Many Echo owners who are also Amazon Cloud Drive users were surprised to learn they can’t ask the Echo to play audio files stored in their Amazon Cloud Drive: the Echo can only play users’ audio files that are stored in Amazon Music Library (or in the user’s Audible library, in the case of Audible audiobooks books the user owns).
Note, added 12/18/16: Alexa can also accept an audio stream to a Tap or Echo via Bluetooth. See this post for more details on Bluetooth streaming to Alexa devices.
Every Amazon customer has an Amazon Music Library, whether they’ve signed up for the premium version or not. The link is right there on the Your Account menu on the Amazon site (click or tap on images to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window):
Everyone gets free access to the Amazon Music Player web and mobile apps—which means switching to Amazon Music makes your entire library available on virtually all mobile devices as well—, and everyone can upload and store up to 250 songs in their Amazon Music Library for free. Amazon Prime members also get unlimited access to the Amazon Prime Music Library, and can add songs, albums and playlists from the Prime Music Library to their own, personal libraries and those files don’t count toward the 250-song free upload limit. Music you purchase from Amazon doesn’t count toward the limit, either.
But if you’ve got a large, pre-existing personal music library, that 250 song allowance is not going to cut it. For you, Amazon offers a premium Music Library Subscription option: for a cost of $24.99/year (as of this writing, on 7/3/15), subscribers can upload up to 250,000 tracks for playback and storage. To give you some context for that figure, my personal digital music library is HUGE by most typical consumers’ standards: it consists of tracks ripped from hundreds of purchased CDs, and it still only adds up to a little over 5,000 tracks. And don’t forget: music you purchase from Amazon does not count toward the 250k track limit.
When I walked away from iTunes following the release of iTunes 11, I migrated my entire music library to Amazon Music Library premium. At that time I felt $25 a year was a price I’d gladly pay never to have to deal with the costly and frustrating forced-iTunes-upgrade routine: re-creating the playlists that had mysteriously disappeared, re-purchasing the assortment of bought songs that had also vanished, re-uploading my own music that was suddenly missing, and manually re-entering the large chunk of song and album metadata that was gone. Having seen friends and family endure the forced iTunes upgrade nightmare many times since then, I’m confident I made the right choice.
That choice positioned me very well for the arrival of Echo. When Alexa joined my household, I was already good to go. If you’re not, read on to learn how to make the transition as painlessly as possible. Fair warning: you will have to go through that upload/import hassle one last time, if your music library is currently stored in some other cloud-based system (like iCloud) you’ll have to download it, and you’ll have to re-create all the playlists you want to keep from scratch, too. But unlike those poor iTunes victims, so long as you’re sticking with Amazon Music Library you will never have to do any of these things again. Ever.
Important Caveat: Amazon Music Library isn’t the mixmaster-friendly cathedral of music curation iTunes is. You will not have as many options available for customization, such as adding notes for each track, keeping count of plays, individually rating each song, or having all that custom metadata (fields I never used anyway). But you will still have the crucial items:
Not gonna lie: if you’re used to spending hours lovingly poring over your library and you do use all those iTunes custom fields (and you’re totally fine with re-populating at least some of them following every iTunes upgrade), then maybe Amazon Music Library isn’t for you. You just have to weigh the convenience of Echo connectivity and never having to face iTunes upgrade misery again against the benefits you’re getting with iTunes.
I recommend reading through this entire post before you begin the process, so you’ll know what to expect and be prepared every step of the way.
Step One: Decide If You Need To Upgrade To Music Player Premium
There are two reasons why you might need or want to sign up for Cloud Player Premium: 1) your personal library of digital music exceeds the 250 track limit of free storage Amazon already provides for all its customers, or 2) you want a reliable, offsite backup solution for your digital music that requires no ongoing maintenance from you.
If either of these situations fits, then the $24.99 annual fee (as of this writing) for Cloud Player Premium will be both necessary and totally worth the fee.
To sign up, log in to Amazon in a regular web browser—these instructions may not match the mobile browser experience—and click the Your Music Subscriptions link under the Your Account menu:
On the Your Amazon Music Settings page you can select the premium option and pay for it (“Music Storage” section, see screenshot below, click to enlarge). By default, it will auto-renew each year. While I’m generally against auto-renewals, this is one case where I know I will always want to renew, and I sure don’t want to find out the hard way that allowing my subscription to lapse will result in the loss of all the music I’ve uploaded. My recommendation is to leave the auto-renew option on.
Step Two: Get Your Music Out Of Any Other Cloud Storage Library, If Necessary
If you’ve been using iCloud or any other cloud-based storage for your music, you’re going to need to download all of it before you’ll be able to upload it to your Amazon Music Library.
