How to easily create a central and shared place for all of our music?
April 14, 2013 1:56 PM   Subscribe

HELLO! Please explain, as if to a child, how to easily create a central and shared place for all of our music. I want to be able to play any song from our collection without having to save it to my computer. How does this work? We have a wireless network in our house and some ability to buy a gadget to help with this but want guidance on what actually works. I am not a techie and no one else in my household is either.

CURRENTLY: Two adults, a wireless network, multiple laptops/tablets (all mac) and no one place where all of our music is saved. I'd like to organize everything and make it centralized so that I can find what I want! The sharing only needs to be functional in home, no need to access from outside the home.

SEEKING: All music saved in one place, accessible by multiple computers, but don't have to download and save the song in order to hear it.

Should I just get a Spotify paid account?
posted by dottiechang to Technology (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, I was confusing Spotify with another service that let's you upload your songs for sharing called 8tracks, but that only lets you create mixes so please disregard.

Also, how does Plex work and would that be an option?
posted by dottiechang at 2:13 PM on April 14, 2013

Does using iTunes to share on the local network not work for you for some reason?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2013

Response by poster: My husband and I both have so much music, we want to move the bulk of it off of our computers and into some dedicated storage device to free up space. I guess we could get a computer that is just for music, but wondering if that is the best option. Sorry, should have made that clear in the first place!
posted by dottiechang at 2:24 PM on April 14, 2013

What about just using iTunes Match, if you're not iTunes-averse? It does let you download songs, but you can just stream them too.
posted by Maecenas at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2013

I guess we could get a computer that is just for music, but wondering if that is the best option.

Well... kind of. Cloud storage solutions exist, but if you're talking about as much music as I think you're talking about--I've got about 200GB myself--then this isn't practical. The kind of space you're probably talking about don't come cheap, particularly when you're talking about access fast enough to stream reliably.

But a fully-functional computer is probably overkill. You want a server toaster, not another PC. I'm thinking your best bet is probably to spring for something like one of these things, i.e., a router with built-in storage and media streaming capabilities. $185 for just the router, $350 with included 2TB HDD. Given that you can get a fast 2TB HDD for well under $165, it would seem to make sense to get the bare router and buy your own HDD.

I haven't used one of these things personally, as I basically use my desktop to do this with SubSonic and our phones. But if I were looking for the kind of network storage you're talking about--and why limit it to music?--I'd seriously look into one. Apple even makes their own (the Time Capsule, I think), for their accustomed premium ($300 for the base model), but it does work with their Time Machine backup software, so that's worth looking into.

The upshot of something like this is that you'd be able to access your music from anywhere with an internet connection, provided you set it up right.
posted by valkyryn at 3:05 PM on April 14, 2013

Response by poster: Should have stated this earlier, we have about 600 GB of music that needs to find a home. All currently on assorted external HDs or laptops. If we actually got around to digitizing our LPs and CDs would be closer to one TB. We are music lovers, having both worked in radio and other parts of the music industry, and with only somewhat overlapping tastes we have a big collection.

One question, we had a Time Capsule, but opted for Crashplan after the Time Capsule failed and lost all of our backups. The Mac store made good and gave us a new one, but we never set up the new one. It is somewhere in our office and could be set up again.

When we used the Time Capsule for music sharing before, it would make us save a copy of the music on our own computers before we could play it, which we don't want. Is there a way to use Time Capsule for playing music without saving copies hither and thither?
posted by dottiechang at 3:20 PM on April 14, 2013

In iTunes>Preferences>Advanced, there's a checkbox for "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library". If you uncheck that and then double-click something on a network drive, it should just stream directly without copying.

However, I don't think this will let you stream on a tablet. If you set up home sharing though, I think that will allow the music to be streamed from the Time Capsule to a computer to the tablet.
posted by Maecenas at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2013

Is there a way to use Time Capsule for playing music without saving copies hither and thither?

I dunno, and that's one of the drawbacks of using something from Apple, in all likelihood. Apple in general and iTunes in particular wants to store, organize, and serve your files in a certain way within its own interface. Trying to do something even slightly non-standard is an enormous pain in the ass when it's even possible at all.

You may get more love from a third-party manufacturer like the Netgear routers I linked above. I get the impression that they're content to act like generic network drives, not solely specialized backup appliances, which is what Time Capsule seems to want to be.
posted by valkyryn at 3:45 PM on April 14, 2013

Whatever you do you need to back up those 600gb somewhere anyway. Eeek. As your time capsule experience proves, the only good backup is a redundant one.

Can you find an old beater Mac to use as a media server?
posted by spitbull at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2013

I do pretty much what spitbull mentioned, with a twist - and some money. I started off with one room and added bridges over time as I could afford it. And btw I'm NOT a techie.

1. Took an old beater WinPC running windows 7 and updated to a 2TB drive. It could be any old beater PC.
2. Stored all music on the WinPC and ethernet connected it to the router.
3. Bought a SONOS system.
3a. Put a SONOS bridge on the wireless router up in the office - so no need for a separate amp here because my office desktop is accessing the SONOS (and the SONOS is networked to the WinPC hard drive)
3b. Put a SONOS amp/bridge in the living room - ran wires to speakers in the kitchen, living room, and sunroom.
3c. Put a SONOS amp/bridge out under the eaves of the Gazebo by the pool - ran speakers up into the eaves of the gazebo. It's been running out there all year long, in all weather conditions, for 4 years now, powered on 24/7.

End result... I can control the SONOS system to access my music stored on the 2TB hard drive, as well as Pandora and a host of other online services, on any device in our home. I can also use any device to control the SONOS to play music in any zone, or I can set up the SONOS to link all zones together to play the same music simultaneously everywhere.

Works like a charm.
posted by matty at 5:18 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

After a months-long process of digitizing media in our spare time, we have our entire large collection of music on a Synology disk station accessible to anyone who is permitted to connect to our household network: mount the drive and use your favourite means of locating and playing specific music. Works well in our multi-OS environment (including OSX and iOS as well as non-Apple) and with various Bluetooth speakers tethered to computers.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:38 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are willing to use a different music player than iTunes on your computer...

We've had pretty good luck with our dedicated VortexBox device. If you are super handy, you can build your own out of an old computer or cheap parts; VortexBox itself is open source. Or if you want something more plug and play (as I did), you can buy a prebuilt system from Small Green Computer. To me it was worth the money; it's quiet and low powered. The software is managed through a web browser, and you can copy files to it directly over the network.

You copy all your music to a special MP3 folder on the device and then can play it using a Squeezebox player. For us, it's a Squeezebox Boom in our kitchen. Don't have one? You can also download a free player for your computer. Apparently Logitech isn't making the hardware players anymore anyway.

The software also supports Sonos, XBox, Apple TV, and more, though I only have used the Squeezebox bits.
posted by rouftop at 10:19 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Synology and QNAP both make NAS boxes that are pretty easy to live with.
posted by flabdablet at 3:22 AM on April 15, 2013

It sounds like you're talking about a NAS. Here's a Macworld article that describes the process.
posted by unmake at 12:19 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will be going this route very soon but I am in Windows and Android ecosystem. I have decided to buy a router that offers USB storage so that I can hook up external HDD to router's USB port so that the data from the HDD is streamed over the net. I have not researched into such router's yet.

Netgear router with built-in HDD is a great solution but I am not willing to spend so much money so I will go the route mentioned above.
posted by zaxour at 1:41 PM on April 15, 2013

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