Magical Music Tour

A few thoughts on Apple’s new music service:

  • Visually compelling, as is expected from Apple. When I heard it was going to be integrated into iTunes I was put off, mostly because I don’t like iTunes’ interface. Fortunately for people like me, the music store’s interface shares nothing but a window with iTunes. It could still be better, but it doesn’t suck as much as i would have expected.
  • I don’t want AAC, I want mp3. You can make every argument you want about AAC, it doesn’t change a thing. When the rest of my mp3 playing devices play AAC, then I will not care. Can I convert these downloads to mp3? Adam said yes, but that doesn’t make any sense to me as it will throw out all DRM.
  • The price isn’t quite so right yet…. People will be willing to buy individual tracks at a buck a piece, but just about every whole album I have seen is going for $10. To the mall-shopping $18-a-cd kids that might sound like a deal, but when I can go to Newbury Comics or Twisted Village and pick up a brand new, tangible CD for $12-14, it doesn’t sound too appealing. Hopefully Apple is just trying to put on a little black dress and get the labels to drink the Kool Aid. In order for this to be really successful they need to bring the price down (even on the single tracks).
  • Apple needs to get the PC version together stat. Of course, before that happens, it would be nice if I could actually BUY A SONG! They didn’t seem to be ready for the flood, or just didn’t seem to be ready period. I tried buying several songs and met with no success.
  • Being able to preview every track available is fantastic. The way it should be.
  • The indies aren’t that well represented, but that’s what eMusic is for (at least for now…)
  • Mr. Bungle is well represented. This is a good thing.
  • I want one of the new iPods, but i’m not bitching and moaning about it.

That’s all for now. Possibly more later once I can actually give the damn thing a test drive.

22 thoughts on “Magical Music Tour

  1. Quicktime honors the drm, but toast does not appear to. I was able to drag the m4p (which is described as “AAC audio (protected)”), and then drag that track into Toast, and from there burn out an audio CD (all I did was save it as a disc image and then mount it. The resulting file could be encoded however I want. This isn’t convenient, but it falls in line with Apple’s typical stance on DRM stuff– restrictive enough to make it a nuissance, but not so much that it can’t be done by someone with moderate knowledge. You cannot convert the files directly in iTunes, and I have a feeling that discs burnt from iTunes won’t be able to be reimported. The fake CD I made with toast -was- able to be reimported and is no longer a protected mp4 file.

    It doesn’t really make it useful to your SliMP3 setup, but like you said for two or four dollars more you can get an actual tangible step and not bother with having to ‘make a cd’. If you’d be in the habit of always burning an audio CD of a disc you bought online, then it actually would work out ok, except for having essentially two copies of the file around, which blows.

      1. Yeah… after trying a few things, you can get your stuff out in a number of ways, but since you rip your mp3’s into a separate file store anyway (or at least you want to) you’re best bet is just burning off a disc and ripping it elsewhere with your preferred setup. This would backup your purchased music, which is a plus. Not entirely convenient, but not totally inconvenient, especially if you buy music in volume.

        1. I won’t be using the service if I have to go through all that trouble…. It is cheaper for me to go buy a CD for $13 and get a tangible unrestricted disc than to pay $10, plus the blank, plus all the time to burn, retitle, and rip the disc.

  2. I’ll trade you. You give me your ipod and get a new one, and I’ll take it with out complaint.

    P.S. You are right, iTunes still sucks.

    P.P.S. Did you see the black ipod?

    1. lupus, what sucks about iTunes? I’ve known already two Windows users so blown away by it that they switched to the Mac just to have it. I’ve run it 24×7 for more than a year now and just keep finding more and more to love about it (and a few complaints, but on the whole, it’s all love).

      1. Well, my mac is a 700mhz ibook. When I first got it, w/ the stock 256mb of ram, itunes was basically unusable. Everything else ran PDG for only being a G3.

        I upgraded to 640mb of ram, and now it didn’t take itunes 2 minutes to start up and start playing an mp3, but its performance still sort of sucks.

        While I do find its interface to be nicer than audions, in the performance department, audion has it beat hands down.

        Another gripe I have about the interface is the lack of being able to organize songs by track title (in id3), that really gets my goat.

