Why Beats/Daisy will be different

I don’t disagree necessarily but this is a pretty arrogant perspective. I would welcome more highly discoverable, great music in my life. I don’t want it programmed in an expected way however and historically our good friends in the music industry haven’t helped the situation.

Why Beats/Daisy will be different: [Other music subscription] companies, these services, all lack curation. They call it curation; there’s no curation. That’s what we did as a record label, we curated. There’s 150 white rappers in America; we served you one. We are heavy on curation, and we believe it’s a combination of human and math. But it’s a give and take. Right now, somebody’s giving you 12 million songs, and you give them your credit card, and they tell you “good luck.” You need to have some kind of help. I’m going to offer you a guide. You don’t have to use it, but it’s going to be there, and it’s going to be a trusted voice, and it’s going to be really good. via AllThingsD

See you in late Q3 if they keep schedule.

Amazon’s AutoRip!


Amazon just announced a very cool new service that will enable cloud access to any of the CD’s you’ve purchased (some limitations) from them.  When I think back through the decade+ purchase history, this is considerable for me.  I can’t believe it took this long to even get this going as they’ve been able to validate purchase for a long time and have had a cloud streamer for a while as well. I’ll have to really check this out out to get a feel for how it really works.

Meanwhile back in 2004 … 

via The Verge


Monster Music Monday


Today is a dreary, rainy day and while waiting for the train I was in the mood for some music. I somehow stepped back into time to find Rocket From the Crypt, but then immediately thought of King Kong another older indie band I was introduced to in 1995.

I’m not really sure why they came to mind so quickly but then I received the image above via Timehop, my daily reminder from the past 1-5 years. A year ago to the day I had Godzilla on my mind thanks to my son discovering the original cartoon on Netflix.

Back to today and King Kong … Impossible to find on Spotify! A quick check on iTunes where I’m paying for Match only to be reminded what a mess that truly is for large collections. And then my old friend Pandora delivered. Artist radio initiated … I can’t control what tracks or albums I listen to (thanks ancient and out of date music industry licensing) but I’m able to get a song every few in the rotation.

itunes home sharing – auto sync?


It’s honestly been a while since I’ve actively explored iTunes or tried to solve syncing media in the house so this feature may have existed for a bit.  Tonight however, I was setting up a new machine and activated home sharing and then clicked into the settings (bottom right in iTunes from within home sharing).


As you can see there’s a handy option to automatically transfer new purchases between machines … While I wouldn’t want to have my full collection floating around on multiple devices based on the size, it is nice to have the option to capture the updates.  I just purchased the new Alexander album on my main machine and I can see each track is syncing over as the initial download completes.  Very cool.

It’s time for socially linked purchase accounts

Apples new approach to social is welcome but also shows just how lightly the social impact was thought to have in the broader ecosystem of iTunes.

In our home, my wife and I share an iTunes account so that our purchases can be easily distributed between systems.  Both of us have an @mac address though mine is the primary for purchases.  With the launch of Ping, the social stream presents itself within the Apple framework, yet is locked to a single user view.  In our personal world, it is impossible for both my wife and I to take advantage of the system without sharing a profile.  With Apple’s current focus on purchase forward activity, this might make some sense for how your actions represent you, but this is ridiculous if you participate within the social system.  We don’t share a facebook account and have different friends, Ping should respect that we well.

Prior to Ping, these issues existed around recommendations and in fairness, are not unique to Apple. We also share an Amazon account primarily for Prime, but also now as we both utilize the Kindle service making it easy to share books.  I’m used to seeing purchase recommendations for things my wife has bought on Amazon and while we don’t read the same things, I can file that info away for potential future gifting opportunities.  I’m certain that the Prime sharing is not unique nor is the sharing of purchase accounts … courtesy of DRM.

In today’s highly social world, we need a way to uniquely identify ourselves, yet also a way to properly (legally) purchase together as a household.  We have three children and already one with an iPod, yet at almost 7yrs old she’s not making purchases herself just yet.  As my kids get older, they’ll want to connect with their own friends and see recommendations based on their tastes – not those of their parents.  Thus far, there is no way to do that without creating individual purchase accounts, which means we can’t easily share the content between ourselves – which of course has always been possible with physical media.

If there was a method to link our accounts to a master purchase record, we should be able to purchase and share uniquely, yet maintain a single household record for DRM.  This would be ideal and frankly doesn’t even seem that hard to do.  I’m sure people would cheat something like this much in the same way people break DRM.  There’s no stopping the hacker types, but for those of us just looking for an easy and fair way to utilize the content we are legally purchasing … there’s got to be a better way.

Pandora for iPhone streams while offline*

Pandora Streaming Without a Connection

Check out that screenshot … Pandora is actively playing while there is no signal on the iPhone!

