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A Tale of Music Tools. My favorite apps to manage, discover and listen to music.

Today I’m going to share my favorite tools for managing music library, as well as listening, streaming and discovering music.

There’s a bunch of streaming services, players and apps avaliable for various platforms. However, I’m not going to list them all. I’m going to only describe favorite ones, and hopefully, someone will find this useful. Sharing your experience and suggestions is more then welcome in the comment section:)

A set of devices generally defines the choice for music applications. That’s why I have to mention that my playlists have to be synced between iPod + Mac + PC. I’m not listening to music on any Android apps, but I prefer having this opportunity in the future. Also, I’m currently not using AirPlay, so I’m not going to talk about this one.

Manage Music Library

My library files are being synced between Mac and PC via Dropbox and also stored online in Google Music (via Google Music Manager) for instant web access from desktop or Android devices. It’s also possible, and probably more convenient for Mac users, to use iCloud storage instead of Dropbox sync. Though, as I’ve chosen Dropbox as the main cloud platform, it just works best for my purposes.

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Google Music + Google Music Manager
Simply upload your personal music collection online (up to 20000 songs) and access it instantly on the web or any compatible device without having to sync it. It’s smooth, fast, easy to use, and has some cool extra features like the “Instant Mix” and thumbs up that help create on-the-go playlists. To use Google Music from an iOS device, you’ll need either access the web app or download a GMusic app ($1.99) from iTunes.

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iTunes
Blessing and curse for users of all iOS devices, as they are heavily bounded with iTunes. Allows retrieval of purchased files across devices, watching and downloading movies and tv shows. Nicely integrates with Last.fm. For Windows users MediaMonkey is a great iTunes replacement, as it syncs nicely with all iOS devices. Winamp also provides some sort of syncing iTunes playlists, but I would only consider this an alternative for PC users, as iTunes for Windows is much more terrifying then a Mac OS version.

Clean and Maintain

Before syncing anything, I prefer to organize music for the best storage and streaming experience. It’s a good idea to scan the library once in a while, find songs you don’t want and get rid of them.

Also, take a look at the bitrate of your files, – are they really high quality? It’s never too late to reimport high quality music and get rid of lose files.

Then it’s time to look at the metadata. A well tagged MP3 collection makes everything from organization to playback easier. You’ll probably have used programs like MusicBrainz Picard, Jaikoz and Mp3tag to get things just the way you want them.

There’s also a great tool that automates this painful process:

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TuneUp Media (Windows/Mac, Basic: Free; Full: $49.95)
TuneUp is a music cleaning addon for iTunes. TuneUp’s simple drag and drop interface combined with an extensive database of more than 90 million acoustic fingerprints makes cleaning up your music a breeze.

tuneup

Works intelligently using cutting-edge waveform recognition technology. It actually “listens” to each song in your music library to identify its acoustic fingerprint (fancy word for DNA) and references it against the world’s largest database of fingerprints and song information to find a match.

You can drag hundreds of songs onto the TuneUp sidebar in a single go and let it chug through the pile. When it’s done, you’ll have a list to approve with any tricky songs or albums flagged for your approval before fixing mislabeled song info, adding album art and removing duplicate songs from the library.

In my case, the best way to get done with tagging is to use a combination of Jaikoz (for Mac) and TuneUp Media. On Windows system I used to get it done with Mp3Tag and MediaMonkey with a slightly less impressive outcome.

Mp3Tag (Windows, Free)
Mp3Tag is an MP3 tagging tool with a rather spartan interface which lends itself to easy use. You can batch edit MP3 tags, including iTunes specific tags like media type or TV Show settings.

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MediaMonkey (Windows, Free)
MediaMonkey is a popular iTunes alternative and also a rather robust tag management tool to boot. Organizes music and movie library replacing missing file info, gathering files everything in one location, and deleting duplicates. Once you have your music collection imported into MediaMonkey, you can automatically update tags from Freedb and update cover art from Amazon.

Play

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Vox (Mac, Free)
Simple and lightweight music player for Mac with support for many file types. With an abundance of included effects and the ability to export into many different file types, Vox is full of useful features. Has in-built Last.FM integration.

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Winamp (PC/Mac, Free)
The free customizable Winamp media player that plays mp3 other audio files, syncs your iPod, subscribes to Podcasts and more. Plays various audio files, syncs iPod and downloads podcasts. Keeps its library up to date with automatic sync between iTunes and Watch Folders that you specify. Plus, Winamp lets you copy tracks from an your Android handsets to your Mac desktop. Integrates neatly with Last.FM.

