Posts Tagged ‘itunes

01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

Advertisements
27
Jul
11

iTunes: Not so i-Deal

First of all we here at HiFi Central must apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months; we have been on a hiatus from blogging and using much of that valuable time to be with our families, or simply avoiding writing anything because we are too lazy and I felt compelled to touch base.

As some of our readers may know, over the past year I was enlightended about the brilliance of Phish and how diverse their music truly is; even I have to admit being rather ignorant in just assuming that they were a reincarnation of The Grateful Dead; they are clearly their own band and incredibly so.

So, over the past few months I have been collecting their studio albums and listening to live material in order to gain a larger appreciation of who they are and what they have contributed to music.  Clearly the best repository for their live material is directly from their website LivePhish.com; this site has a comprehensive offering of (I would assume) everything they have ever done; and for a small fee you can obtain choice snippets of what you consider to be the best shows to add to your collection.  I’ve used the uploading service for both their free Live Bait  releases and a 2010 concert; the sound quality has been superb!

So, I’m sure you are asking yourself “ok, so what does this have to do with the Apple logo and  the semi-clever post caption?”, ok, I will get to the point.

I’ve always been somewhat anti-Apple; and even moreso with the growing popularity of their products since it reminds me of some subtle world domination thing; I don’t know.  In the past I had subscribed to iTunes and liked it to a degree, but found that MicroSoft Media Player more dynamic; specifically in recognizing burned tracks and album art; something the iTunes in it’s infancy either accepted or rejected to no avail.  I wrote a blog post entitled “How Zappa Killed My Ipod” a year back and it really turned me off to iTunes and it’s inflexibility, especially with rejecting nearly 90% of Zappa’s catalog.  Not to mention the idiotic response I got from the Apple Stores “genius” at the time.  Up until recently I was opposed to the cult of Apple and everything they produced (and to top it all off and add insult to injury, my brother-in-law is a manager at the local Apple store, terrible eh?)

Well, about a month ago I was reliant on my Droid Eros as my mobile phone and for about a year it was reliable and snazzy (so I thought); I scoffed at the idea of owning an Iphone for reasons explained prior.  My driod died (the touch screen just stopped working) and Verizon was unwilling to assist me in fixing, replacing, or making any other mode of accomodation to keep me as a customer.  I finally decided to give in and try the iPhone 4, and yes, ok, I like it (just a little), ok….I like it alot more than my Droid.  The downside was that I was required to establish and iTunes account again (see, Apple get’s you by the nuts whether you like it not!!!); and of course the first thing it wants to do is become my default player AND convert my entire collection into their format; complete with unknown tracks and missing album art, once again. Yippee!

So, during my time exploring the self-created prison of iTunes I decided that I would check out their music catalog to see what they had to offer, of course I decide to type in Phish and yes, they have nearly all of the Live Phish sites catalog, very cool so I thought.  This is where I learn more about the lack of a deal iTunes really is if you are a savvy shopper and pay attention rather than relying on impulse to purchase your online music.  The concert I decided to look up was Phish’s 2010 concert at The Greek Theater in Berkely, CA (the 8/6/10 show, crazy version of “Cities”); on iTunes you can get 10 song’s for $12.99, or you can go to LivePhish.com and purchase the entire show of 20 songs for $9.99!!!  I was shocked and disappointed in iTunes, clearly this is a case of taking advantage of the uninformed consumer.  Why on Earth would you purchase anything live from Phish through iTunes, buyers please beware.  It’s like thinking your getting a good deal on a bulk size of Pringles at Sam’s Club instead of doing the math and realizing you can get a better deal at your local supermarket.  Then again, perhaps it is simply the consumers ignorance to blame for not doing their research comparing prices.

The other thing that I resent about iTunes is that you only have a limited amount of computers you can move your collection to (I think it’s 6?); then you are S.O.L. and have to either re-purchase the songs you bought off of iTunes or re-rip your cd collection (if you kept any after uploading them, which most of us are trying to downsize just for the benefits of electronic media storage).  Now, I’m not versed in MyCloud or McCloud, or whatever they are calling it, but perhaps this is the solution to keeping your collection off site and available for eternity.  If you do know how it works, please comment on this blog to enlighten us here at HiFi.

I like my iPhone, I really do, but this price gouging thing got me rather bitter.  Not to mention the uploading of my music collection to iTunes now looks pretty goofy with multiple albums without album art and a separate area of music quarantined as “unknown” or “unknown artist” which MediaPlayer seemed to figure out in 2 seconds, but the brilliance of Apple is dumbfounded; frustrating.

30
Apr
10

Lala..no more?