I was enjoying some streaming music on my way to work today and though I fully expected the stream to drop as we went underground, it kept on playing!  my iPhone has been jailbroken and I use backgroundr to enable background streaming … I doubt that has anything to do with this, but thought I should mention it.

Presumably Pandora pre-caches the next track as it’s playing which enabled the “local” track to play.  It seems as if the album art downloads as the song is active and since there was no connection that was impossible at the time.  Amazingly my stream kept on playing when the connection kicked back as we pulled into Grand Central.

*You obviously can’t start a stream without a connection.

Last.fm Boffin

Last.fm Boffin importing

Last.fm is my usual streaming source when I’m at work and even when I am at home where I have access to my pretty extensive digital music library. I use the desktop application for Mac and Windows which lets you access your library, friends and loved tracks directly for streaming. If you use Last.fm and have not checked it out, I would highly recommend it …

Last.fm released a new beta application called Boffin today which looks at your local collection and then creates a tag cloud of what it finds. It took about 20 minutes to run against my library of about 30K tracks and when i was done I found this:

Last.fm Boffin

Some of the tags are inconsistent which I hope gets cleaned up in future releases, but I love that I can create a “stream” of my library with a couple of tags. Depending on how you arrange your music in iTunes, you might be able to do something similar with a smart playlist, but this was dead simple and is definitely re-presenting my own music to me in a new way. Speaking of iTunes, it would be ideal if you could just point to your iTunes library rather than a folder but perhaps that will come soon as well.

The entertainment business just doesn’t get it

Let’s face it. It’s easy to acquire video content these days regardless of whether you subscribe to a particular tier from your cable company or even whether you live in the country. Regardless of this the content companies still do not offer a legit path to offer content direct to consumer on a broad enough scale and so piracy continues. The same basic practices occur across media whether it’s movies, music or even books. For some reason the media business still feels the need to limit who gets to see, hear or read something rather than simply enable access to content given that it’s all bits and has been for a very long time.

It’s this type of mentality that has clearly driven Hulu’s content partners to demand that Hulu prevent Boxee from distributing shows across the Boxee platform.  This is an ignornat decision based on old media thinking end of story.  When you consider that Boxee offers Hulu as is – with commercials as they were originally sold, it’s clear this is simply based on believing that the content can be controlled through the old methods.

Boxee is a free software product available to download and install on your (Mac, Windows or Linux) PC or AppleTV and has yet to charge anything more than your time to install it.  Content passes directly to you on the platform and screen of your choice and though instead of using your web browser to surf across a bunch of web sites, you get a clean 10′ UI which keeps things really simple.  Boxee also adds a social layer which lets you share what you’ve viewed or heard and even make recommendations directly to your friends.

Given that network television content remains “free” and culturally we still tend to gather among friends online or at work and socialize about the shows we watch, it’s ludicrous for the media companies to want to stop something that actually enables shared enjoyment of the very content they are trying to promote.  Hulu and Boxee together are just another outlet / channel / option for people to consume the content they want.  An important detail which I’m sure will be lost on the TV creation and distribution world is that while Hulu is working to make it from niche to mass, Boxee is still early in the technology adopter territory which makes it ripe for influential discussion and most importantly spreading the word – whether good or bad.  Ironically, when tech savvy consumers get burned or blocked on one route there always seems to be another which was there all along … still free, without commerical interruption and easily viewable on any platform.

Nokia launches the 5800 XpressMusic along with Comes with Music

(I’ll add a picture here soon)

Today is the official launch for the Comes with Music Service, Nokia’s subscription music service along with the Tube, or Nokia 5800 XpressMusic as it’s officially known. While the Tube was not exactly a secret, it’s still an exciting new launch and represents the first device with S60 5th Edition as well as the new Touch UI.

I’ve yet to see the 5800 (anytime you’d like to share I’m ready) in person, but it looks like a very strong device. The new contacts and media bars add a new level of interactivity to how we’ve come to know S60 and Nokia devices. The media bar slide opens offering deeper access to the web, sharing services and your local content, while the contacts bar shows recent contact history along with activity feeds you’ve added from your friends. I think the contacts bar is a really compelling feature for social media enthusiasts and can’t wait to see that added across the lines.

I’ve known about it for a while and have some mixed feelings about the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic as an NSeries enthusiast … is it enough , but even though it lacks the NSeries label the Nokia 5800 has all the multimedia you know and love. The cam is 3.2mp AF which is solid and the 5800 XpressMusic is as you might expect optimized for music over other features. I know it supports games, though it’s not clear when / if the NGage offer will make it’s way. There’s haptic support which gives you feedback as you touch and type on the screen. This feedback is something that really adds to the engagement of the experience and should make using a touch screen much easier and should add some new elements to gaming as well. There’s no sign of multi-touch yet … have to see if it’s hiding within once people get their hands on the live units.