Scrobbling Everything

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Last.fm (Web/MacOS/Windows/iOS/Android; Free)
The largest online music catalogue, powered by scrobbling. Gives music recommendations wherever you are based on your taste. Lets you check out upcoming events in a given area and add this feed with google calendar. Also provides free internet radio, videos, photos, stats, charts, biographies and concerts. Last.fm subscribers in US, UK and Germany can also use an iOS Last.FM app to listen to music recommendations with Last.fm radio, offering personalised stations based on the music they play.

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Scrobbler for iOS (iOS, Free)
Fully-featured music player that helps you discover connections between the tracks in your iTunes library through playlists, deep artist information, and rediscover the music you own. Plus, it scrobbles.

Identification

Music recognition apps have been around for a while now. On a single tap they just recognize music playing around you. I prefer SoundHound more, as it glitches out less and picks up more songs that Shazam has no idea about. Shazam, on the other hand, seems like a great app for anyone with tastes running toward pop music. Neither app is great with tracks featuring ambience and electronic effects — the more clear the melody, and crisp the singer’s voice the better identification goes.

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Shazam (iOS, Free)
Best known for identifying pre-recorded music from anywhere. However, it also has some social features like music charts, tag Lists and recommendations.

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SoundHound (iOS, Android, Blackberry; Free)
Instant music search and discovery. Names a tune playing from a speaker in as little as four seconds – and even works if you sing or hum! Get lyrics and top songs for all of your favorite artists.

Socialize

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Turntable.fm (Web, Free)
Social media website that allows users to interactively listen and share the music and earn DJ points from the community.

And there’s also Last.FM, which was featured in the previous section. It let’s you add friends, view their music and profiles, find “neighbours” based on your music compatibility and comment anything you discover.

Streaming Services

Streaming services are about as common as new social networking sites. They offer custom radio stations to users based on a beginning song that the user chooses and compile a radio station full of music that you might like.

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Songza (Web, iOS; Free)
Songza plays you the right music at the right time featuring over 75,000 playlists created by actual people (including music experts, celebrities, artists and record labels). It is free of audio advertisements and has no monthly listening limits. Songza apps are avaliable for iOS and Android.

When I discovered it’s mood playlists, I was so impressed that wrote a post about it.

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Pandora (Web/Desktop; Free – Ads, Web Only; $36 – No Ads, Higher Quality, Desktop App and more)
Pandora radio is the personalized internet radio service that helps you select only radio content that you enjoy and discover new artists based on your old and current favorites.

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Rdio (Web; From $4.99/month)
Rdio lets you listen to music wherever you are – on the web and on your phone, even offline. It has millions of songs, from massive hits to rare gems to cult classics, with more added every week.

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Spotify (Web/iOS/Mac/PC/Android and more; Free – Limited; $4.99/Month – Desktop; $9.99/Month – Desktop & Mobile)
Spotify is a lightweight software application that allows instant listening to specific tracks or albums with virtually no buffering delay. Users download Spotify and then log onto their service enabling the on-demand streaming of music. It has a library from which you can stream music, and it can scan your library and let you play all of those tracks from the desktop player, as well as sync your playlists to your mobile device. Spotify’s also available on a ton of different devices, meaning if you have a phone running something other than Andorid or iOS, you might actually be able to use it. Provides great Last.FM integration: whether you’re new to Last.fm or a long-time scrobbler with dozens of loved tracks, you’ll get great recommendations straight away.

Songza, Pandora and Rdio are only avaliable for US listeners (which is not a problem for many other internet users), and Spotify also has country-based restrictions. My way to solve this issue is kind of natural: being based in China (country behind the Great Firewall), I have to use a VPN on a daily basis to access every other website. If you are interested how this works, let me know and I’ll invite you for a free trial (just leave me a message with your e-mail and ask for a VPN invite).

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GrooveShark (Web; Free; Grooveshark Anywhere – $9/month)
Another nice streaming service. Along with providing free streaming music for our users, Grooveshark is also an instrument for artists, labels, and brands to develop new revenue sources from their music. Radio mode is completely free.

That’s pretty much all the music tools I’m using these days. Let me know what you think or if I missed some cool app in any category.

Stay tuned and enjoy your music!