Amazon’s Lump of Coal for Music Uploaders (and Ways Around It)
Amazon gave a lousy Christmas present to its millions of Echo owners last week, as it cut off the ability to upload your own music to Amazon’s free locker, put a January 2019 expiration date on your existing locker, and set a limit of January 15, 2018 to upgrade to a plan that will let you keep uploading for one more year.
This is a consumer-unfriendly decision—there’s no way to sugarcoat it. One of the strengths of Amazon’s Alexa devices, for people who have older or more obscure music collections, has always been the ability to upload your own MP3s to Amazon’s locker and play them through Alexa.
It’s not just about penny pinchers who don’t want to subscribe to Spotify Premiumor Amazon Music Unlimited, although sure, it’s about that, too. Amazon let you upload 250 songs for free, and Amazon’s 250,000 song locker plan costs only $25/year, as compared with $96/year for Amazon Music Unlimited.
I have a big collection of bootlegs I made in the 1990s that don’t exist on any online music service, for instance. They’re nice to listen to. I’d like to be able to listen to them anywhere. Amazon allowed that. Not anymore.
This shows the peril of relying on cloud and service-based solutions, because what you don’t own can always be taken away. But that’s just the world we live in now, as every former Google Reader user can tell you. Yes, you can hack together local solutions, but they’ll always be kludgier.
With that in mind, here’s how to keep the tunes coming on your Amazon Echo.
Save the Music
First of all, don’t panic. A lot can happen in a year. New services will appear, especially now that everyone knows Amazon is turning its locker service off. I personally wouldn’t look at signing up for anything new until next fall.
If you want to keep uploading songs, upgrade to the paid music storage plan for $24.99 by January 15, 2018, and make sure your subscription is up to date. That will keep the status quo for the next year.
Now you can fool around with setting up a local music server. If you have a computer you can keep on all the time, you can run it as a music server that can be controlled with various Alexa skills. That puts your music back in your own hands, but the skills themselves are much pickier and buggier than Amazon’s built-in music playback functionality.
The My Media skill accesses MP3 and AAC files organized on a PC in a very specific folder order. The comments under the skill give tips for setting it up.
Plex lets you play music on your Alexa-powered speaker from a PC running the Plex media server software. Lots of people like Plex, and it has clients for a bunch of other smart devices, too. But the user reviews say that the software is quite buggy and can be difficult to set up and troubleshoot.
What About Google?
In the middle of this year, Google added the ability to play songs from your Google Play Music library on Google Home devices. That now makes Google the superior solution for music playback for people with large local libraries of MP3s. You can upload up to 50,000 songs to Google’s cloud using the Google Play Music Manager. Even better, it doesn’t require a subscription.