        And I think that the playlist support is sort of crappy.

        To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time listening to music on my mac, but I havn’t been all that impressed by what I have seen so far.

        1. Note: I forgot to mention that my music collection consists of 90+ gb of mp3s shared over samba (network performance isn’t a concern, I can burn DVDs over the network, stream movies to my xbox etc w/o problems, and move at least 10MB/s).

          Even if I was playing mp3s locally, it still takes an unacceptable amount of time to start playing mp3s (it should also be noted that i primarily use xmms or amp to play mp3s on my desktop)

        2. iTunes is not a performer, that’s certain. Never has been. What is the problem organizing songs by ID3 data in iTunes? That’s exactly what iTunes is so excellent at – treating your entire collection like a database and letting you organize stuff however the hell you want. Playslist support crappy? What could be improved there?

          1. Okay, so before i came into work today, I hopped on my mac and started itunes. After about 3 bumps on my bar, it showed up.

            I wanted to point out how if you are in the artist listing, and select an album, that you can’t organize songs by the track # (found in both ID3 version 1 & 2). So, I clicked on an artist I knew I had albums for. Now I didn’t have my samba share mounted, and surprisingly OSX remembered my keychain information correctly (it rarely does for samba shares for some reason), and mounted my drive. Appx 2 minutes later, the song I selected started playing.

            I poked around a bit more to see if I could catch wind of a way to organize by song title, and unless I’m blind I’m not seeing it.

            Issue 2: Craptastic playlist support.

            A quick breakdown on the way my music collection is setup (comments from the peanut gallery about my naming conventions can gfy)

            /Artist/ -> /Album Name/ -> mp3 files & an m3u file.

            So, lets say I added a new album to my collection, and want to add it to itunes, the best way for me to do it is to navigate into the directory containing the album, and double click on it, right? Ideally I’d be able to “reindex” my collection, but as I said I have 13,000+ mp3s, and even if I select for it not to copy them to my local drive, it takes _hours_ for it to index everything.

            So I’m in the directory with the m3u file, and my mp3s and I have 2 choices. Having used winamp for many years I’d imagine that I could simply take my m3u, and drag it onto the playlist pane of iTunes. I do so, and after about 20 seconds of thrashing what happens? iTunes has created a blank playlist named the exact same thing as the m3u I dropped on it. GENIUS! Just what I wanted, a blank playlist! Thanks!

            Okay, why don’t i double click on the playlist and see what happens. *click*

            *wait 5 minutes*

            Ahh, finally iTunes has decided to add the contents of the playlist to its lovely database! Great! Too bad I can’t order the tracks by tracklist (or better yet filename as I name my mp3s something like: “Artist – Album – [#] Title.mp3”.

            I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on macs, I love my mac, I just think iTunes for lacking these features should be snappy! I’ve used it on a dual 800mhz g4 and it was “ok” but I was only working with about 8gb of mp3s. I’d own a dual g4 as a desktop btw, if by some chance I could afford one, or like I worked for some company going bankrupt ;)

            Audion has a crappier interface, lack of “database” features (which I think is why I like it more), and isn’t for power users, but it doesn’t make me wait to hear my songs :/

            1. Geez, my iTunes performance issues have been on the order of having to wait a few seconds after deleting a track. The only thing I can think of that would explain what you’re seeing is that you say some of this stuff is mounting via Samba. That *must* be the key – poor Samba support. I have 16,000 tracks and I also complain about performance but have never seen anything like what you describe here.

              To sort your library or any playlist by song title, just click the “Song Name” column header. Same to organize by any other criteria. To control which columns are showing, pull down Edit | View Options. You can drag column headers left and right to reorganize them. And of course you know you can type a few letters of any song name, artist, album, or genre into the Search window to limit any view to tracks that match that string.

              I’m not sure what the story is with .m3u files. iTunes doesn’t use them internally (its database / playlist references tracks by inode, which is much superior to file paths because you can move files around and rename folders etc all you want and your playlists never break) but i would think it would be able to import m3u files at least. Is this still true in iTunes 4?

