solution and Subsonic makes it possible. I also love to explore new music and sample what people are doing without having to purchase the release until I know it should be added to my collection. Doing this legally has been a challenge, but that has now remedied thanks to Mog. And because people have been so gracious in sharing their musical insights, I like to return the favor by creating musical mixes. Though I could use Subsonic to share my music, I’m finding myself happily using 8tracks to create and share mixes.
I do own a home stereo system (with turntable), but most of my music is stored on a computer. Thanks to the latest iOS update, I can now easily stream media from my iPhone or iPad. If I want to stream from the Subsonic software on my computer, then I use Airfoil (worth every penny!).
Subsonic is a free, web-based media streamer that can be installed on Windows, MacOS, or Linux. Making a donation provides a few added features that are worth the money. I had initially installed this on an old Dell running Ubuntu but have recently moved it over to a new iMac. The installation and configuration is easy, though some tweaking of your network ports may be necessary. There is ample documentation and help on the discussion forums. My music is stored on an external hard drive connected via USB. Subsonic supports playlists and sharing of the collection. As an administrator, you can create other users who can upload, download, or simply listen to your musical collection. If you own an iDevice then give iSub app a try for listening from your mobile device. You can all set the bit rate that music is streamed and configure any format conversions that might be necessary. To be perfectly honest, I left most of the default settings in place and have been very happy with the results. When listening on the commute, I pick the music and it begins playing almost immediately. The next song is queued up as you listen so there is no delay in streaming while driving. Subsonic supports last.fm integration. Overall, it’s a win!
There are other products out there that stream music, like Pandora or Last.fm (and I’m tired of waiting for Spotify), but you can’t control the exact song or album you want to hear. Nor can you listen to the song or album over again. Those services are more like customized radio. The difference that Mog provides is that I can pick the music. If I want to listen to Black Sabbath all day then I can listen to Black Sabbath all day. If I want to listen to War Pigs all day then I can listen to War Pigs all day. All this can be done for $5/month and if I want to stream (and download) on my mobile device (which I do!) then it’s $10/month. Cheap for someone like me who buys a lot of music – that’s not even the cost of one CD! The service doesn’t have everyone, but the archive is quite deep. I use it to pull out the oldies but goodies that I don’t own and to listen to stuff that I’d probably never purchase.
So, if you love music then you might want to check out these two tools. You can checkout my 8tracks Mixes and I do scrobble everything to my last.fm profile. This post is about the tools, it doesn’t really address how I learn about and discover new music. That will be saved for another post.
Let me know how you manage your musical pleasures.