Apple Music, this is the savior?

by chris on June 30, 2015

Today Apple released their new Apple Music application and streaming music service, which includes a redesigned Music app for iOS and iTunes for desktops. It also includes a new live radio called Beats 1.

Apple is supposed to be the epitome of design. Simultaneously making something simple and intuitive yet engaging at the same time. After playing with the new Apple Music app, I’m left doubting that I’ll make the switch to Apple Music from Spotify. Spotify isn’t all that special either but Apple hasn’t capitalized on their strengths to surpass Spotify’s weaknesses.

Recommendations / “For You”

Apple should capitalize on the data they already have on me to learn what I like or don’t like. I clicked on the initial setup where they present genre and artists bubbles to indicate your preferences. (This didn’t appear to be pre-populated) Afterwards I went to check out which artists I was following. Apple auto added about 60 artists. I promptly deleted 2/3rds of them.

Apple has access to my iTunes library which includes things like my play counts and song ratings. I’m pretty crazy about rating songs to use with dynamic playlists and have thousands of songs rated highly) They could utilize this data to auto populate my profile and it doesn’t look like they do. I realize not everyone rates their music but everyone has play counts. (songs most played, songs most skipped)

They could also use it to determine the kind of music I don’t listen to. When I click on ‘Connect’ > ‘Find More Artists & Curators’, the first 3 are Apple related curators and the other 6 mind boggling artist suggestions include Maroon 5, One Direction, Pitbull and Miley Cyrus. The other two are Tom Yorke and The Decemberists. This makes me think Apple is not using my iTunes history and metadata to calculate my initial profile. This is disappointing.

This info, combined with my music taste neighbors, could be used to suggest music to me that I’m not familiar with. At no point did Apple ask me anything about importing my iTunes data, last.fm or any other service. I realize they want to make it easy for the user and some of this might be done behind the scenes without my realizing it but from the results I saw it sure didn’t look like it.

Connect

My second concern is regarding the artists I follow. I can see for the average consumer who may only follow a couple dozen artist how it could work but what about those of us who want to follow hundreds? (I have a Spotify playlist with 1 song per band with over 800 artists)

How is Apple planning on presenting all of this data to us? Album releases, tour information, news, etc.? It’s likely to be notification overkill that I may eventually just completely disable or ignore. I don’t see how the current interface is going to manage that in an easy-to-use yet addictive and engaging manner, not to mention customizable. What if I only want album release info for one artist but I want album and tour info for another? What about geo location specific data? What about last.fm?

Curation / Playlists

I’m still not convinced that curated playlists are the answer that everyone in the industry seems to think they are. Having curated playlists is a nice feature but it’s not something to hang your hat on. I don’t care if my non-techie, non-music professional cousin created it or if some super celebrity created it. It’s going to have tracks on it I know and don’t know, like and don’t like. Do people really care all that much about how they found out about it? A good creative user interface and algorithm should be the answer for music discovery. Apple Music doesn’t appear to have it.

Just how useful are playlists like those called, “Intro To Grizzly Bear” or any other artist. (I love Grizzly Bear by the way, no offense to them, just the “Intro to…” concept.) These suckers can balloon into overload way too easily and clutter up any playlist recommendation service. Spotify had apps for a while and there were way too many that were basically just links to one particular artist’s recommended songs. I equate them to all of the App Store ‘countdown’ apps. Do. Not. Need. Also, why is Apple Music’s “For You” front page showing me a playlist called “Intro To Grizzly Bear” and “Intro To Girls” when I already have many songs by each in my library that are rated?! If you are going to give me an “Intro to…” playlist then I think it need to 1) be an artist I haven’t heard and 2) give me a brief explanation why you’re recommending this. (“The guitarist in this band was in this other band that you love”)

Some of the curated playlists look like they were created either randomly or by chickens from a tic-tac-toe game. Apple Music’s curated “Indie Summer Party Jams of 2015″ includes Kanye West (not Indie), and Pitchfork’s curated “Best of the Half Decade: Dreampop” includes Lana Del Rey (not Dreampop).

Other Concerns

I think Apple will face some backlash with regards to merging ‘My Music’ with iTunes/Apple Music tracks. I have special releases, vinyl rips, live versions, et cetera and I just imagine managing all of these along with Apple Music’s cloud version will be a nightmare and be a cause of many headaches. I would recommend taking a complete backup of your music, phone and iTunes database before installing the new software and keep it around for a while. [This has proven to be a problem just as I suspected. (1) (2) (3)]

Sound quality isn’t impressive.

Song matching: If I ‘love’ a song that I personally own that resides on my Mac, when I go to that song within Apple’s Music section the same song isn’t showing up as ‘loved’.

