Tag Archives: iPod

Beats Music: does it beat iTunes?

30 Jan

My blood pressure has equalized and my breathing is back to normal. The pounding in my head has stopped and my optimism has returned. All is right with the world once more.

In short, I’ve fixed my iTunes account.

Anytime I get an update message from Apple, I wince. I am a technological dinosaur, dependent on an 160GB iPod and an aging PC to protect and play my substantial library of songs. I don’t store my music in the cloud, my iPhone has maybe two songs on it, and I still mourn iTunes’ original, virtual brushed steel design. I’m terrified that I might delete my entire library with one misplaced click of the mouse.

My worst fears were realized when I restarted after the most recent upgrade – and this little box popped up six times in quick succession:

iTunes error messag

To fix this I had to uninstall every whiff of Apple technology and reinstall iTunes from scratch. (Luckily I had an open bottle of pinot noir to steady my nerves.)

I gotta say, Beats Music is looking real good right now.

Debuting last week, this streaming service is backed by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, the legendary music producers who created the best reason to spend a car payment on headphones. Trent Reznor is the outfit’s chief creative officer. As you can see from the “vision” video he narrates, Mr. Nine Inch Nails/Oscar-winning composer/Grammy ranter can’t wait to get in between our ears to burrow into our very souls:

The press has been considerable (with feature articles in Time, Rolling Stone and New York Times to name a few) and overwhelmingly positive. This is because in addition to offering access to pretty much any song ever recorded, the killer app of Beats Music is human beings. The recommendations and playlists rely on curators rather than algorithms  It sounds like being an eighth grader hanging out with your older brother’s cool high school friends: they flip through LPs or tap into SoundCloud to expand your horizons without rolling their eyes at your limited taste. (I can’t imagine how this actually works: do they employ armies of crate-digging hipsters or is Reznor chained to a laptop somewhere?)

At the moment you can only subscribe through AT&T, but I’m sure they’ll branch out to other carriers very soon so that world domination can follow. At that point I may switch to a streaming service and for the first time pony up a monthly fee to discover new tunes and revisit old favorites … leaving iTunes collecting virtual dust. So now, your opinions, please: 

 

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Want to read some good rock and roll? My first novel, Love and Other B-Sides, is on the e-bookshelves now – and Amazon Prime members can read it for free!

Pirated Booty

20 Sep

Now Johnny Depp can see what he’ll look like if he doesn’t quit smoking

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. In honor of this year’s celebration, here’s my one – and only – contribution:

Q: What’s a pirate’s favorite alternative band?

A: ARRRRR-E.M.

(Sorry … )

Of course, pirates in the music industry are a totally different scalawag, as far as the labels and many artists are concerned. I’ve seen statistics as high as 95% when it comes to the amount of downloaded music that was obtained illegally. This distresses me. I was a stage actor with an MFA and it took me years of training and practice to get paid for my work in a profession that many people would gladly do for free.  At least I did live musical theater, a type of performing arts you can’t download.

And yet … music seems different. It’s everywhere already – elevators, grocery stores, ring tones, beer commercials. When I take a CD out of the library and download it, it’s as if I copied a page out of a library-owned magazine. No harm, no foul: I’m not selling it or playing it a public venue that ought to have a license from BMI or ASCAP. It’s personal use on my personal computer or personal .mp3 player.

Right?

My older daughter thinks it’s ridiculous that I turn myself into an ethical pretzel over this. She considers songs to be a band’s promotional tools to get us to go to concerts and buy t-shirts, and some bands do, too. Plus, she has proof I’m a total hypocrite because I’ve asked her to rip songs off of YouTube for me to download. I can tell myself it’s justified because they weren’t available to download any other way–the tribute to George Harrison at his induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and an achingly gorgeous guitar solo by Prince, for example:

Now it’s legally available on iTunes, and I bought it … trying to prove I’m only slightly hypocritical.

Of course, being slightly hypocritical is as impossible as being slightly pregnant. There are so many ways to hear a song for free that are legal – YouTube, Pandora, Grooveshark – that I don’t have to go the extra dubious step by downloading it. And yet, I want to havethe song, to possess it and play it at will, as I did when I had crates of LPs, shoe boxes full of tapes and racks of CDs. I want tangible evidence that I have great taste.

Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb agrees with me. He says the biggest problem with the new iPods is that it is designed to focus more on accessing music in the cloud – renting it, essentially – instead of downloading it to the device. “If we’re going to keep deep music appreciation around, we need to completely own our collections,” he says.

So now I’m lusting after a song I cannot find on iTunes: the tribute to Joe Strummer from the 2003 Grammys, featuring Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt and Dave Grohl:

I ask you: should I add it to my treasure chest?

See you on the flip side … matey!

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