We’re Living in a Subscriptions World. Here’s How to Navigate It.

Streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV Plus and Hulu offer a buffet of TV shows and movies to binge on. Similarly, Spotify and Apple Music give you instant access to millions of songs. But streaming services don’t have access to everything out there, like obscure art house films or live performances by music artists.

So here’s how you can take control of the content you stream to your devices. There’s a clever approach that involves creating your own media cloud, which acts like an online locker for your own content.

Michael Calore, an editor for Wired and a part-time D.J., said that when Spotify lacks his favorite music, he extracts the songs from a disc and uploads them to Google Play Music, Google’s online music service. Then he plays the music on the Google Play Music app from his smartphone.

“It’s basically like my own private streaming music service,” he said. In general, people can apply this approach to any songs they can’t get on streaming services.

For movies, I’ll share my setup, which is not for the faint of heart.

As a film studies student, I owned a collection of hundreds of DVDs, many of them obscure indie titles that are nowhere to be found on any streaming service. So I converted the titles into digital video formats, which I stored on a network-attached storage device, essentially a miniature server.

From there, I installed the Plex video-streaming app on my Apple TV, and on my smartphone, I installed Infuse 6, another video-streaming app. I set up both apps to pull movies from my mini server. This way, I can still enjoy the ability to stream my special collection of art house movies via my own equipment.

Of course, for many of a certain (younger) age, physical discs are unheard-of, and newer obscure titles will more likely be released on a streaming service. Still, for those wanting to tailor the content they stream, physical media is worth exploring.