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Subsonic: Why you don’t need Google Music

When Google flagships a new product, the media blitz is astounding and Google Music’s release into beta (invite only) status was no exception.  Unless you’re living under a rock, you know all about Google Music and what it promises to bring to the table.

This all comes, of course, on the heels of Amazon’s own cloud music service which also recently made the news.  Buy and store music for free.  Stream it – by web, phone … pretty much anywhere.  Store your own tracks up in the cloud too.

For some of us, these FINALLY emerging cloud music services announce themselves with considerably less fanfare – not because we are not lovers of music; but because we’ve had something better than Google and Amazon for some time – and it’s called Subsonic.

Amazon offers you 5GB of storage for free – 20GB if you simply purchase a single album from them once a year.  Your purchased music stores for free – and you must upload any music you want to the cloud with a tool on your PC.  Use a web browser or a phone app to get to your cloud music.

Google Music supposedly works similarly – allowing you 20,000 songs (regardless of size) in their cloud.  Much like Amazon, you must upload your own tracks.  Google has also stated clearly that they will aggressively pursue piracy on their service – which I don’t completely understand how it is possible – but if you have a lot of music you don’t own in your collection, Google might give you the boot.  Since my beta invite hasn’t kicked in yet, I cannot weight the benefits of Google Music.

There are tons of other ways to listen to music on your cell phone – and they fall into one of two categories: streaming or locally hosted.

Streaming music comes from a server – often one you pay a monthly subscription to – like Slacker ($5/month), Napster ($8/month), Rhapsody ($10/month) or Pandora, just to name a few.  This is music where you have some input on the genre of music, but it isn’t “your” music.

Local music comes from your phone’s memory or SD card.  This is “your” music, but you have to actually populate the phone’s memory yourself – more than likely from your own massive library of music sitting on a computer at your home or work.  Unless you have a very small taste in music or a really big SD card, chances are likely you’re changing this music out every so often – or you find yourself wanting to hear music that isn’t “preinstalled” on your phone.

This is why cloud-based music is so attractive.

A couple of companies like mSpot, AudioGalaxy and others have tried to bridge this gap – by providing a cloud music streaming services of their own; of course, there are endless limitations – like you have to constantly sync your music into the cloud, storage space is small, you cannot share music with more than one account, there are monthly fees involved, etc.  Sometimes they “pool” or share tracks between accounts – so you aren’t playing your HQ 256k bitrate rip; you’re playing some other version.

The problem is – why should I fill a cloud with music when I have all my music already stored somewhere, on hardware I already own, with a 24/7 internet connection I’m already paying around the clock for.

If your dream is having ALL your music, streamed from your own “server” without restrictions or fees or syncing – then Subsonic is the solution.

The main difference between Subsonic and “cloud services” is that you stream the music from your OWN computer at home instead of relying on a cloud storage facility like Google or Amazon to do it for you.

The primary advantages here are:

  • No Sync Required.  You already have your music sitting on your hard drive at home.  You don’t have to “upload” it somewhere else.  New songs appear immediately into “your cloud”, ready to be streamed from anywhere.
  • No quota/cap/restrictions.  Forget about asking yourself the question “how much can I store?” – you’re already storing it!  No 5GB caps, no games to get 20GB.  No concerns that Google will nuke some rare import song you ripped because it’s magic algorithm can’t identify it as legal.
  • You’re in control.  Set up accounts for your friends and family.  Control what they can listen to.  Administrate your server from anywhere with a web interface.

The end result is the same as using Google or Amazon – music streamed to anywhere you want; any web-based PC or any supported device (Android and iPhone both have apps for Subsonic – or you can use a web browser).

You can even cache the songs locally to your phone and download them via the web interface.

The obvious question at this point is – “what’s the catch?”  Something so great cannot come without strings attached.

SubSonic does require a one time fee of about $14 to get the full blown version of the Subsonic server and your own domain name of which points directly to your computer.  That’s a pretty good deal.  The paid version also nets you the ability to stream VIDEO to your Flash-enabled deviced too – so if you have a large collection of video files, you get these streamed as a bonus as well.  You will need the paid version to stream to your phone.

The other issue of course is that you will have to set the server up yourself before you can stream music.  This means punching a hole through your router and through your firewall.

Now before you run for the hills thinking this is outside of your technical knowledge, consider this.  Subsonic has an auto-configure tool for most modern routers that will open the hole to the outside internet through the router for you.  I have an old router, so I had to configure it myself.  Took about 5 minutes.  Most intelligent security software will ask you when a new internet service starts if you want to allow it to access the internet.  You simply say “yes”, and you’re good to go.

Once the server is set up, installing an app on your phone or pointing to your server with a web browser will get you to your music.  Create user accounts for friends and family to access your server too (believe me – you’ll be a hero).

This may sound complicated and time consuming – but you only have to do it once and believe me – it will take a lot longer to upload 20,000 songs to Google Music.  I personally wrote a step by step instruction document with pictures (now featured on SubSonic’s website) that can get anyone through setting up a SubSonic server.  You can find it and tons of other help guides, forums and more right here.

You don’t have to wait for a Google Music invite or pay storage fees for the cloud or deal with crazy restrictions.  You’re already storing your music and you’re already paying for internet access at home (even when you aren’t there using it).  All you need is Subsonic to bridge the gap.

Once you have your entire library at your fingertips wherever you go and whenever you want it – you’ll never go back to the old ways again!

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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