Steve Albini’s Face The Music Keynote / More on Beats and iTunes

Reading this I’m beginning to believe things could be getting better in the recorded music industry.

This past weekend I started playing with Beats Music again and have begun questioning the care and meticulousness of my own iTunes collection. I can’t think of a better example then last weekend when I was updating Elton John metadata, hunting for the right year, trying to get high-quality artwork. Then it dawned on me. “Wait a second, I don’t even really like Elton John that much!”

In a single $10 a month payment nearly all my music collection is available, as are all the new releases I’d be paying $10 each for anyway. Sure, if I stop paying it all goes away, but has there ever been a month where I haven’t paid at least $10 in iTunes downloads? No.

So after years of using iTunes, updating ratings, organizing smart playlists to help me wade through tens of thousands of songs, I’m coming around on the idea that I don’t need to own and organize this stuff anymore. I probably haven’t listened to most of my collection in years. These digital music files may as well be like the boxes of CDs I have in a storage room. Except they show up in smart playlists and are often skipped over.

…I still wish I could just login to my Beats Music account using iTunes on my Mac.1

I’m also liking the idea that a new band can get the ears of millions of people in as little as two days.2

Maybe this right now is the golden age of music.

I know that goes against other things I’ve written here, about how the streaming model is unsustainable…but that was before reading Albini’s address and his deconstruction of “We need to figure out how to make this digital distribution work for everyone.”


  1. Spotify has been real buggy for me. I think I’ve hit a collection limit. 

  2. $19.99 a year for unlimited releases using DistroKid means you don’t have to wait to release a CDs worth of material. 

“How U2 Blew It”

Bob Lefsetz:

This looked like nothing so much as what it was, old farts using their connections to shove material down the throats of those who don’t want it. It’s what we hate so much about today’s environment, rich people who think they know better and our entitled to their behavior.

For a moment I thought I’d have to explain to my mom and dad why there’s a U2 album that came out of nowhere on their iDevices – then I remembered that they don’t even touch the Music app.

“Don’t shove your music into people’s homes”

Sasha Frere-Jones:

What Cook and U2 probably wanted to duplicate yesterday was the organic delight when Beyoncé released an entire album out of the blue last December on iTunes. Instead, U2 stuffed a locksmith card in your doorframe, which you’ve probably already tossed.

…imagine what it would have been like if, instead of a free U2 album, Apple gave away a brand new Dr. Dre album.

iOS’s Storage Problem

This article is helpful and will hopefully at some point be unnecessary.

The problem, fellow nerds and geeks, is that we already know all this stuff. But the people in my family with tons of photos and videos on their phones don’t, and you can’t really explain it to them.

They don’t use iTunes – they synced music they like one time years ago (probably from someone else’s library) and then go to Pandora (but the idea of deleting all that music they never listen to? You may as well suggest they eat their kids if they’re starving.) iTunes Match? I love it. They have no idea what it is. And for $25 a year they’ll just stick with Pandora.1

Offload the camera roll? Where to? Some computer running Windows Vista that they never turn on anymore?

I use iPhoto and still think it’s weird that even though I have Photo Stream enabled I need to manage and delete duplicate photos on my camera roll.

Delete iMessages? They don’t even know what an iMessage is. They don’t have to delete messages from any of the other messaging apps they use.

I consider myself a pretty savvy Mac and iOS user and after seven generations some of this stuff still feels wonky. I know how to work around it…they don’t.

I’m surprised at the adoption rates Apple touts in their keynotes. Getting people in my family, non techies, to update their apps and iOS software is like pulling teeth…because it is. Delete all these memories and moments from my life for some bug fixes? Never. Besides, they like having this stuff on their phones so they can look at them.


  1. And why still use Pandora after iTunes Radio? Because they don’t understand iTunes Radio. They understand Pandora’s thumbs-up and thumbs-down model. 

Why you should clean your tags

The amount of work and care that needs to go into accurate iTunes metadata is precisely why nobody but the nerdiest of music nerds cares.1


  1. On a sidenote, it drives me nuts when people send me email with no subject line, or with vague subject lines, or lack the sort of information I may need to find later. I consider all that stuff metadata. Subject lines are metadata. I think I’m being polite and considerate. Others don’t care. 

Why Comixology Removing In-App Purchases Is A Big Deal

It made shopping easier and helps regulars avoid comic book nnnnnerds.

