November 15, 2020

Music Server

Until Google axe-murdered it recently, I used Google Play Music to store my music collection and stream it to my various devices.  I didn't pay for a subscription, just uploaded all my music files to Play, and treated it as free storage, organization, and streaming.  Rather than switch over to YouTube Music (I tried, it was utter garbage) or some other streaming service, I took this opportunity to set up a personal music server.

My music buying and listening habits are a little unusual:

  • I want a digital copy of my music backed up on storage I own
  • I purchase and download full albums (not single songs)
  • I almost always listen to full albums (no shuffling, auto-generated playlists, etc).   
So I'm not really into the idea of subscription-based streaming services.  Compounding my dislike of streaming subscriptions, I want my money to actually go to the musicians who make the music I listen to, and streaming just doesn't do that very well.  

For the last few years, I've been tracking my album purchases as well as how many total song plays I have.  Here's what my cumulative music spending looks like since April 2018:

Since then, I've spent an average of $13.64 per month on buying albums, which is slightly more than a Spotify membership.  Looking at the sources I've purchased the albums from (directly from artist websites, Bandcamp, Amazon, etc), on average 76% of my spending goes towards the rights holders - $332.98 since I started keeping track.  If I had used Spotify, on the other hand, the total payout to rights holders would have been on the order of $65.60, given how many plays I've logged in that time (~20,500 plays, assuming .32 cents/stream).

So I spend 36% more a month on music than a Spotify subscription would cost, but 5 times as much of my money makes it to the music's rights holders.  Some other service than Spotify might be better (according to the source I linked to, Amazon pays out ~3.7x what Spotify does per-stream), but either way, given my listening habits, buying albums seems like the way to go from an artist-profit perspective.  

The Setup:

I'm now hosting my music on a Raspberry Pi running Airsonic.  For storage I'm using a pair of USB flash drives in mirrored RAID.  

I'm not going to write up a full how-to, but here's a list of resources I used and notes from setting it up.  It was surprisingly straight-forward, even though I'm no Linux wizard and have never self-hosted a website before.
  • Setting up the flash drive RAID array
  • Installing Airsonic on a Raspberry Pi.  The only thing I did differently from this guide was use open-jdk rather than oracle-jdk.  Skip past the "Set up a reverse proxy" portion for now.
  • I got a domain name on Google Domains, installed ddclient on the Pi, and followed these instructions to set up dynamic DNS so the domain points towards my router's dynamic IP address.
  • I struggled for a while with getting a TLS certificate using certbot.  It turns out my ISP blocks port 80, so I followed these instructions to get a certificate using port 443.
  • Airsonic Apache reverse proxy setup.  Once I could reach my domain name from outside of my local network, I followed these instructions.  This just worked, so my Airsonic login showed up at <my_domain_name>.com/airsonic.
  • Airsonic works best with an Artist/Album/SongName folder structure, so I used MP3TAG to re-organize my files, following the instruction here.  It was fast and worked great.
And that's pretty much it.  I've had no problems with the browser-based playback, and the Android app Subsonic seems like it works, but I haven't tested it much.  

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