Christmas has passed, but I guess it is still technically the holiday season. I ran across this great video of the Chipmunks “Christmas Time is Here” song slowed down. You can hear what the chipmunk voice actors in the song actually sounded like (even though Dave sounds like the devil).
Songza is a new service that launched in early November that lets you find and listen to new music. It’s similar to Last.FM and Pandora, but instead of of a radio station-type system where you’re provided with a stream of similar songs based on your ratings, Songza lets you search for an artist or song and listen to the entire song. In this nature, it is probably closer to Hype Machine (which my brother has been a big fan). It doesn’t quite have the rating system that HypeM does though. You can tell Songza if a song the you’re listening to is a high quality track, but I think that only makes the song show up higher in the searches. What I have found useful about Songza is the ability to find some nice additional tracks or covers for an artist or song that I’ve not heard. From what I can tell, the music is coming mainly from YouTube videos (based on the “share” menu’s “watch on YouTube” option). The site itself has a nice interface, which makes sense when you look at the creator, Aza Raskin, who is Jef Raskin’s son. Jef Raskin was the creator of The Humane Interface, and Songza’s interface is based on many of his ideas. So if you need another site to add to your collection of online music finders, give Songza a try. At the very least, you should be able to find some tracks by your favorite artist that you haven’t heard anywhere else.
Today Amazon raised the stakes in the realm of online music sales with the beta release of Amazon MP3. I know there are a ton of places to buy online music out there with iTunes leading the pack. The thing that could make this one different though is the lack of DRM. Amazon’s store will sell actual high quality 256kbps MP3’s. There’s no DRM here folks. You’re not locked to any particular player for these songs. Just about every player out there will play an MP3 file. The big question in all of this is going to be selection. According to their press release:
“Amazon MP3 is an all-MP3, DRM-free catalog of a la carte music from major labels and independent labels, playable on any device, in high-quality audio, at low prices,” said Bill Carr, Amazon.com Vice President for Digital Music. “This new digital music service has already been through an extensive private beta, and today we’re excited to offer it to our customers as a fully functional public beta. We look forward to receiving feedback from our customers and using their input to refine the service.”
I’ve taken a glance through the site and found several songs that I’d be interested downloading… especially at 89 cents and without DRM. Amazon even provides an optional MP3 Downloader tool that looks to be just a download manager so you don’t have keep hitting save in your browser. Given the terrible experience I had with their “Unbox” movie download service, I pray that this doesn’t take the same path. If given the choice between this and iTunes, I’d happily pay less for a better (DRM FREE) product.
I’m not a huge fan of traditional radio. I don’t listen to it very often (usually listen to podcasts in the car). I guess I just don’t like the hear the same 20 songs played over and over again. With that being said, I still do want to find sources for new music. In searching for a song the other day, I ran across a site that will help me in that quest. The Hype Machine is a site that keeps tabs on music mentioned in blogs across the ‘net. It tracks them and rates them based on how many times they come up in blog conversation.
The Hype Machine tracks a variety of MP3 blogs. If a post contains MP3 links, it adds those links to its database and displays them on the front page.
I’ve actually run across several new artists and songs via ‘the machine.’ Thank you Hype Machine for keeping me away from traditional radio.
The Cinematic Orchestra (via hype machine)
Andrew Bird (via hype machine)
Who doesn’t love a good YouTube lip-sync of a popular song?!? Well you can thank your lucky stars… there is now a way to find them by searching a particular artist! iLoveMusicVideo.net will give you a long list (depending on the singer) of YouTube videos from whatever artist you’re looking for. It’s not only great lip-sync videos. You’ll also get the real music video too if it’s up there. The thing that makes this site cool, is that it will hook to your Last.FM profile (if you have one), and automatically bring in artists you listen to.
It has finally happened. I’m now the proud owner of a shiny green iPod Nano. I’ve used iPods since the first one was released way back when (we’ve used a couple of them at work), but haven’t ever had one of my own that I could load up with my music until now. I’ve lovingly named it Lola (she was a showgirl), and after putting it (her?) through its paces for a little over a week now, I’m really happy with it. There were a few things I had to get used to though.
The first thing to go was the headphones. Apple updated their headphone design with the last iPod updates, and from my experience, they’re not that great. First of all, they don’t come with the little spongy covers on them (or at lest mine didn’t) so they’re not that comfortable… maybe it’s just my ears aren’t the right shape. The killer for me though was what they did in cold weather. It’s December in Iowa, so it’s a bit chilly outside. Out in the cold, the wires for the headphones get really stiff and isn’t very flexible which was a bit annoying when walking outside with the iPod. I quickly switched to my previous set of cheap-o ear buds and have been doing fine with those.
The other thing I needed to get used to was having iTunes manage my music. I use iTunes, and have been for quite some time, but I don’t use it as the primary player for mp3’s on my computer. It’s a bit large and bulky to open every time I just want to play a single mp3 (I’m using WinAmp instead). I do use iTunes for PodCasts and when listening to my entire music library though, so it’s not like I had to get used to a new program. What I did have to get used to though was handing over total control of the iPod to iTunes. My previous mp3 player was just a cheapy Sandisk player that showed up as a removable drive when plugged in. All I had to do was drag songs to it to add them. The iPod is a bit different since all the syncing has to be done in iTunes. It took me a little playing to get things set, but I think I’m good to go now. Since the Nano is only 4Gb, and I have more than 4Gb of music in my library, I had to figure out a way to make iTunes only put a portion of my library on it and still leave room for podcasts. What I did (and it’s been working well so far) is create a smart playlist that randomly selects approximately 3.2Gb of music for transfer, leaving me about 800Mb for Podcasts. For the PodCasts, I have it only sync the ones that I select since I like to download more of some podcasts (daily released) than others (weekly released). So far this system has worked pretty well. The only thing I think I’d change about this setup is maybe creating some sort of smart playlist for the PodCasts, but so far things are working the way I want for now.
