The Awkward Record Scratch

I love music. I can't go a day without it - my current addiction is Tron: Legacy from Daft Punk. Much like my music evolved, my music programs have changed. Here's a history of what I use*:

Kinda complicated, huh?

When I was in high school, I started off with iTunes and YouTube, and it's evolved over the years. Part of that is the evolution in the technology I use - iTunes became pretty entrenched in my music system due to syncing with my iPods. YouTube was the way I discovered new music, but now, there are many ways to discover it.

With this, my library of music has become extremely fragmented. It lives locally and in the cloud, but there's no way to access all of it at once.

A lot of it has to do with the basic positioning of each program:

  • Last.FM - It's a radio station with social underpinnings - a good portion of programs out there allow you to scrobble to Last.FM, thus building your library there. Unfortunately, it's luck of the draw on your radio - you can't access a song directly. 
  • Grooveshark - Store your music online via the cloud - you could potentially recreate your entire library onto Grooveshark and access it via the web, your desktop, and your smartphone. The cons here is that Android and iOS do not have *sanctioned* Grooveshark applications and Grooveshark doesn't have every song . 
  • Spotify - Spotify allows you to supplement your library with licensed offerings and provides an alternative music management system 
  • YouTube - it's a video service. Yes, this includes music videos, but YouTube's focus is on social sharing. Plus... I'm not entirely sure these videos are legal....

The focus that each program accomplishes is fairly different from each other - at the core, a user can listen to music, but each program is now focused on answering 'what else can you do with music players?'. 

I started this post a while ago, so while this was percolating, Google Music came out of beta. Like iTunes, Google Music will lock you (more) into Google's ecosystem, which fits into the company's strategy. This is why it will be hard to make a unified experience for your music - in creating this experience, you create an escape from using the music services directly. 

Of the services that I use, Spotify comes the closest to what I want - it's a free cross-platform service and I can import almost all my music to varying degrees of difficulty (easy from iTunes, headache inducing from Grooveshark). I don't have to spend money on a Zune Pass, more space from Google Music, or music from iTunes, but that means I'm dealing with Spotify's UI, which is not perfect. But the question of music 'synergy', to borrow a term from webOS, still remains as a pretty interesting design question, and I hope that I can help solve it some day. There's a lot left to be said, from the possible effect on the music industry to playing nicely with competing companies, but I'll stop here.

*This graphic was created right before I discovered MOG - it should be under the category of 'Not Used Yet'