The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek

Mastered for iTunes

Got opinions about Mastered for iTunes? These people do! And it really doesn't change all that much right now. Asking for high-quality files in preparation for higher-quality consumer files isn't a bad idea, but good recordings were already there. The new tools to demonstrate how a file sounds is a bonus, but again, but quality engineers already understood the need to test. The principle that you should always record and master to the best possible format hasn't changed, and the jury is still out on whether the Mastered for iTunes files on sale at the iTunes store really do sound better - there's a ton of other considerations about the recording process in general that could affect that, no matter what tools and guidelines Apple provides. Higher fidelity is always welcome, so let's see what's coming out next. I'm not going to get too excited right now. When Apple sells full lossless or makes low-data cost streaming available, then it's the time to freak out. I like Ian Shepard's opinion that this is a step in the right direction, but the road continues.

And, of course, folks like Bandcamp already make lossless available . . . just sayin'.


New IMN Podcast and Music Services

The new IMN podcast is up - download it here or listen on the site or WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm and 10pm.

So now that iTunes Match and Google Music are available, I'm thinking that Google might have have come up with the winning service here - if only because it's free (versus $24.99/year for iTunes match). You might have to spend a little more time and effort to upload the tracks, but the mobile version of the site played just fine on my iPhone browser. And that's key - if it's mobile and browser-based, you'll (theoretically) be able to get it on more devices. The interesting thing to me is that both services don't restrict necessarily by size - they restrict by number of songs (25,000 for iTunes Match vs. 20,000 for Google). There might be some file limit size, but cloud storage is evidently cheap enough that they're not worried about it anymore. Toss in Amazon, and all three will hold on to the music you buy for you (unless you're an ubercollector and have too many songs).

But this all sounds a lot like the debut of Best Buy nationwide to me - remember when CDs were loss-leaders to get you to buy more at Best Buy? Music is still a loss-leader for these companies, and only the products have changed. Apple wants to sell hardware, Google wants to sell you as part of their advertising and analytics ventures (as do streaming services like MOG, Spotify, and more), and Amazon wants to sell . . . everything else they sell on Amazon. The convenience and portability of the music is wonderful, but there's actually been precious little shift in the ecosystem for these larger companies. The content drives the purchasing of other goods, and that leaves music in a surprising familiar neighborhood for all of the recent changes.


The Beatles on iTunes

I'm terribly glad the Beatles are finally on iTunes (just in time to pique interest in said music for Tonic Ball 9 in Fountain Square this Friday!)

So we can stop talking about it.

It's not like the Beatles weren't available to digital platforms before. You just ripped your CDs. And more CDs. Or bought a cute USB trinket and moved the files from there. Or even ripped that rare mono mix from a record and put it on whatever it is you wanted.

Seriously, this band has the most cultural penetration since certain unnamed deities. It's not like you couldn't get your fix. And it's all the same recordings - no new stuff or anything.

So it's more convenient now. Thank you. Those of you who want to buy, have at it, and good on you. But is this really going to more people to the iTunes platform? Probably not. The people who didn't want to go PROBABLY HAVE ALREADY HEARD ABOUT THE BEATLES. And used one of the MANY, MANY other outlets for music to get them.

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Pinging Ping

So I finally installed the new version of iTunes with the Ping social network and - well, that's about it. Honestly, it's looking a little barren right now, as you might expect for a new service (even one based on a service used by millions worldwide). The initial recommendations of people and bands to follow are a little weak (I shall not be following Lady Gaga, although I offer no judgment should you choose to do so - I do not offer the same lack of judgment should you choose to follow Jack Johnson), and I wasn't able to follow some other bands I might wish to. The service offered a connection to Facebook, although the time of this writing it was spinning with a familiar wheel of limbo, so I can't offer words on that, either.

Another commentator on Musical Family Tree opined that this social network works best for a streaming audio service, where recommendations for listening can turn an instant profit for the artist. I tend to agree, if only because I think the similar eMusic review and "friend" system hasn't really caught on all that well for purchasing tracks.

I'll grade this incomplete for now and see how the implementation works out.

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This Is Just Depressing

And it goes beyond the gratuitous use of clip art in the source article.

40% of UK folks surveyed can't name a legal music download site. The tagline about only knowing about Amazon and iTunes doesn't bother me too much - people have resources to get on those services with little effort, so your recordings can be in the same store as the big boys. But almost have of the surveyed can't even get that far?

If they can't name it, they aren't using it. And that doesn't translate into purchased physical copies, either. Change is inevitable, I suppose, but would a little haste be such a bad thing?

The fans can connect directly with artists now - hell, how hard would it be to just ASK where the music is available for purchase? I'm sure they'd be more than happy to let the fans know?


Apple’s iCloud

A bunch of sources point to Apple releasing a cloud-based music service in conjunction with their established iTunes store. Not only would you get the streaming tracks, but you'd also get the ability to back up your music library to "the cloud" and listen from Internet-enabled devices.

