August 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

TunesBag Locker Brings Bells, Whistles to Cloud-Based Music

Music lockers are a big story this year, in part because big players like Apple and Google are getting involved. But smaller companies, such as tunesBag, have offered music lockers for years, allowing music fans to build their own cloud music services. Our fresh look at tunesBag found that while it has lots of options and flexibility and integrates nicely with other stuff you might be using, it’s not without its irritating drawbacks.

The free version of the tunesBag locker offers the smallest amount of data of those we tested, at only 1GB. Listeners can select various upgrade packages, which max out at 200GB for approximately $210 per year (150 Euros), although those who also download the free iPhone app are offered a discount.

Once you’ve uploaded some tracks (no fancy iCloud-style mirroring here), you can play them from the website or from the iPhone or Blackberry app. An Android equivalent is said to be “coming soon.”

The web version of the player ingeniously loads Songkick live dates for each band you select, and changes the background image to a tiled photo of the band pulled from Flickr. Although the latter feature is unique and interesting, the quality of these images tended to be fairly low in our testing, and made the page seem crowded and unpolished.

We’d appreciate a smaller version of the web player — one that does away with these niceties — to keep on the desktop while multitasking, but tunesBag doesn’t offer this. There is, however, a downloadable Adobe AIR streaming player that looks and functions better than the web-based version, if you’re into a more minimalist approach.

The Tunesbag Mobile App

The iPhone app version worked fine, despite the occasional instruction in German (tunesBag is an Austrian company). We love that it includes Apple AirPlay, so you can stream your music like so:

cloud –> iOS device –> home stereo

You won’t get this from the web or Adobe AIR versions, but it’s great to have if you use iOS. Of the music lockers we’ve surveyed (and we think we’ve seen them all), this was one of the only ones with AirPlay.

But if that’s not your bag, tunesBag offers support for a healthy range of other devices and services with apps for Boxee and Logitech Squeezebox (for playing your tracks on your home entertainment system); Dropbox transfer of music libraries; and, once upon a time, a Facebook app, although that appears to have been removed. The service also links to Last.fm so you can scrobble your plays — another rarity among music lockers.

Now for the nitpicks. For starters, you can’t select folders to upload, only files, which can slow things down, depending on how your tracks are organized. And once your music is in the cloud, tunesBag took slightly longer to play tracks than the competition did. We theorize that this might be because it has to pull that extra data from Songkick and Flickr, but regardless of why it happens, it does happen.

Overall, tunesBag is worthy of consideration — particularly if you use Boxee or Squeezebox and have your MP3s in one big folder for easy uploading — but it’s not perfect.