Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heaping Praise: CBCR3, HypeMachine, and MusicIP

Originally uploaded by e-magic

One of my goals in life is to not be listening to the same music in the old age home as I did in high school.

As a parent it's tough to actively follow the scene's and find out about new music. Lots of tools and services on the Internet make it easier, but when it comes down to it you need to quickly find stuff and be able to listen to it.

CBC Radio 3 has been a huge part of finding out about new Canadian music for me. It's pretty stunning that it exists and even more amazing that it's been able to maintain such a high level of quality and freshness over the years. As I told Grant, it makes me happy to pay my tax bill. Daily and weekly podcasts on my iPod make running and the commute a lot more fun.

The Hype Machine is another one that surprises by it's ability to continue operating. I'd expect the RIAA to treat it as a WMD (Weapon of Music Destruction). It aggregates huge volumes of podcasts into a single RSS feed of mp3 tracks that pile up in a folder on my machine. Lots of crap, lots of gems.

MusicIP Mixer is what brings it all together. Wendell tirelessly helped me and thousands of others get it set up - in my case plugging into SlimServer - and Rachel was kind enough to give me a full licence for Christmas a couple of years ago.

MusicIP Mixer analyzes and fingerprints all your tracks and then can create mixes based on seed tracks you select. It doesn't suffer from the memory problems and unfounded biases that I do ("I forgot I had that John Bottomley", or "Led Zeppelin, Herbie Hancock, and Sparklehorse do not mix") and puts together mixes of whatever length you ask for. It dips into my regular collection and also pulls out the tracks that come in from HypeMachine to introduce me to new artists and styles all the time. I think I've just made a big step towards Shari liking it too, as I figured out how to create a filter to keep Tom Waits out of any mix - the sound of his voice turns her off within milliseconds!

You can download and try MusicIP Mixer anytime - without the full licence they limit mixes to 75 songs and disable a few advanced features but it's still completely usable. Be patient if you've got a big collection - the initial analysis can take hours or days! Dig around in the preferences first to turn on 'Archive Analysis' - that'll save the fingerprint right in the mp3 file and save you tons of time if you have to start over and re-analyze. The new iTunes plugin might be better suited for people who live in that app all the time.

You know when you're in a cool cafe and some great tune comes on - if you're like me you run over and ask "Who's that playing?". With the above three tools and services that happens in my house pretty regularly.

Then, like a good consumer I run off and buy it. I'm an subscriber and have used other services but so far I haven't spent a dime at iTunes. Can't get my head around Steve Jobs or another music exec being able to "turn off" my music collection with his DRM. If you decide to try emusic let me know and I'll "introduce you" - they give both of us extra free tracks!

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