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With All Of The Options Out There To Go To The Cloud, Is It The Best Way To Manage A Digital Music Collection In 2016, Or Is It Still Better To Keep Tracks On Your Own Device?

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

June 7, 2016 — It is a very interesting time right now for music fans. Digital music services such as Tidal and YouTube Music Key are getting more exclusives and splintering the streaming business even further. Vinyl sales are oddly holding strong, but hard copy sales in general continue to fall and even iTunes is seeing sales decline.

Die hard music fans with one foot still stuck in the age of old with tons of hard copy music that they would like to digitize and carry with them are finding themselves in a strange spot as streaming libraries seem more and more like the wave of the future.

Yes, Spotify and other such streaming services have music that fans will want to hear on a daily basis, but those of us who spent years curating our own personal collections still very much value that and desire a way to digitize it and carry it around in our pockets. The iPod classic used to be the easy answer to that question, but Apple discontinued the legendary device in 2014 and has since hidden the iPod section from their website altogether. The age of the iPod is dying a slow death, so what options exist? Well, there are several depending on where your preference lies.

Streaming Services
Yes, as mentioned streaming services are great for the day to day, but that doesn’t solve the issue of having your own personal, painstakingly curated music collection handy at all times, or does it? Spotify and other streaming services actually allow users to add their own files to their personal library within the application on a desktop. The files then sync to the user's mobile device of choice and voila. Spotify requires a premium subscription to use this feature though, which could be a drawback for aficionados who have yet to commit to paying a monthly fee for streaming, and every streaming service handles this differently.

The fact of the matter is, most streaming services will offer some type of similar option to help bring your old, curated library in with the new. This is, however a very competitive and emerging landscape and things are going to change a lot in the coming years. If Tidal really takes off or if Google Play Music really can’t find its legs, who knows what will happen? In the end, this may be the most forward thinking way to tie in the old with the new, but be careful about who you hitch your wagon to, because they may not be there in a few years and you may be again stuck with trying to figure out what to do with your personal, digital library.

Hi-Res Music Player
During the iPod era, no other company could touch them. Microsoft failed gloriously while trying with the Zune, and oddly enough, that was about as close as anyone got. Apple had a virtual monopoly on the industry of high end, high capacity music players. But now that the iPod is all but dead, it can be hard to know where to turn if you still want a dedicated music player and don’t want everything stored on your smartphone or tablet. Fortunately for audio nerds, a market has emerged for high resolution music players.

Sony and other companies have really stepped up in order to service the niche market of people who still want a dedicated portable music player, and in truth, many of these devices put the iPod to shame in some ways. Most of these players, like the Sony NWZ-A15, are capable of playing high resolution audio files at a very high quality. They come equipped with plenty of storage to handle the larger files and many have upgradable memory, which was something the iPod never had. If you are a serious audio nut, getting one of these players is probably the way to go.

Those who choose this route should be aware of a few things. For one, there are actually a lot of options out there, so be sure to look closely at what you are buying, what features it has and try to determine what your needs are and if that player will serve them. Also, the cost of these players varies wildly. The aforementioned Sony NWZ-A15 can be purchased for around $200, but many of these high resolution audio players can cost four figures. Price isn’t always an indication of quality though, so be sure not to just shell out $1,000 for no good reason. Do your research.

Use Your Phone
This may seem very obvious, but it needs to be said. Most phones on the market have an awful lot more storage than they used to, and many Android devices allow for upgradable storage. So, simply plugging your phone into your laptop and uploading your music to your phone is a perfectly viable option. However, it should be noted that most music management apps found on smart phones are not nearly as intuitive and organized as the software on iPods was, so that can present a big potential frustration if this is the route you want to go with.

Go With The Old
If all else fails and an iPod just feels like the only way to go, then make it happen. With eBay,  pawn shops and Craigslist all viable options to track down an iPod classic with a large hard drive, it is totally possible to just go with something old. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That is part of the problem though. An iPod is an electronic device and eventually, they will break. The batteries will wear out, the screens will stop working or the hard drives will fail. Sure, some of these issues can be serviced, but it is far from a very long term solution. Also, since Apple decided to discontinue the iPod Classic, nostalgia and the law of supply and demand has driven the price up on these used devices, so you may have to pay more than you think for an old music player.

Even though the landscape of music consumption is changing, those who are holding onto their personal collections still have plenty of options to be able to digitize those libraries and not have to buy an old Walkman and carry around a book of CDs like it's 1996. The elephant in the room so to speak though, is that those CDs and other physical media still need to be digitized before they can be transferred to the device of your choosing, and that may still be the trickiest part in the age of instant gratification.

For the most part, each CD still needs to ripped to a computer individually and that is very time consuming and very arduous. There are several services that offer to do this process for you, but they are costly and offer their own form of headaches as well. In truth, this part of the process can be the major deterrent in ever actually getting your personal digital music library complete in the modern age, and there is no good answer to help anyone get over the hump.

Not only that, but technology has allowed for people to be able to digitize their vinyl LPs and even cassette tapes with relatively cheap and easy to use digital converters that can be purchased at virtually any music retailer and online store. As great as that is, it does offer more in terms of leg work and potential cost for those trying to accomplish this task. Though the upside is, it definitely can be done and done to fit your needs. Once the bulk of the work is done, it is just simple upkeep.

The alternative? Sell your collection on eBay and shell out $10 a month for Spotify. But the odds are, anyone looking into options such as these doesn’t even consider that a realistic option at all.
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