Comes With Music is a unique take on the music subscription model offering unlimited downloads – for keeps in the first year of ownership. After a year you can still keep the tracks you’ve downloaded, but will need to pay to continue for future downloads – at least as I understand it. For people like me, that’s not too much of an issue as I tend to update my device at least annually. For more normal users it’s still very compelling as it’s the first time the idea of a subscription is actually for keeps. Yes there’s DRM, but assuming (a strong notion here) the DRM is not in your face it should be pretty straight forward.

We should see the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic rollout globally as the Music Offer arrives in each market. While I could not any sense of timing, there will be a US Release for both. Yes both. Now we are talking – or perhaps rocking! I’m getting started with Nokia Music for PC which was updated and released today as well. I’ll have to do a follow-up after using it for a few days …

Mix it up with Ludicris from your phone

Just caught this via Wired …

“The old way of making records is a thing of the past,” Ludacris told Listening Post via phone. “A&R, marketers, the radio game, million dollar videos, predictable producers — this system makes it really tough for new blood or new ideas to rise to the top. Using WeMix allows new artists to get their voice heard.”

WeMix, the site he founded with former reality TV producer Matt Apfel, already accepts amateur recordings through a web-based upload tool. But on Tuesday, they announced that users will be able to call a number and enter a code to record directly onto the site from any phone, thanks to a partnership with In-Call Network Exchange provider VoodooVox. And this is no land grab — users keep the rights to their uploaded material. [Wired.com]

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Nokia BH-903 Stereo Bluetooth Headset

As previously noted, I recently received a Nokia BH-903 stereo bluetooth headset along with the N82. I’ve been testing it quite a bit with the N82 as you might expect and unfortunately the results are quite mixed.

I first caught a glimpse of this at Mobile World Congress and was immediately interested.

IMG_0359 - Share on Ovi

At the time, I was using the N95 and N810 for my media consumption and a stereo bluetooth headset seemed like just the thing. This particular headset is worn like a necklace and includes a dogtag controller for managing connections, calls and playback. The display is easy to read, quite bright and carries a lot of detail (song name, caller ID etc). The BH-903 is very comfortable to wear as well – at least around your neck. As you may have seen, the default ear buds are a very unusual shape:

BH-903 default ear buds

I have no idea who has ears shaped like that, but I had a heck of a time getting the buds to stay in and as a result the volume was really lacking. I finally switched them over to what I discovered to be the standard round shape felt covers from the box. My experience immediately changed for the better and I’ve had no issues since.

The controls on the dogtag let you control your music and take calls very easily. I’ve noticed that the display only receives active song info from the nokia music player (at least not from mystrands). When you make or take a call, music pauses and then resumes when the call ends which happens quite elegantly.

The sound quality is fine. I’d love to say it’s better but I’ve been using a pair a Shure in-ear ear phones for a long time and upgraded to the SE420 model not so long ago. To compare a multi-function device to a single purpose high end one is not totally fair. Let’s just say the Shure experience is vastly superior, but I can’t make or take calls too easily. Call quality is great! I’ve had calls on the train and outside and no one has commented about extra noise or wind. I’ve been able to hear just fine as well … basic boxes to check for a phone call but very important regardless.

Speaking of quality and important details….

Stereo Bluetooth for music remains a work in progress!

It is incredibly frustrating to have the sound cut out and stall (while the music actually continues to play) when you are rocking out. Unfortunately this happens regularly!! I can’t figure out what causes it either which has left me just accepting this as a critical flaw. I have not had any issues on calls – just music so I’m guessing the amount of data transferring between phone and headset just becomes too much every so often.


The BH-903 has great potential and I am continuing to use it even with the audio skips for my commute … for now. I can see going back to the Shure’s (which are in my bag) because they just sound amazing. I don’t usually do that many calls on the train so I can manage the relative inconvenience when it pop’s up.

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All Nokia Media

I decided last week that I wanted to simplify my mobile media experience and ordered a 6GB microSD card so i could my N95-3 and N810 for evrything instead of also carrying my iPhone just for a few albums and podcasts. I’ve had an iPod since it was first released and have had my computer media experiece live inside iTunes. The full Apple ecosystem is strong and I’m a firm advocate of sync and go … Or at least I was.

For the most part the songs and albums stay the same on my ipod and it’s really podcasts that change with any real frequency – daily to weekly as things update. I thouht the 6GB card would be mainly in the tablet vs the phone as I started planning this but thus far (day 3) my plan has shifted a bit back to the phone. I’ve actually ordered a second 6GB card to use in the tablet so I don’t have to share and so each device can focus on some key pieces of the experience. A surprise arrived on Friday as well in the form of the Nokia N81 8GB which is designed to optimize the mobile music experience and I’ve been playing with that along with the N95.