So far everything has been working great! I need to find another charger though… and maybe one of those cool Nike + iPod running things.
Last.fm, which I blogged about a while back has launched an updated version of their site (code named Operation Depth Charge). They’ve added some cool new features and totally overhauled their player. I use Last.fm all the time (mainly for listening to internet radio at work) and love the new features. If you’ve not checked out the site yet, do it NOW. Add me as a friend (my username is scottfi). It’s a great system for discovering new music based on what you already listen to. I discover cool new artists every day.
Back when MTV used to play actual music videos this site has 1500 videos from the 80’s. I just spent way too long digging through this site. How many of these do you remember?
It’s not like I need another reason to buy Mentos, but it looks like I just got one. Looks like Mentos has started offering free song downloads from Apple’s iTunes Music Store with codes located on boxes of Mentos Sours. I haven’t seen any of these free music Mentos Sours boxes in the wild yet, but you’d better believe when I do, I’ll be slapping down some cold hard cash to get me a few boxes. When Pepsi does their yearly iTunes promotion, I usually end up buying more 20 oz. bottles. It’s scary to think how many boxes this promotion will make me buy when it’s a food item I’m already obsessed with. Too bad they don’t sell Mentos Sours at the same number of places that Pepsi is sold… or maybe for the sake of my health, that’s a good thing. Naw! Anything that promotes the candy of the gods is definitely a good thing!
I bouth a package of Aquafresh toothbrushes and found a code for three free songs on the package. What a toothbrush has to do with music downloads, I have no idea! The unfortunate part about it is that the music is from Sony’s Connect music store where you can only download DRM-ridden Windows Media Audio files. Plus with Sony’s recent DRM rootkit debacle, I don’t really feel like touching these things. So… if anybody wants an Aquafresh code for 3 free Connect song downloads, leave me a comment and it’s yours.
UPDATE: The music code has been claimed!
A few months back I discovered a neat service that at that time was actually two separate services. Audioscrobbler and Last.FM have since merged into one super-cool tool for finding and listening to new music. The thing that makes this tool different than the million and a half other music sites out there is that it collects the artists and songs that you listen to and it compares it to other people with similar tastes and recommends new music based on those comparisons.
To quickly get started with Audioscrobbler/Last.FM, you could simply do a search of an artist or band that you like from their homepage. You will be presented with a list of artists that are similar to the artist that you entered. You can then dig a little deeper into those artists and see what the most popular song for that artist is based on the number of times it’s been played in other Audioscrobbler/Last.FM profiles. At the lowest of this serviceâ€™s capabilities, doing this will give you just a taste of what this handy tool is capable of.
If you want to really experience Audioscrobbler/Last.FM you can create a music profile for yourself. To do this, you’ll need to sign up on the site, and also download a plug-in for your music player. They’ve got plug-in’s for just about every music player you’d want to use (I use iTunes and WinAmp). What this plug-in does is watch what you’re listening to and report it back to your profile. It takes a little while, but once you’ve got a good number of songs in your profile (I think mine took about 300 songs) some other neat things start to happen. You’ll start to see “neighbors” in your profile. Your neighbors are other people that have similar taste in music as you. Another thing you’ll get when you’ve got a good selection of music in your profile is radio customized to you (The last FM?). You can download a special Last.FM radio application (open source) that will play music from your profile and from your neighbor’s profiles allowing you to discover some new songs and artists. While the radio is playing, you can rate the songs on the fly with buttons for “Love this track!” or “Ban this track” so you’re not stuck listening to a song that just doesn’t do it for you. You can also point the radio application at a particular artist you enjoy and it will play similar artist’s music, or you can point it at a specific user that has similar music taste as you.
Audioscrobbler/Last.FM also includes a tagging mechanism. You can add tags to songs in your profile about anything. So you think a song is a good road trip song, you can tag it with the keywords, “driving” “roadtrip” “car” etc. Users can then search for specific tags and get a collection of songs that are associated with a particular tag. This feature is very similar to Flickr’s image tagging, only for music.
If you to take a more detailed look at what Audioscrobbler/Last.FM delivers, they’ve put together a Feature Tour that I recommend taking a look at. If you get a profile set up, you can add your friends and see what they’re listening to. Feel free to add my profile (http://www.last.fm/user/scottfi/) to your friends list. Happy Listening!
Does anyone remember the old mp3.com? Not the current version of the site that was bought out by c|net… which is nothing like the original. Mp3.com was started by Michael Robertson in 1997 as a portal for the growing mp3 format. It became a very popular site showcasing new and unknown artists. All of the content on the original mp3.com was provided by individual artists. In November of 2003 c|net purchased mp3.com and changed it from a network of independent artists’ music to a directory of music. Much of the old content from the original mp3.com is still available at a site called garageband.com. Garageband has the old archive of mp3.com content (those they were able to get permission from the original artists to host) and provides the same music hosting service for independent artists to host their music. It’s nice that a partial legacy of the old mp3.com still lives on, but nothing really touching the glory days that the original celebrated during the dot com boom.
Some articles on the history of mp3.com:
Mp3.com – We Made History
Michael Robertson and MP3