Archive for the ‘iTunes’ Tag

Social iTunes

I’ve been a longtime user of Last.fm, and while it’s a valuable resource for music discovery, it has its drawbacks. It’s not tied directly into iTunes, which means A) not everybody has it, and B) you have to go to a web site outside of your jukebox to access it. I like the idea behind iLike (no pun intended), but there’s so much more they could have done with it.

iLike is a social music site similar to Last.fm. It offers the ability to install a sidebar built into iTunes that, in addition to tracking and broadcasting what you’re listening to, shows you related music to the currently playing track, news about bands and tracks your friends on the service are listening to. But for people like me with large libraries, I get a lot of info about bands I don’t really care about.

The sidebar should take advantage of the mass wealth of metadata iTunes stores on listener history. Data like individual track play counts and skip counts would be great ways to choose which bands’ news gets delivered at the top, and which similar bands you’re more likely to want. Just because I have one song by 2Pac, doesn’t make me a fan of him. It shouldn’t be factored as heavily into my recommendations.

These services should also go beyond their walled gardens and take a cue from the Hype Machine, pulling blog posts and album reviews from outside sources. With all the investors watching these social music services (thesixtyone is another on that list), there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

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The Underlying Goal of the Writers Strike

The ongoing strike of television writers associated with the Writers Guild that has compelled the news media and ripped through Hollywood’s production schedules doesn’t appear to have any foreseeable end in sight. Writers are demanding to receive royalties from DVD and online sales of the shows they helped compose, like they receive for TV airings, and network execs aren’t budging.

Brad Templeton points out that this isn’t really having the devastating effect on viewers as the writers may have hoped. In fact, and ironically so, it’s driving fans to DVDs and iTunes purchases that these very writers are not seeing a penny from. Beyond that, many shows have tons of episode scripts sitting in their production rooms that they can dive into in the mean time, says the LA Times.

So what is the Writers Guild really trying to accomplish? The group knows that soon enough the studios will realize that there will be no more pilot shows, a major foundation of keeping a network fresh, if there’s no writers to put pen to paper. It’s not about season 20 of the Simpsons; depending on how long the strike lasts, it could be a long time until we see a substantial, new batch of TV series. And that’s worrisome.

“Try Before You Buy” Music Retail Model

I wrote last month that I’m a big supporter for the donation system because it lets the consumers decide how much an item is worth to them. With all the hype surrounding the (not-so-)new donation-based digital music distribution model being pioneered by Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Trent Reznor via Saul William’s Niggy Tardust album, there’s a lot of questions about what is the best way to guilt the listener into donating.

Many people I talked to ended up downloading In Rainbows and Niggy Tardust for free, and then went back after a few listens and punched in their credit cards. For Radiohead’s album, I paid $5 up front because I knew I was going to love it (and I was right). But for Niggy Tardust, I didn’t pay a dime, and I still haven’t made up my mind if it’s worth the $5, or if I’ll even keep it in my library (but I’ve only listened once).

If the record companies or digital distributors, like iTunes or Amazon, want to jump on the donation bandwagon, the system needs to be more structured. A good way would be to offer a free (or $1 upfront to cover bandwidth costs) one-week trial download, allowing the user to listen an unlimited amount of times during the trial, and then in a week choose to either delete it or donate a fixed amount or (preferably) whatever they choose. Nobody (except the RIAA) likes digital rights management (DRM), so perhaps the trial download will have DRM, and once the user donates, the DRM-free files can be downloaded.

So many people are pirating music anyway. This seems like a good step to getting consumers to pay for music again.

LP Discography Playlists

For many music obsessives enthusiasts, having their favorite band’s entire catalog isn’t enough. Not only do I have every Beatles album in my iTunes library, but I also have six discs of Anthology pre-production songs and a few bootlegs. I don’t just have the three Brand New LPs. I have some live shows, an acoustic set and a Christmas album of which only a few thousand discs were printed.

Having these is both a blessing and a curse. My brother, tj, and I talked about how we’ll sometimes want to shuffle only the official releases. iPod doesn’t make this easy. So we have two options.

If you don’t ever want the songs to pop up during shuffle, but you want them in your library anyway: select the songs in iTunes, go to File > Get Info and select “Skip When Shuffling.”

The other option is to create separate playlists for your favorite bands containing only the official playlists. Create a new playlists by clicking the plus icon in the bottom left corner of the iTunes window, and drag in the albums from your library. You’ll be happy you did.

Sizzling Keys and iTunes: A Good Pair

After my post tearing into Quicksilver yesterday, I realized it packs a few undeniably great features — one being the missing links it provides for Apple iTunes. It allows me to search my iTunes library and queue up songs in Party Shuffle. I can also assign keyboard shortcuts to common tasks, like play/pause and skipping songs.

But I managed to remove Quicksilver from my hard drive and keep that great functionality with a lighter app called Sizzling Keys. Once installed, Keys is out of the way until I need it. Unlike Quicksilver, there’s no hard drive scanning every 10 minutes. Its preference interface is tucked away in System Preferences, where you can assign keyboard shortcuts to iTunes functions.

Apple is addressing the keyboard shortcut issue with new keyboards, which feature dedicated keys for iTunes. But for those who don’t want to shell out the cash for a new keyboard, Keys is a great solution.

The Keys application also offers the ability to search the songs in your library with a simple keystroke. By pressing control-spacebar, a transparent menu comes up, where I can search for a song and then add it to party shuffle or play it immediately. Very handy for people who have their jukebox going just about all the time.

System-wide “Always On Top”

Sometimes when I’m working on my MacBook, I’d like certain windows to stay on top of all others. Apple has given the ability to a select few apps — there’s an option in the iChat menu to keep the contact list always on top and a preference checkbox for the iTunes mini player.

But sometimes I’d like to have a small TV show window playing through iTunes on top of my other windows. Or for when I have some reference notes in a TextEdit window, it needs to be more readily available.

This could be added as a fourth button on the title bar or as a menu item, as it is in iChat.

Floating feather iTunes visualizer

A mesmerizing concept for an iTunes visualizer would be simply a feather that floats to the “air flow” of the song. For intense, bass-heavy moments, the feather might move rather erratically. During calmer moments in a song, it would float smoothly, like the intro to Forrest Gump.

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Put your ideas out there: It really works

If you’ve read Bigthawt’s About page, you should already have a good understanding of the site’s concept and what I hope it is able to accomplish in the future. In short, the hope is that this becomes a database of great ideas waiting for a Web developers, entrepreneurs, inventors or writer’s-blocked authors to like an idea, and contact the thinker behind the thawt to turn it into something.

And after reading the story behind self-described “thinker” Derek Powazek’s idea turned shareware app, I couldn’t help but smile.

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Mood predictor for iTunes

Smart Playlists in iTunes are incredibly useful, but require quite a bit of time and thought. Usually when I’m in the mood to hear a bunch of songs by a select few artists, I’ll manually pick out songs by those artists and drag them into Party Shuffle because the process of creating Smart Playlists simply takes too long.

Mood, a new “special playlist” in the same vein as Party Shuffle, would do all the Smart Playlist building for you. All you have to do is give it some clues by dragging in songs you definitely want to hear.

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‘iTunes Party Shuffle’ Dashboard widget

The iTunes Party Shuffle widget for the Mac Dashboard would display the upcoming tracks in the iTunes Party Shuffle, allowing the user to refresh the list, rearrange the track order, remove tracks and add tracks by dragging them from iTunes.The idea was inspired by Apple’s slick Cover Flow execution on the iPhone, where the album flips over when it’s selected showing the track list.

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