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August, 2012

  1. Music. Some Thoughts

    August 31, 2012 by Daniel

    The way we consume Music has changed. Or at least it has for me.
    OK perhaps it hasn’t changed that much, more my personal situation has. I can’t listen to as much music as I used to. I don’t have the time to do so. I try to listen at work, but I’m not comfortable listening through headphones all day and as usually there’s other people around in my office I don’t want to disturb them with it. Mostly it’s in the car, on the bus or the tram commuting. Sometimes at home, in the lounge through the nice hifi. That’s my favourite but life often demands that it’s not possible. I try to get something or other on whilst we eat dinner.
    But I digress. It’s not the situations we/I listen more the delivery method. Growing up I tried out many things, CDs were bad for listening to music walking to school. I went through a few with progressively better skip protection on them before discovering the beauty of MiniDisc’s. They had quite good skip protection compared to CD’s and it was dead simple to make mixtapes, record bits of the radio onto them, even name the tracks so you could remember what it was. I used to shuffle the tracks on and off the little discs paring down and getting rid of songs I didn’t like as much for songs that I just had to have with me.

    I can’t remember what year I first got an iPod. I think I was at Uni to be honest but it did change the world. I already had a lot of music as mp3 that I would make CD-R’s from. The MP3 revolution was finally affordable. It was something I’d written about in a project for my GCSE’s back in 2001 and the iPod symbolised a new era. It made music leap from a permanent thing to something ephemeral. Especially to my generation who didn’t want to pay out for CD-R’s or more blank MiniDisc’s. I could just make a playlist or but everything I had on shuffle.
    But now I miss that permanence. We’ve been going through our CDs at home, we decided that we didn’t want them all out on display anymore as they take up too much room. So we went through each one, ripped them onto the computer and boxed them up. Binning the duplicates and setting aside the most embarassing ones to sell, hopefully. One thing that struck me is all the compilation CDs I’d made for various party’s. I still have them, through the permanence of the CD. You can’t say the same thing about playlists of mp3’s. Or can you? With current services I think they are starting to get the hang of that aspect.

    From moving from computer to computer I’ve lost some of the playlists I spent hours creating. But Spotify stores that data up in the cloud. My problem with Spotify though is it could go away and I’d be left with no music. Or if I were trapped on a desert island, where would the internet connection come from to stream all that music?

    Once we’d finished ripping all the CDs I made the decision we’d try out iTunes Match. I feel like it’s a really good compromise for that problem I have with Spotify, the one that stops me from committing to it. This way I can ‘own’ the music – buy it on CD or download it, and ‘have’ it on a hard drive. One of my own hard drives that I can control and make backups of. The problem normally about having a large collection of mp3’s is portability. Phones these days don’t seem to have kept up with the original promise of the iPod to have everything you own to listen to right there in your pocket. The coming of Flash memory kept the storage capacity down along with fast-enough connectivity for it not to be a problem.
    Except it was a problem as you couldn’t stream from your own collection, until iTunes Match. It’s a clever fudge by assuming that most music that you’d have will be on Apple’s servers anyways in their Store, but being able to upload the one’s they don’t have is great for peace of mind.
    So have I now reached mp3 listening nirvana? Now I can listen to anything in my collection at home, at work, on my phone or my tablet (bandwidth pending, in the first few days of iTunes Match I went through my 500MB 3G monthly data allowance, causing me to struggle for the rest of the month and switch the ‘Use Cellular Data’ iTunes Match option firmly to off).

    Now I should mention I came close to this ‘all my music, everywhere’ nirvana once before. It was pretty technical whereby I used a linux implementation of the iTunes sharing (mt-daapd) and a vpn so that my music got shared over a network. It worked brilliantly until the VPN service went down and I never bothered to find an alternative.

    So, finally I can listen to any of my own music. Anywhere. I can now even add to the library from work without having a complicated copy it to my Dropbox and have an Automator rule pick it up at home and add it to iTunes, ready for when I got home that night for iTunes to do a wifi sync to my phone to update the recently added playlist. Which worked well, most of the time – but now I don’t have to think about whether the home computer is turned on, or has enough space, or has copied the files over right along with iTunes actually running.