Gerry Conway:

I’m going to say something that I hope you won’t misinterpret (oh, who am I kidding, this is the internet, of course it’ll be misinterpreted): comics have been struggling in a ghetto for thirty years. That ghetto is called the comic book store. Please don’t hate me, comic book store owners — I love you, I love your dedication to the form, I fully support you, and never want to see you replaced. Yet the fact remains that for someone to discover a comic book today for the first time, he or she pretty much has to be a comic book reader already, or know someone who’s a reader, and he or she has to be comfortable immersing themselves immediately in a very specific sub-cultural experience by stepping through the doors of a comic book specialty shop.


I haven’t made my mind up on this. I don’t see think it’s a huge deal to buy from a website vs. an app (sure, I prefer buying through the app*) – but I buy stuff in Comixology only occasionally and never single issues.

Although, when I do buy Kindle books I usually buy directly from the Kindle after finishing a book sample.

Amazon owns Comixology and the prices are still more expensive on Comixology than they are on Kindle. I’ve read the first two volumes of Fatale. Amazon sells volumes for $9.99 on Kindle. On Comixology the same volume is $14.99.

If I were Amazon I would allow Comixology users to sync their Comixology purchases to their Amazon accounts and allow those coming from Comixology to download the copies of their comics from the cloud to their Kindle devices and apps.

But what if they don’t have Amazon accounts? Come on – everyone writing about this tries to work in how Amazon is a big bad evil horrible company, but they still buy from them.

“Clarity”

Yeah, I like my Mac – but if you go on and on like this with the Apple love you automatically volunteer to teach my dad how to use mail.app.

The other thing to explain to him, a recent switcher, is that on Macs the menu bar isn’t tied to the window. You can have an application be ACTIVE without a window being present.

How messed up that is to you depends on how long you’ve been in it. I’m in too deep, man, too deep.

iTunes Podcast Syncing Stil Having Problems

TidBITS: Explaining Podcasts in iTunes 11.1:

The reality is that syncing of this information through iCloud is confused beyond belief, rife with incorrect and inconsistent behavior. In extensive testing, we experienced a variety of problems, at least some of the time. Sometimes one problem went away, only to be replaced by another.

  • Podcast subscriptions disappearing and reappearing randomly, and differently on four devices
  • Subscriptions syncing from one device to another in only one direction
  • Available episodes in a podcast differing between devices
  • Stations syncing without their underlying subscriptions syncing as well
  • Playback position syncing from iTunes to an iPhone, but not an iPad

Both iTunes and Podcasts.app were updated this week. Still seems to be a problem.

The strangest one is that podcast play position is synced from iOS to iTunes, but you don’t know it until you play the podcast on your computer and it suddenly picks up where you left off because all the blue dot besides the episode are completely filled.

…That and the over 200 podcast episodes I get marked as unplayed.

“If anyone from Apple is listening…”

iTunes Guy Kirk McElhearn on this Macworld podcast (paraphrasing):

Come on – Amazon does 250,000 tracks in the cloud. You can’t do better than Amazon?

My trick for getting around the limit is to delete anything I don’t think I need in the cloud from a computer other than my main iTunes library. That way it takes the music off the cloud, but leaves it in my main iTunes library. When/if Apple lifts this limit I’ll be able to add those tracks I removed from iCloud as they were before they were purged.

If that sounds complicated, it kinda is. I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And if your criticism is “well your iTunes music library shouldn’t be so big” the reason it’s that big is because I use iTunes. People with big libraries are big music fans, which is why iTunes still exists.

Otherwise we’d all be on Spotify.

Ecoute 2 for iOS

If you’re unhappy with Music.app, check out Ecoute 2.

I think it encompasses more iOS 7 principles than Apple’s own app. The album view grid shows more albums than music.app, it scrobbles, and has a night mode.1

However, it still has some of the same problems music.app has, such as navigating and crashing with large iTunes Match libraries.


  1. I’m beginning to think that sometime soon Night Mode may be incorporated into iOS. The best implementation has been Twitterrific’s and Instapaper’s, which appear to enable night mode based upon sunset. Ecoute and Tweetbot appear to enable it based on auto-brightness, which is difficult to understand anyway. 

Podcasts.app’s horrible show notes formatting

“Where can people go for show notes?” You often hear on podcasts.

