- Chuck Gray
I shouldn't have to tell you the music CD is dead, as is every audio format that came before it, with the possible exception of vinyl, the fax machine of the music world. Music is digital, end of story. Digital music differs from any of its progenitors in its lack of physicality; there is no disc that you can put on your shelves, no album liner notes that you can flip through unless of course you create all of that yourself, but doesn't that defeat the point? If you have a digital music collection of over 6000 tracks, you're not going to take the time, spend the money, or use the space to create physical CDs for each of those albums. Still, we need to be able to keep track of our music and that's sometimes easier said than done.
Do you know where your digital music is? Maybe you can open iTunes or Windows Media Player and point it out, but that reveals nothing about the actual location of your music files on the computer's hard drive. Media players like those listed above have the ability to aggregate your music collection so that it is all visible on one screen at the same time, but that music could still be stored in several different locations on your hard drive depending on whether you downloaded it from a web site, bought it from one of several online stores, or ripped it from a CD. So, do you REALLY know where your music is?
If you're in a situation in which you think your music is in more than one place on your hard drive, I heartily recommend condensing it all into one folder structure and to make certain you store all future additions to that location. One such location would be the 'My Music' folder which is included with both Windows and Mac computers.
Of course, if you have a large library of digital music spread across several folders already, such an undertaking can be practically Olympian in scale. Fortunately, there are a number of media players which will automate the process for you:
iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) - iTunes is an online music/app/movie/soon-to-be ebook store, and an impressive media player. It can be a great help to you when organizing your music. Follow the directions at this URL: http://www.macworld.com/article/46248/2005/08/shiftitunes.html
Songbird (http://www.getsongbird.com/) - Songbird is a powerful customizable open source media player that looks very similar to iTunes, but adds a great deal of functionality, including support for services like Last.fm, Mashtape, Twitter and much more. It also includes a built-in web browser built on top of Mozilla Firefox technology which will list and allow you to quickly download any music links on the page you are currently viewing. To enable music library consolidation go to Tools --> Options --> Manage Files and check the option labeled 'Allow Songbird to manage files'.
- MediaMonkey Standard (http://www.mediamonkey.com/) - MediaMonkey is similar to both Songbird and iTunes in functionality, but offers both a free version and a paid version, with the latter including several more compelling features not found in either of the previous players. To consolidate your music library using MediaMonkey, follow the directions at http://www.mediamonkey.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=34929.
Once you've taken care of that problem, you need to also consider backing your music up. If your computer dies or your hard drive fries, goodbye valuable music! A cheap portable hard drive is a nice solution for backing up your music (and remember that backing-up means you have the music in TWO locations simulataneously), but they are still prone to failures, just like any other piece of computer equipment. Instead of (or even in addition to) a portable hard drive, you can use online services such as Mozy.com to backup your music or MP3tunes.com to both backup and stream your music from any web browser.
Remember: your music collection does not have the permanence that it once had. Take steps now to guarantee its survival before it's too late.