Why Microsoft’s Groove Music app is the forgotten MP3 player you still need


Windows 10’s Groove Music app may have lost its companion Groove Music Pass service, but it still has a reason to live: so it can take care of your MP3 files. As cloud services shift away from persistent music storage in favor of streaming, you may need it more than ever.

Microsoft officially killed its Groove Music Pass service as the ball fell on December 31, moving users to Spotify. It’s an acknowledgment that streaming services are the future and customers just don’t want to buy songs or albums.

But none of these services have all. Bands like AC/DC and the Beatles held on for years. Artists are negotiating exclusive deals on streaming services like Tidal. And for fan communities that put out bootlegs of their favorite performances, like Grateful Dead or Rush, chances are you’ll never find those performances on a licensed music service.

Why MP3 Collectors Should Worry

That’s why a generation of MP3 collectors are rightly worried about the fate of their prized live tracks and remixes. Spotify will stream them, but only from local sources (more on that later). Amazon has quietly announced plans to shut down Amazon Music Storage, its private cloud-based MP3 download service. (This will not affect Amazon’s Music Unlimited service, or MP3s you purchased through Amazon.)

Even Google Play Music, which lets you upload 50,000 MP3s to its music locker, seems to be considering merging the service with YouTube Red. Google also “matches” the songs, rather than accepting your actual uploads. If you downloaded a rare track that Google misidentified and replaced, you may be out of luck.

The answer to all these threats is not to store gigabytes of MP3s locally, where they can be lost or accidentally deleted. Instead, back up your MP3 files to your OneDrive cloud storage account and use the Groove Music app as a front end. Here’s how it works.

Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft has brokered a deal with Spotify to transfer your purchased music and playlists, but if you didn’t download them first, they just reside in the Spotify service.

How to back up your MP3 files to the OneDrive cloud

If you subscribe to Office 365 and its terabyte of OneDrive storage, chances are you don’t have a terabyte of Word documents stored online. You can fill your remaining space with your MP3s.

Groove will collect all MP3s it finds locally on your PC and on OneDrive, but first you have to tell it where to look. By default, Groove will sniff your Music folder on your local PC and a Music folder on OneDrive. (If you don’t have a Music folder in the main directory of your OneDrive account, you’ll need to create one.)

Check that everything has been configured correctly by opening the Groove application, then clicking on the My music tab on the left rail. In the main tab, you should see a small message at the top that says “Can’t find everything? Show us where to look for music. This will open a submenu where you can add folders. If you already have a OneDrive folder called “My MP3s”, for example, you can just add it here.

One of the victims of Groove Music Pass’s disappearance is that, even with those folders set up, you may see a number of tracks that have a little “i” circled in front of them, and a note that they’ve been deleted at at the request of the copyright owner. These (now) unlicensed tracks are going to clutter your list unless you do something about them.

Microsoft Groove Music copyright holder Mark Hachman / IDG

If you try to play a track previously provided by Groove Music, you will see this error message.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to filter out these unlicensed tracks, even using the filter option at the top of the Groove Music app screen. Showing only tracks you purchased no longer works either. For me, the most convenient option is to store all my MP3s on OneDrive, then use Groove’s filter to show only the tracks stored on OneDrive.

Microsoft Groove Music on OneDrive IDG

This seems to be the best filtering option for music stored on OneDrive.

Spotify, Amazon can’t manage your MP3s

At some point, you might wonder: why can’t I just use Spotify’s ability to play local files? Well you can, however fair your local files.

spotify add source Mark Hachman / IDG

This seems like you can add files from OneDrive to Spotify, but it just doesn’t work.

Spotify’s Windows 10 app includes a Local files on the left rail, and the app will show you all the tracks you have stored locally, on your PC. You can also change where Spotify looks for these local tracks by opening the Settings menu and scrolling down to Local filesthen Add source. Here, Spotify seems to let you add music folders stored on OneDrive, but in practice it didn’t work for me. Spotify adds the folder, but the music stored there does not appear.

groove mashups Mark Hachman / IDG

Some tracks, such as these “mashups” from DJs around the world, just don’t show up on Spotify.

Granted, virtually all new music released today will appear on a streaming service. But as prices go up, who knows what will happen to those old tracks you grew up with? “Track matching,” rising licensing fees, and an increased focus on live music mean that at least some of the older tracks you own will become increasingly valuable. For now, Groove Music and OneDrive are one of the best ways to make sure you always have convenient access to them.

This story was updated at 9:52 a.m. Jan. 4 to correct the name of Amazon’s music storage service, which was misidentified in an earlier version.

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