You should just TAP for show notes. Where should people go for show notes? Just tap the screen or click the “Show Info” button in iTunes.

Rich show notes, poor formatting.

Problem is, Apple’s iOS Podcast app strips all formatting from this details screen. You can write richly detailed notes with headers, hyperlinks…you know, HTML, and it comes out looking like this.

Why would they do this? Is it a security thing? That doesn’t make sense – Safari shows you any HTML on the web. How is this any different?

It’s not much better in iTunes. Here’s the standard Show Info view. It isn’t the same show, but you can bet that you see a plain-text type view instead of properly rendered HTML.

iTunes Show Info

My bet is that extensive show notes are an anomaly. When iTunes podcasting support was originally added shows didn’t put much effort into extensive notes, so they didn’t bother with HTML formatting. But today it’s different – we have richly detailed, and HELPFUL, show notes, except Apple never updated the way they’re rendered.

Between stuff like this, and the poor syncing between iTunes and iOS (although iOS-to-iOS appears to be much more reliable), podcasts.app still has a ways to go.

It’s strange, because Apple was a pioneer here. They have the best way to discover podcasts and arguably the worst way to listen to them.

I Miss Adium

Yesterday I messed around with the 21st century ways to quickly call and message people. It’s a pain in the butt.

I’m gonna ramble about it now.

IN THE OLD DAYS – the year 2000 -…we had AOL IM. It was a simpler time. It was pretty much the only game in town for computer-to-computer messages. It’s what the kids used instead of FB/Twitter. In college we’d put where we were meeting for dinner as our away messages. We didn’t have cell phones…at least not yet.

Even then, some people had MSN Messenger, ICQ, and other messaging accounts. But it didn’t really matter, because software like Adium and Pidgin glued them all together. You had access to everybody who mattered through one free software package.

Today it’s a big cluster. Every time you want to message somebody quickly it comes with this added friction of figuring out HOW. Is this an email? A facebook message? A text message? An iMessage? What’s App? Skype? Each medium is now owned by a larger company that doesn’t want to play with the others.

Generally, one-to-one conversations tend to settle easily upon a single protocol, but groups get hairier because everybody has preferences. They want to use the thing they normally use. As people, family, friends, and work teams are distributed across the globe this issue has gotten bigger than it’s ever been. How do you get a bunch of people across the country talking to each other without it being a pain in the butt for everyone?

That comes up in my own group conversations. I’ve got group messages in iMessage and FB Messages. Anybody with an Android phone wants to be on Hangouts. But this guy (guilty) doesn’t want to be on Hangouts because he thinks Google+ is the devil. Why is he making this so DIFFICULT?!

What about conference calls? Can’t we all just Facetime each other? No, because Facetime is only for Apple stuff. And you can’t screen share in Facetime. What about Skype? Don’t we all have Skype? Yeah, but so-and-so says Google+ is free. Is it ‘better’? Uh, that’s subjective and debatable.

Facetime was supposed to be a game changer because it was going to be open-sourced. Anybody could work with Facetime – Android people, Windows people, didn’t matter. Except when they tried to implement it the patent trolls came out. The dream of Facetime being an open standard like Jabber/XMPP is dead. Now nobody can talk with anybody else.

Unless you all buy-in to a single platform. Get a Google+ account, or a Skype account…and probably someday soon a Facebook account.

I miss the days when communications weren’t based upon who used what. Also Adium had a pretty cool Link icon.

What I’d like is if the messages.app on iOS had the same philosophy as the old-school messaging clients. Let me put in my Google, FB, and other account credentials. Let me have all my messages in one app…preferably the stock app.1

That will never happen.


  1. Messages.app has something similar, but it’s based upon the old way of doing things. That’s why they call them legacy chat services

The Case For An iPod Pro

…I think it’s time that Apple release an iPod pro. I imagine this as a hard-drive based iPod (because of the storage capacity), with the ability to play high-resolution files, and with a digital optical output. This would allow users to connect a portable DAC (digital-analog converter) and headphone amp, and have excellent sound through their headphones anywhere. Granted, you wouldn’t appreciate this when walking on a busy street, but there are times when you want to listen to music on good headphones, and don’t want to be connected to your stereo.

Not gonna happen. Watch how successful that Neil Young project will be, even among audiophiles.