The cloud–or the portion of the web devoted to online storage and computing–is supposed to make things simple. And by and large, it does. I love Dropbox, as many of my posts here will attest. As far as music goes, however, there is not a single solution with the elegance of Dropbox. Ideally, I would be able to store all of my music, find any given song, even if I don’t own it, and listen to new artists I don’t know yet. And I should be able to all of this wherever I have web or mobile access. And it should be free. All of this should occur with a single service, but alas, nothing like that exists, at least not to my knowledge. So I’ve cobbled together a system that is working for me. Here’s how it works:

When I purchase any new music on CD (not often), I rip it into iTunes, being careful to change the import setting from the irritating, proprietary iTunes M4a to the general MP3 format. Otherwise, I download from iTunes.

I have also installed the relatively new app Google Play (quick installation) on both my computer and my phone. Google Play automatically surveys your MP3 collection (you may have to use iTunes to convert everything to MP3) and uploads everything to the cloud. So, if I rip a new CD using iTunes, Google Play grabs it and uploads it to my music, storing it online for whenever I want to access it.

That makes all of my music collection available on the cloud. It might take Google Play a day or two to upload all of your songs, depending on how much you have. It works in the background and seems unobtrusive. It also syncs your music from all of your computers.

But what about music I don’t own? I like Grooveshark for streaming any artist/song/album I don’t currently have in my collection. Grooveshark charges for use of their mobile app, meaning you can still listen online for free, but if you wanted to stream music to your mobile device, it would cost you.

Enter TinyShark, the mobile app for Android phones. Tinyshark lets you access your Grooveshark playlists nd search engine. Set up your playlists on the web, and then listen to them on your smart phone.

As a backup for Grooveshark, you might consider Spotify, which has a deeper and more organized archive of music than Grooveshark. Spotify Premium gives you access to the database via your mobile device, but it too,, is not free.

My last recommendation is Pandora, for those times when you want to be introduced to new music. Pandora is ad-supported, so you’ll have to deal with interruptions, but you can install the app for free on your phone.

So that’s it for now. I suppose I neglected iCloud, but my suspicions are that Apple makes you pay dearly for it.