              Not sure I understand what you mean by double clicking a folder to add it to your itunes database. Rather, you would drag the folder into iTunes to import those tracks. They should be added to teh database in a few seconds. You should *never* have to index your entire collection. It’s maintained in real time and I’ve never seen it need updating – it does a fine job of that all by itself.

              No, you can’t organize by filename – iTunes shields you from the filesystem. One can make arguments pro and con on this one. Basically you have to give up control to get a lot more control. i.e. a database is a vastly superior method of organizing your collection, and the Finder is a terrible way. But to go there you have to give up your filesystem-based music organizing habits.

              1. > Same to organize by any other criteria.

                Does this include track #? (Macs at home sleeping, can’t check)

                > iTunes doesn’t use them internally (its database / playlist references tracks by inode, which is much superior to file paths because you can move files around and rename folders etc all you want and your playlists never break)

                And what about mp3s being played off of a share? I’m not familiar with how OSX treats mounted (samba) drives?

                > Not sure I understand what you mean by double clicking a folder to add it to your itunes database.

                When I initially imported my mp3s, I pointed itunes at a folder mounted via samba and let it chug along (after setting it to not copy files locally). After N (minutes|hours), it was finished. Now my collection on the server is growing/shrinking/being renamed. Does iTunes “watch” that directory itself? Sometimes my collection grows gigs at a time between me using iTunes, its impossible for me to keep track of what has changed because everyone in my house uses my collection.. So “re-importing” occasionally seems to be the only option to make sure iTunes is up to date.

                What I do now is, if theres a new album I want to listen to, I navigate to a folder, and double click the m3u (which has relative paths) and wait for itunes to add those songs to the collection — i’m not actually double clicking a folder.

                I guess in the end I’m not ready for the whole filesystem as a database thing unless its flexible enough to accomidate the different end points, in my case several windows machines, my linux desktop, my mac laptop, and my hacked up xbox.

                While ID3/some fancy pants database is an OK way to at least present the artist and title information to your mp3 player, i can’t rely on having 12k+ files randomly scattered about if I’m ever going to maintain an offline archive, or be able to find the files necessary to transport or burn to CD.

                I’ll tool around with iTunes 4 when I get home, and I guess I won’t be too disappointed when it doesnt do everything I want.. because I’m more bent out of shape about how much iChat sucks (and how upset I am that they havn’t passed that new version down to us yet) :) (thats a whole other can of worms)

                1. Sure, you can sort by track #.

                  As for Samba, yes, this what I’m saying – it sounds from your description like there’s a performance problem there. And of course no inode is available over the network.

                  iTunes can either watch or not watch your MP3 dir — your choice. I doubt that watching is going work well over a network. And as you say, it would require reindexing. In my case I just drag new folders into iTunes when I have new tracks. When I delete tracks I do it from iTunes and delete both the tracks and the database entries for them.

                  We’re not talking filesystem as a database — only BeOS offered that. OS X doesn’t offer anything like it. iTunes offers you an MP3 database *instead* of using the filesystem – big difference.

                  There’s no problem having files randomly scattered about if you’re talking about connected drives. Again, the problem here is that you’re wanting to do stuff over samba, which can’t transmit inode data, and apparently has some performance issues with itunes. I think what you want to do is reasonable and useful and it’s a shame about the performance problems.

                  Meanwhile, have you seen the new collection sharing feature built into iTunes 4?

                  http://birdhouse.org/blog/archives/000823.php

                  1. Meanwhile, have you seen the new collection sharing feature built into iTunes 4?

                    Not really that interesting unless you have more than one Mac…. And in addition, it’s not really that interesting if you can’t use iTunes to manage your music because you use a Samba store. :)

                  2. Hmm, I hadn’t seen that collection sharing, thats sort of neat. I used to use ampache to stream mp3s to work, and what not, however its not actively being maintained, which sort of sucks. my buddy hacked it to reencode on the fly using php’s $passthru() which is pretty cool.