To my surprise and dismay it would appear that the online music source LaLa will cease to exist past May 31st, 2010.  I recommended readers to check out this resource for online music; you could build a catalog of music on a off site server without comprimising your own computers memory or deal with iTunes 5 computer library transfer rule (5 times and then you need to re-purchase your iTunes library) not to mention the nuisance of having to upload all of your current CD collection, again.

Their website does inform current members that your library will remain intact with the site going forward but they are not taking any new subscribers; in addition current members may not purchase music any longer, even if they have a credit to their existing account. 

The plus side? Well, if you already have an account with LaLa (and have  uploaded music in the past you can continue to listen to that rotation as much as you like), but don’t expect to build upon that library, cuz you can’t going forward.  According to the website, if you had a credit on your account (what they term “wallet”) they will reimburse you with an iTunes card (ironic, eh?).

Why and iTunes card and not something else?  Well, it would appear that Apple has positioned itself to consume LaLa and it’s streaming technology.  LaLa’s intention was basically to kill the Mp3 and move forward with a more versatile format; that format has been played close to the chest between LaLa and Apple’s Iphone; however that app is currently not available.  It would seem that LaLa had plans to release music for around .10 per song, undercutting Apple’s iTunes (currently .69 – $1.29 per song depending); although the LaLa format might have lower sound quality, it presented a clear and present threat to iTunes…so Apple purchased LaLa and kept the development team intact.

15
Dec
09

How Frank Zappa killed my Ipod

Yes, it’s true.  Frank Zappa killed my iPod and I’m not sure how but I’m curious if anyone else had encountered this issue.  About a year ago I was presented with the gift of a 30GB iPod and for the most part it has worked rather well; I believe I have about 4,000 songs.  Some of the music was uploaded bydisc and others legally purchased through iTunes. 

About 6 month’s ago one of my colleagues gave me 25+ cd’s of Zappa and like a kid on Christmas I was just so excited; for an audiophile like me it was like winning the lottery!  I spent neary 3 hours ripping each CD into my iTunes catalog and seeing my personal Zappa catalog grow and grow, and grow.  The albums played fine on the iTunes player and I thought I was all set.

After a day or so I decided to take my newly aquired Zappa collection and upload them into my iPod, I just couldn’t wait to be able to play these anywhere and anytime of my choosing.  As I watched the first 200 songs upload I reflected on just how cool technology had become and how great it was to own an iPod, gone were the days of scratched cd’s and broken jewel cases, or so I thought.

At about song 250, my computer screen politely pops a dialogue box (I’m not sure why they call it a “dialogue” since it pretty much seems like the beginning and end of any “conversation” you wish to have with your computer) notifying me that I have encountered a problem “error code – 69”.  What’s an error code 69?  I hadn’t ever encountered any error codes 1 – 68 in the years I’ve owned it, so why this error and why now?  The Apple website offered no help, naturally that is where I figured I would find the definition of the error, nope.  So, the next natural step was Google, and I was surprised to find that others had encountered this issue as well (not specfically with Zappa, but with other songs they had ripped).  It both made me feel better and also worse, after I read that there was no solution other than deleting each problem song one by one until likes what’s left in your catalog, what?  Rebooting your Ipod doesn’t work and also updating the latest of version of iTunes is worthless as well, so after trying all of those things my natural deduction was to delete the entire Zappa catalog (a painful thought in so many ways!), but believe it or not, it worked. 

One of my friends asked me “so, why didn’t you just take it to the Apple Store?  I’m sure they would hook you up”, no, they don’t.  Actually the dude at the “genius bar” put it to his ear and said “yeah, dude, looks like it’s got a problem…don’t know what to tell you, but if you would like to trade it in, well give you 15% off of another“, yeah, that’s just what I want to do buy another $300 Ipod when this one works just fine.= Great customer service, oh, an it was 2 weeks past the 1-year warranty and they would not honor fixing it or giving me a replacement, nice.

So, after deleting the entire Zappa catalog I had literally spent hours ripping I’ve decided to go with Windows Media Player and have chosen not to get an iTouch for my next phone.  Media Player actaully liked every Zappa album I uploaded (and actually identified each song and album cover too!).  I’m not sure if Ryko Disc (the company that Zappa agreed to re-release his entire catalog) has a glitch with their code or what, but the saying that “Zappa was very protective of his music” seems to apply to my iPod as well, just weird.  I just ripped Lamb of God’s “Ashes of the Wake” to my iTunes and it worked fine, so it must be a disc issue with Ryko.

I’m curious to hear readers thoughts about issues they have had with their iPods and if anyone has encountered issues with Media Player as well.  Can anyone recommend a good MP3 player that works with Media Player?