If cloud computing, where storage and processing power is relegated to servers "in the sky" instead of only relying on the device you are currently using, has already made inroads to business, then why not entertainment? The importance of the 'cloud computing' jargon for consumers is that they can access all their content, files and services through virtually any internet enabled device. Files are "safe", service preferences are remembered, and almost always, a service with cloud computing capabilities can be accessed through any modern browser.
Movie studios are playing with services like Ultraviolet, where every movie you purchase also gives you access to a digital copy hosted on the Ultraviolet service. Cloud computing for music, by principle, has been around longer, through services like Imeem, Last.FM, and more notable services like Spotify, Grooveshark and 8Tracks. Apple has also leveraged the cloud computing trend through iCloud sync and iTunes Match.
The more devices become connected (and the more internet connections become ubiquitous), having an MP3/AAC file on your device, would slowly become irrelevant as it is always constrained by the capacity of said device. The cloud however, in the best business model forms, will give you a certain limit of storage for free, then ask for a premium for additional storage space - and same goes to music. With millions of songs recorded to this day, it is much more practical to use a cloud-based music service rather than keep accumulating music files on your devices storage until its storage limit.
The key elements to any cloud-based music service would be:
- a significant library of songs, capable to fulfill even the most esoteric of tastes, to ensure customer loyalty
- a robust music discovery system - a search engine that will know what you like, suggest other music through algorithms and social recommendations, and broaden your music palate, ensuring further customer loyalty.
The music discovery element is especially important; in the old days people would rely on the centralized media (TV, radio, magazines) to find out about the latest music release or the lastest artist band to try their luck in the industry, but today the internet has decentralized the media - and decentralized attention spans, genres and music tastes - so there still needs to be a 'Google'-like place where people can search and listen to music with the widest set of contexts possible. And it needs to be a place where people can index and store their music interests (as known as playlists), removing the need of maintaining this information (and associated files) on multiple devices. The more files and devices you have, the more difficult it is to track down duplicate files, proper ID3 tags, and ensure the song you want is available and playable on the device you're currently using.
So instead of busy storing music here and there, a whole library of music can be accessed just through a login page, and all you need to do is mark the music files you want to be present in your playlist, and have the ability to discover other music and seamlessly integrate them into your music experience (no need to clumsily download and copy files). Of course, as with other cloud computing services, a basic plan would be free, and premium plans would open new features and privileges. This is what Spotify and Google Music is basically doing already, and hopefully those services will open in more countries soon.
By enabling easier access to a wider music library, simplifying the interface and enriching the experience, I think cloud-based music services have a great place in music listeners' hearts - and entertainment budgets - for many years to come.