                    What I meant by the filesystem as a database thing, I’ve read reports of these “stacks” that might even make its way into 10.3 (panther), as well as some of the stuff supposedly going into later versions of windows. the functionality of beos (i was a pc beos user on and off) isn’t too far off, but obviously it would be years before it reaches the same level with out a filesystem rewrite. I’d imagine that after apple phases out being able to boot os9 on newer macs (it’s going to happen eventually i think), that a more robust FS wouldn’t be too far behind, one that isn’t hindered by legacy support, and one that has better journaling support.

                    in the end i’ll probalby stick to listening to mp3s on my xbox (via my stereo) over samba, which is what I used to use my laptop for, that way i also get a toslink output instead of using rca adapters (on a side note my receiver has USB and pretty much any windows PC can jack in and play to it, no mac drivers however).

                    oh, and btw I ended up hacking my website to use my rss feed rather than the hacky $include() of a LJ theme thing I was trying to describe in your LJ earlier. Ended being easier than I thought. When I was reading about syndication when it first came out, I apparently didn’t pay attention to the fact that you could syndicate journals, I guess I thought it was just for including syndicated sources into your friends lists. the only downside is that the “currents” aren’t included in the rss feed, but I can live with out that I guess.

                    1. Ampache looks cool. There’s also mod_mp3 or similar, which I never got around to trying (but don’t need to now ;)

                      I’ve also heard of attribute support coming to OS X. Dominic Giampaolo is working on the filesystem and Pavel Cisler on the Finder, so I won’t be surprised at all to see more BeOS-like features creeping in. As you say, dropping OS9 support will help.

                      Your stereo receiver has USB inputs? What kind of receiver? What a weird concept.

                    2. Just your run of the mill JVC. When you plug it into a windows box it shows up as a generic output device that you can select in like winamp. Pretty neat but not all that useful now that toslink is so popular.

                    3. Thanks for pointing that out. I had no idea “convergence” had come to this point in consumer electronics (me and my esoteric crap ;)

  3. On price, I don’ think it’s fair to criticize the album price. The whole value proposition here is that you don’t *have* to buy the whole album – you can buy just the song or songs you want. If you want the whole album, buy the album and get the sleeve, etc.

    If your devices learn to play AAC will you still hate it? i.e is that your only argument against it?

    1. On price, I don’ think it’s fair to criticize the album price. The whole value proposition here is that you don’t *have* to buy the whole album – you can buy just the song or songs you want. If you want the whole album, buy the album and get the sleeve, etc.

      I disagree. While it is fantastic that you can buy by track, and many people will, I think there is a serious attachment for many people to the concept of an album, and they should be more competitive. Even track by track, though, I think $1 is too much.

      If your devices learn to play AAC will you still hate it? i.e is that your only argument against it?

      I don’t hate it at all, I just want to be able to play it anywhere (anywhere being my PC, my SliMP3, my iPod, and my Mac [right now]). Right now I can only play it in half the places I need to. If I can play it in all those places then I will be pretty indifferent to the format. I would prefer MP3 solely out of keeping my collection consistent and lack of DRM, which I think is irritating.

      1. Sure there’s an attachment to the concept of an album and I’m glad there is. That’s what I’m saying – if you want the whole album, want the sleeve etc., then go out and buy it at a store. You get a bit of a discount for buying it online without the packaging. Not sure I see the problem. Are you saying the discount for giving up the sleeve isn’t great enough?

        As for AAC adoption, somebody has to be first in the pool. If everyone waits for everyone else to upgrade to AAC, it will never happen. Apple is helping to push it forward, which will help adoption of MPEG 4 audio. That’s a good thing.

        1. Sure there’s an attachment to the concept of an album and I’m glad there is. That’s what I’m saying – if you want the whole album, want the sleeve etc., then go out and buy it at a store. You get a bit of a discount for buying it online without the packaging. Not sure I see the problem. Are you saying the discount for giving up the sleeve isn’t great enough?

          No, I’m saying they could be more successful selling entire albums by dropping the price to $8 or $9.

          As for AAC adoption, somebody has to be first in the pool. If everyone waits for everyone else to upgrade to AAC, it will never happen. Apple is helping to push it forward, which will help adoption of MPEG 4 audio. That’s a good thing.

          I’m pretty indifferent to it in my book.. I’m not very much excited about AAC, so I don’t really give a crap if everyone moves to it or not. I would rather see Ogg Vorbis get more attention, as I think it sounds as good/better at a given bitrate and is unencumbered by patents…. I don’t see any advantage of AAC…

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