Music and Video

Right now I have music on both phones and a limited amount of converted video on the tablet. The phones serve as really nice music players – quality seems solid on both. I have yet to do an A/B test as my recently updated iPhone (1.1.2) has not been reactivated… I’ve yet to swap its sim back from the N95 to complete the activation process!

The Nokia podcasting application does a great job importing my opml from iTunes and is able to update on a schedule or manually with a wifi connection or via cellular data. I’ve been manually switching things between wifi at home and cell on the go so I can get the latest stuff for my commute. Since I am unable to install anything on the work machine and do not have an itunes there’s no way to get an updated set of podcasts … Or even a quick download during the day on the iPhone. The Nokia phones however easily take care of business without the assistance of a computer which has really been quite awesome.

The N81 integrates podcasts directly into the music player which is something I’m hoping makes it back upstream to the N95 with a firmware update. In either case you can access podcasts as a genre and using the keypad you can live search through your collection of both music and podcasts. The Nokia Podcasting app also supports video which works nicely too though I’ve gone into the app to playback rather than use the music player which does not show video. When there’s an update to the Nokia Video Center application for the latest tablet OS2008, I will also subscribe there and predict my viewing preference will be the tablet’s larger screen.

Movies and TV shows are pretty easy to convert for the N810. Unfortunately video does have to be converted which takes time, but is relatively straight forward with the right tools. MediaConverter is probably the simplest to use and with the promise of making a file the tablet can play it’s hard to pass on it. Handbrake and (if you use Windows) Nokia’s new video conversion application also work well though if Hanbrake is your preference you might want to copy the settings from one of the other apps to make sure you get playable files.

Phone + Media Player

Like you would expect the Nokia phones pause and resume playback for phone calls much like the iPhone… So there’s no magic there, but it works relieably and well. The N81 has a dedicated music button next to the naviwheel and the N95’s multimedia key serves the same purpose. I discorvered today that a press and hold which brings up the music player on the N95, can also bring you right back to your previous application … A nice and I am sure not well known function.

The more I’ve used the phones as media players I can really see the potential benefit to an A2DP headset which would deliver stereo sound and also let me handle calls without switching things around my ear. My Shure E4C earphones are great but if I knew or needed the flexibility daily a wireless single unit would be killer.

What’s missing?

Amazingly the N81 is not supported by Nokia’s recently updated Multimedia Transfer application which would let me take advantage of playlist syncing as well as photos through iPhoto (though I use Aperture). While the N95 is supported, I’ve chosen to maintain a parallel experience and did a bulk copy (~4GB) using mass transfer mode on the N81 and a card reader for the N95. As it happens my mac mini media server crapped out at home so I had the external media drive on my desk and did a hunt and find to then drag over on both devices. This process took considerably longer than it would in iTunes to find what I first wanted and then actually to copy over. The Mac finder estimated over 2hours and after about 30 min I walked away. When I returned both were ready to roll. Sync is a really great thing to have and I hope that the Nokia Multimedia Transfer application (which has also been brutally slow for me) supports the N81 or that Nokia develops an actual plugin for itunes much like they did for iSync.

Copying video to the N810 was also done through a card reader and I will continue to do that as the video files I am using for my mobile needs are not really things I want clogging up iTunes.

Final thoughts

Outside of the initial bulk load, day to day use has been a pleasure. Music and podcasts are easy to access and update and video podcasts as well as converted video on the tablet all play well. Since I am already well converted as a two-piece mobile user, this plan works great for me though there’s no reason why the phone alone would not also do a lot of good. Of course you can’t playback any iTunes Store content as there is no Apple DRM access on anything other than their mobile devices, but that’s far from a deal breaker for me. Most of my content is from my own physical media collection and Amazon’s MP3 has an excellent DRM-free collection for “need it now” moments. I’ll probably dabble with the Nokia Music store when it eventually works in the US, but I’m less of a fan of Windows DRM.

Just as a sidenote, this entire post was written on the N810. That’s definitely not something I ever considered with the iPhone.

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AT&T + Napster delivering nothing I would pay for, years later

Not sure they are even bothering with this …

AT&T, which already lets Napster subscribers transfer music from their personal computer to their cell phone via a cable or a storage card, said it would sell Napster music directly on its phones for $7.49 for a bundle of five songs, or $1.99 for a la carte purchases, beginning in mid-November.[News.com]

Silicon Alley Insider has the most consise version which they’ve very adeptly recycled from previous attempts at this mobile download BS:

…yet again, consumers are being asked to spend more to purchase something on their phone than they would if they bought it anywhere else. In this case [Napster] and AT&T are charging $7.49 for 5 songs: That’s a 50% markup over what it would cost to buy the songs via iTunes…

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