A large library will take a lot of time to download, all your other home network activity will slow to a crawl during the process, and you will need a hard drive or connected external drive large enough to hold all of it. I recommend using an external backup drive for this, since that option will leave you with a complete library backup in addition to your cloud library when all is said and done. Schedule your download session(s) according to when demands on your time, attention and network will be low.
You can speed things up by connecting your computer directly to your router via Ethernet, and breaking up the download into chunks (e.g, by genre, alphabetically by artist, etc.) will help as well: if the download job “hangs” on a specific song or file, you only have to re-start the download for that one chunk, not the entire library. Even so, for a very large audio library you may need to leave some download jobs running overnight for a few consecutive nights in a row to get everything out.
Important Note: download everything, not just individual MP3 songs. Some of the files will contain album cover art or metadata (e.g., album name, artist name, genre, running time, etc.) and some of that stuff will transfer over to your Amazon Music Library. My library contained podcasts and audiobooks (ripped from CDs I’d bought) in addition to music, and those also transferred to Amazon Music with no problems. Again, download everything.
Don’t immediately cancel your subscription to the other cloud service: you may need to come back to re-download missing songs/audio files later. Leave the other cloud library intact until the entire process is complete and you’re totally satisfied with your shiny new Amazon Music Library.
Step Three: Dealing With The DRM
iTunes prisoners will undoubtedly have a fair number of songs and albums in their collection that have been locked up with DRM. It is possible to legally strip the DRM and it’s not difficult, but your choice is between a very time-consuming, free process or paying $25 (as of this writing, on 11/25/16) for iTunes Match. See this tuts+ article for the full rundown:
How to Remove DRM From Your Music With iTunes Match (also includes how-to for the manual, time-consuming, free method)
Don’t be alarmed by the article’s reference to “AAC” files; that’s just another name for m4a files, and Amazon Music Library can import and play m4a audio (as well as some other formats in addition to MP3, click the link for more information). If you don’t have too many DRM-protected files, you might consider just re-purchasing them from Amazon after you’re done with the rest of your Music Library setup.
Step Four: Upload To Amazon Music Library
You can expect the upload job to take roughly the same amount of time as the download job did, and to have the same impacts: it’ll slow down your network, and may be best accomplished in a series of overnight jobs with your computer connected directly to your router via Ethernet cable.
I know, I know: it’s a big, honking, time-consuming hassle. But again, so long as you stay committed to Amazon Music Library, this is the last time you will ever have to do it. Remember that if you stuck with iTunes, you’d have to endure a similar experience every 3-14 months, every time a new iTunes version is released, for the indefinite future. Just grit your teeth and resign yourself to this one, last inconvenience. The payoff is SO worth it, especially now that Echo has entered the picture.
To upload, go back to your Music Library and click the bottom-left “Upload Your Music” link.:
If this is your first time uploading to Music Library, you’ll be prompted to download the Amazon Music Uploader program/plugin, and you may be prompted to install/enable Adobe Flash as well.
I am on the record as being anti-Adobe-Flash, it’s a plugin with a long history of security holes. If you’re prompted to install or enable it, go ahead and do so, but ensure all your other browser tabs are closed whenever you’re using the Uploader, and if you didn’t have the Flash plugin before this little project, disable it between upload sessions and uninstall it as soon as you’re finished with all your uploads.
Follow Amazon’s Uploader instructions to do your uploads, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Just remember that if your library is large, you will want to use the “choose files and folders” option to do your uploads in chunks instead of the “let Amazon Music find and upload your music”. That latter option will attempt the entire upload in one session.
Step Six: Tinker And Tweak As Desired
When you’re sure everything you want has been uploaded, inspect the results. Check for missing albums or songs; since individual omissions may not jump out at you if your library is large, be sure to hang on to that downloaded copy of your library so if you discover something missing weeks or months later, you can still upload it.
Re-create any desired playlists. I ended up not bothering to try and exactly duplicate my old iTunes playlists, I just created new ones from scratch. Amazon Music Library doesn’t have the variety of search options iTunes does, and as of this writing it also does not warn you when you add a duplicate to a playlist. While these limitations can be irritating to seasoned iTunes users, the duplicates thing is easily remedied: while viewing the playlist, just click on the TITLE column header to sort by title, then scan down the list to find any duplicates.
Check how Amazon assigned your songs to albums; in cases where the same song appears on multiple albums, Amazon may have chosen a different album for the track than you originally had. If the integrity of specific albums is important to you, edit the Song Information to make any desired corrections. To do this, in Music Library, right-click the downward pointing arrow next to the song title to open the pop-up menu, then select Edit Song Info:
In cases where album titles, artist names, etc. are missing and you don’t have a particular preference for how those fields are populated, use the Get Info From Amazon button on the Edit Song Info dialog (pictured earlier in this post) to auto-populate those fields from Amazon’s database.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quick, and maybe it wasn’t easy. But you will never have to do it again, and from here on out your Echo has direct access to play anything in your audio library!
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