Music streaming is the hot new thing, with many services offering access to millions of songs for a monthly fee. If you have your own music collection on your computer, you can put it online and stream it from anywhere — free.
This is ideal if you’ve ripped your own CDs or purchased MP3s and put together a music collection. It’s also a good way to fill holes in popular streaming services, giving you access to songs that aren’t available as part of unlimited streaming plans.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music — formerly Google Music — is a completely free service that allows you to upload up to 50,000 songs and stream them from anywhere. Google offers the most generous free option by far.
Just download the Google Music Manager application for Windows or Mac, install it, and sign in with your Google account. Point it at your music folders and it will automatically recreate that music collection in Google Play Music. It’ll even sit on your computer, watching your music folder and automatically uploading new music you add to your account. You can also upload songs directly from the website.
You can then sign into Google Play Music on the web, via the Android app, or the iPhone or iPad app and stream music from anywhere. The mobile apps let you download songs for listening offline, too — you can just cache them from anywhere without having to plug back into your computer.
To upload music more quickly, Google Play Music will “match” your local song to a song on Google’s servers. If Google already has a copy of the song, you’ll get that one. If you want an offline copy of your music again, the Music Manager application allows you to re-download your entire collection.
Price: Up to 50,000 songs for free, no option to pay for more
(Google also sells a $9.99 monthly subscription called “Google Play Music All Access” that gives you access to millions of songs, but that’s separate.)
Amazon Music works similarly. The Amazon Music Importer application allows you to import songs from your computer to your Amazon Music account, and they’ll be “matched” to save as much bandwidth as possible. Click “Upload Your Music” on the Amazon Music website to access it.
Once you’re done, you can listen to your music from the Amazon Music website or with the Amazon Music apps on Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Amazon’s service is nowhere near as generous as Google’s. You can only upload up to 250 songs for free, although MP3s you purchase from Amazon will be automatically added and won’t count toward your limit. if you have more than 50,000 songs, Amazon does let you store up to 250,000 songs for $25 per year — something you just can’t do with Google Play Music or even Apple’s solution.
Price: Up to 250 songs for free, up to 250,000 for $25 per year
iTunes Match and Apple Music
Apple offers this feature with iTunes Match built into iTunes. This feature will scan your local iTunes library and “match” the songs to songs Apple knows about, giving you access to them on Apple’s servers. iTunes Match costs $25 per year with no free option.
This is a bit more tempting if you also use Apple Music, as iCloud Music Library is included with Apple Music’s $10 monthly fee. Technically, ITunes Match and Apple Music are separate, but both give you access to iCloud Music Library. Apple tries to explain the difference here.
This service is only really ideal if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, as it works in iTunes on Mac, iTunes on Windows, and the Music app on iPhone and iPad. There’s no web or Android access.
When we wrote this, iTunes Match only allowed up to 25,000 songs, but Apple was soon planning on increasing this limit to 100,000.
Price: Up to 100,000 songs for $25 per year or included with an Apple Music subscription
Microsoft OneDrive and Groove Music
This is an okay option if you have a smaller collection or want to ensure your music collection can easily sync to desktop PCs and laptops via OneDrive, but it just isn’t as smart. There’s no way to “match” your collection — you’re stuck uploading every single song.
However, you aren’t just stuck listening to songs as individual music files the old-fashioned way in the OneDrive app. You can use the Groove Music app on Windows 10, iPhone, Android, and iPad to stream them.
This takes a bite out of your OneDrive storage, and Microsoft only offers 15 GB of OneDrive storage for free. Thankfully, Microsoft does have some additional storage plans — for example, get an Office 365 Personal subscription for $7 per month and you’ll also have “unlimited” OneDrive storage space.
Price: Up to 15 GB of songs for free, “unlimited” songs for $7 per month.
If you just have a few songs you’d like to back up, you could always just store them in Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud file storage service. But the services above are better for putting a large music collection in the cloud so you can access it from anywhere. They offer easy streaming, search, and offline caching, as well as “match” features so you don’t have to upload hundreds of gigabytes of data.