The future is almost here. Except for the part with jet packs and holographic television. The part that is here? Cloud based music storage. WTF is that, you might be wondering, and why should I care? Herewith we will tell you what it is, why it's important, and how it affects you.

“Music in the cloud” allows you to stream your music on computers and mobile devices.

You “store” your Mp3s in the “cloud”–more on this in a few–and then stream it on your home computer, work computer, iPhone, iPod Touch, etc. This might be an attractive alternative to people who struggle to sync devices and manage their music libraries.

This sounds like what you already do with iTunes. But it's different.

When you purchase an mp3 from iTunes, you are downloading the file and–for lack of a better term–you then gain possession of it. You can play it a million times, one time, or no time. It is not a physical object, of course, but it is still a file that you can transfer from one device to another–from your work computer to your ipod to your home computer, or whatever.

Music in the cloud in some ways is more like Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc

When you listen to Pandora or whatever, you are not downloading anything. You are streaming it. For the non-technically minded among us: think of streaming as turning on a radio station and downloading as grabbing a CD off of a shelf. With streaming, the music is playing through your device, but you're not putting the mp3 or wav files or whatever on your device in order to play it.

The first company to make music in the cloud available? Amazon.

Not Google. Not Microsoft. And no, not Apple. Amazon. Via techcrunch: “Not only is Amazon entering the “music locker” space, they're doing it before both Google and Apple — as their “Cloud Drive” and “Cloud Player” have just gone live on their site tonight.” Any album bought through Amazon MP3 is stored for free in your Cloud Drive. You can stream the album on any device that connects to the internet. Also, the Cloud Drive can play movies–1 TB will hold 70 hours of HD video–and you can upload your own files. You have to pay for the storage space but some say that the convenience might make it worth it.

This might seriously change the way we view ownership of music .

What if all music was released and stored in the cloud and could be streamed on demand? What if Warner Brothers or Columbia or whoever else made their entire catalogs available in the cloud and users could tap into it, wherever, whenever? The idea “having” or “not having” an album would become a foreign concept. The music would just be…there.

OK but what if it isn't…there?

Good point. Having a hard drive full of mp3s certainly does complicate the notions of ownership in that there are no tangible files. However, it gives the user a great deal more control over her files. Remember back when Amazon remotely deleted two Orwell books (oh the irony) from Kindles back in 2009?

If the user loses control over the music or files stored in the Cloud, who is in a position to gain?

Remember when the Guardian ran an article warning that computing in the cloud could lead to the loss of control over your privacy and data? As Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of GNU observed: One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control. An example: “In the US, you lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant.”

What does the music industry think of this cloud thing?

What do you think they think? Via Reuters:

Sony Music, home to artists such as Shakira and Kings of Leon, was upset by Amazon's decision to launch the service without new licenses for music streaming, said spokeswoman Liz Young.

Amazon will surely not be the first company to promote cloud-based music and file storage. Our prediction? This is yet another change in format that the music industry would benefit from embracing.

LA Weekly