Google Music - Luckily there are alternatives
I was pumped this evening waiting to hear the latest Google Music news. I live in the UK, I have access to the US only service through proxy servers and was really hoping for roll-out to more regions. But no, it remains US only. The complexities of record labels are amazing, I am sure all the blame doesn't lie with Google - record labels remain their own biggest enemy. This left me pondering what options we have in the UK.
Streaming services? No thank you.
This post is not about streaming services, I have previously posted about music streaming services. They serve their purpose, but the thought of spending hundreds of pounds to own nothing is scary. For example I could spend £££'s on Spotify over many years, they could change their service, up their prices or do anything to upset me, I'd leave and be left with nothing. However, if I spent £££'s on MP3's I'd have them forever.
The king of digital music retail is iTunes. I hate iTunes. It's an application for a start, one which is always running background processes... eww. They took far too long to become DRM free, I don't own an iPod, iPhone or iPad... so really iTunes does nothing for me. Luckily, this doesn't leave me at a loose end.
Amazon MP3 is okay. There is an Android App, it's web based so no horrible programme required and it's quite straight forward to use - ultimately this meets many of my needs. However, the audio quality... They aren't upfront at all. Is it a variable bit rate, low bit rate, high bit rate, what am I getting? It seems to be typically 256 kbps MP3 which is around or above transparency but that's a hell of a risk. In the UK we don't have Music Locker so this leaves us manually moving files around. Also, after purchased I only get to download once. If my hard-drive corrupts I better hope I have a backup otherwise I'll need to buy them all again...
In typical fashion I save the best to last. I have been using 7digital for a few years and I really love it. For a start 7digital were at the forefront of the DRM free music revolution - no need to explain the benefits of DRM free music I hope. The first thing that attacted me to 7digital was their huge library and good prices.
But it doesn't end here. I think a killer feature of 7digital is that the music is pretty much all 320 kbps MP3. Hooray for sound quality. I defy anybody to tell the difference between this bit rate MP3 and CD or any other audio source, it's near enough impossible. But wait, there is more - you can download your music forever. 7digital call it the 'locker', you buy your MP3 once and you can download it again and again.
Oh but it doesn't end there. 7digital doesn't offer a Google Music / Amazon Music Locker style streaming service but in near enough offers a solution in way of its mobile apps. There is an Android phone app, Android tablet app there is a Blackberry app, heck there is even a WebOS TouchPad app. As it happens I own an Android phone, a HP TouchPad (yes, I got £89 lucky) and use these apps. Rather than a Google Music style stream 7digital allows you to download very easily straight to your device.
It's not quite Google Music. But it's the best we have until them. Strangely, hardly anybody has heard of 7digital in relation to the competitors. Please comment and mention any services I have missed that you think are worthy, or what you use and why.