This has been tried already, of course, by The results were brutal lawsuits and a shutdown of the "music locker" service. But times have changed, different companies have felt financial downturns that make this seem like a better option, and now the possibility is there to make it happen. Like Spotify and MOG have already made it happen. Although not as well as they could have - Spotify is Europe-only at this point, and I personally let my subscription to MOG lapse because I was a little frustrated by incomplete listing of albums (although the overall selection was pretty good).

So it's not like Apple is breaking any ground here. It's just that the ground has shifted under the music industry and the technology has finally caught up. If they're going to back up my entire library and make it available to me, wonderful. How much is it going to cost, and what will you do with the tracks I ripped from CD? Otherwise, there's Simplify. The task here isn't breaking new ground - it's making what's available work easily.

I do like what's available for indie artists now, though. Tunecore + iTunes streaming = trackable plays and maybe some royalties out of the whole thing. Very streamlined and effective. I wonder what the cut will be?


Streaming Along

Between Apple buying LaLa and MOG making their $5-a-month debut last week, streaming music enjoyed a brighter spotlight in recent news reports. The question of whether iTunes will stream purchased music (kinda like Netflix over computers and Xboxes) is intriguing, except that you still have to be near a network connection to use it (and 3G doesn't necessarily count - still not ubiquitous enough and drains the batteries something fierce). Ultimately, though, I like the idea of the concept if it adheres to some basic tenets:

  1. Sound quality - streaming from high-quality audio files is the only way to go. Sure, if the network slows down and causes problems, it doesn't matter. But take every precaution on the service side to make it reliable and usable for all.
  2. Amazing and complete selecton - this means all tracks from available albums; if you bother to get one, get them all.
  3. Metadata - more than artist, track, and album; give me the liner notes. You're on the Internet, after all.

I want to see how the LaLa acquisition works for iTunes, but I get the feeling it's still some time away from being truly realized. Enough time to make some good decisions and get it done the right way, hopefully.

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Please Try Again, iTunes

The big advances in consumer audio today are not necessarily targeted towards listening to music in an optimum listening environment. Audiophiles can argue over this, but for the purposes of this post I'm going to define an optimum listening environment as a decent stereo system playing uncompressed audio while you sit in a comfy chair and read the liner notes of the CD to glean the knowledge you can from the printed word. Instead, we're looking at compressed audio and easy movement based on a portable media player of some sort. Apple knows this - they invented the friggin' iPod after all. Given their move towards portable audio and the wonderful touchscreen interface on their iPhone and iPod touch, wouldn't it make sense to make their new iTunes LP feature available on those devices?

Or at least give me a PDF of liner notes? These digital booklets were available way before the iTunes LP was debuted last week. Such a feat should be easily accomplished, given that I'm holding a miniature computer with a decent-if-small screen in my hand while I'm listening.

At least for the near future, the answer is no. Which is a shame - iTunes LP is located squarely on your desktop or laptop, where you more than likely already have an Internet connection that would allow you to read up on an artist or watch video (authorized or otherwise) on YouTube. Hell, you can even embed text in the audio file itself to be read on the screen. A list of players on the track bought from the iTunes store would be genius. Bring it on, please.

The iTunes LP is nice eye candy, I suppose, but it's time for real functionality and information.

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Was Something Happening With The Beatles Today?

Hadn't heard much about it.

Seriously, though, the Rock Band deal is interesting if only for the fact that a video game with downloadable content has made it possible for unsigned bands to get their downloadable songs on the exact same platform as a legendary supergroup using the Rock Band network. Record the song, do a little rhythm programming with Reaper and a program called Magma, and send it off. It's something to note because none of the other download services have yet made this feat possible, and it's not like you can just rip your Beatles CDs into Rock Band or Guitar Hero.

And now that there are even more CDs to rip into your media player of choice, the lack of any Beatles songs on iTunes matters even less, really. You've got the remastered albums for the fans and purists, and you can tempt the kids into listening with the video game without having to repurchase the albums. So everybody wins - except for iTunes. And I'm writing this before the Apple announcement today, so who knows what will happen. I'll be interested in any news on Cocktail or new iPod formats, but it probably won't go much beyond that, from what I'm reading.

Any download news probably won't matter much, though. The Beatles already have everything they need from the digital world.


Wup Bup, The Electronic Files

wupbupLooks like iTunes and Amazon have the Wup Bup tracks available for download, so feel free to download them at your leisure. Also, the CD can still be purchased at Indy CD and Vinyl and Luna Music here in Indianapolis.

We're still working out the live aspects of the show, but it's looking like Reason is going to be playing a large part of providing the sounds and loops for the show (including, hopefully, my bass). Since I love the program personally, then, I'm a little geeked out about the company (Propellerheads) releasing an audio recording program to work in tandem with the soft synth and sequencing capabilities of Reason. It's going to be a little hard to wait until September for the final product, but it does make my decision to choose a new audio recording software a little more complicated. At least on my laptop, Pro Tools and Logic have another competitor.