If I go to an Apple Music playlist on my iPhone and view the list of songs in the playlist, some songs appear with a small phone icon indicating I have the song on my phone. There are many songs on my phone that don’t show the icon which means the matching algorithm isn’t all that thorough.

 

There are still many things I’d like to see Apple Music do that absolutely no one is doing. There is a lot of room to grow music recommendations as a feature, make the experience educational and engaging. Also incorporate it more with social and geo location.

This seems like a very safe attempt from Apple that leaves a lot of room for improvement and innovation. I wonder what expert feedback they got from the Beats crew or Trent Reznor that was so important? I just don’t see it.

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The case for earlier concerts

by chris on June 22, 2015

I saw Purity Ring on a Monday night at Bottom of the Hill a few years ago. (Sept. 3, 2012)  The first show sold out so they sold a second one that took place on the same day but right before the later one.

This venue typically runs later, from around 9 PM – 12 PM, which can be hard during the week.  Especially for those who live outside of San Francisco.  This was great when I was 25 but not so much now that I’m a bit older.  We were there and home by 9:30 PM for a 6 PM – 9 PM show. They cleared out the venue for the second show.

I’m surprised more artists and venues don’t do this. I jokingly referred to it as the ‘adult matinee show’.  I realize it wouldn’t work in all cases.

Of course the downsides are venue staffing, selling enough tickets, sound curfews, artists drawing enough people, and artists wanting to play two sets in a day.

A lot of the bigger cities would benefit by having two shows because the older, professional crowd could go right after work.  I have friends who hate killing time waiting after work, or don’t want to go home and come back into the city, or just don’t want to stay up late.

The artists, and venues, would have the opportunity to make more money given that they are popular enough to draw enough people to 2 sets.  Plus some of the bigger fans would likely attend both shows.

Now that the festivals are doing 2 identical weekends, maybe it’s time for artists to start doing 2 sets a day?

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Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders

by chris on May 7, 2015

A new 2015 release from Australia’s Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders.  Recommended if you like Nick Cave or perhaps the baritone voice of The National’s Matt Berninger if he sang for a more 80s new wave band.

http://www.jackladderandthedreamlanders.com

 

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Cable TV, cutting the cord, Comcast, AT&T UVerse, Sling TV

March 7, 2015

After Comcast raised my already expensive Dual Play (cable TV and internet) from around $145 to $190 I decided to cancel Comcast cable TV and keep Comcast internet.    Yes, I cut the cord.   This lasted for all of about 2 weeks. I tried Sling TV, the Roku 3, and modified the Roku to use Plex, Nowhere […]

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Favorite Albums of 2014

December 22, 2014

I think there were a lot of great tracks released in 2014, and albums with a few really good tracks, but not much stands out for me personally for being solid all the way through. It’s easier to pick a Best of 2014 for individual songs than for total albums. Having said that, I think […]

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Favorite Indie Rock songs of 2014

November 6, 2014

Some favorites released in 2014 are: The Apache Relay, Alvvays, Bear Hands, Bear’s Den, Brace/Choir, Broods, Cloud Nothings, Cousins, Doug Tuttle, Dum Dum Girls, Eagulls, Father John Misty, Future Islands, Like Herding Cats, Mac DeMarco, Milky Chance, Panama, The Rentals, Skaters, Still Parade, Syd Arthur, Temples, Total Control, The Twilight Sad, The War On Drugs, […]

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iPhone 6 camera lens flare

October 2, 2014

The iPhone 5 had issues with lens flare. Many photos that had a bright sun in it managed to almost always blow the sun out into a purple mess. Apple’s response? Move the camera. Now that the iPhone 6 is out I was curious how it handled similar shooting situations. Tonight I went for a […]

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ETrade password security, or lack of

August 6, 2014

Every week we read about different security breaches, like this week’s one where Russian hackers have amassed over a billion passwords. A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say. Thinking that […]

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Kasabian – ’48:13′

July 3, 2014

Kasabian seems to be one of those bands that you sometimes find certain people making fun of. “They only had one good album.” I do disagree but do think each progressive release has been weaker. Here are their albums, listed in order of release, and the tracks I think are worth adding to any music […]

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Display “Now Playing” info on your Desktop with GeekTool

June 25, 2014

I listen to Seattle’s KEXP streaming radio fairly regularly and even when I’m not I like to know what they’re playing. I use GeekTool to display KEXP’s “Now Playing” song on my Mac Desktop. curl -silent ‘http://kexp.org/playlist/miniplaylist’ | perl -l -0777 -ne ‘print $1 if /<title.*?>\s*(.*?)\s*<\/title/si’ | perl -MHTML::Entities -le ‘while(<>) {print decode_entities($_);}’ For Spotify, […]

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