Technology Blog, by: David Monaghan.

What I am Listening to Right Now, Part II.

Posted by David on April 7, 2006

You might have read in the first article, "What I am Listening to Right Now" that I tried and didn't have much luck with Pandora, well more accurately I had pretty good luck that didn't last long and never returned. The reason I became so fond of Pandora's service was that it enabled me to find music that I liked, but hadn't heard before. I found a lot of new bands and albums I didn't know about, besides I also found out the name of countless artists and songs which I heard and liked but didn't know who it was (how many people does that happen to, everyone who listens to the traditional radio?)

As you know my luck ran short, but my need for music doesn't wait long before it forces me to find some easy way to find and listen to music I like. Luckily Pandora was only providing me with an extra service, I already use iTunes frequently for listening to music, besides music I also have many subscriptions to talk radio shows (for lack of a better description) in podcast format. When I'm looking for new music, I check out the iTunes Music Store which lists albums other users have purchased or looked at relating to the artist you are currently viewing, that with the ability to preview almost every piece of content I really slim down my choices of music I need to purchase by selecting only songs or albums I know I will be frequently listening to.

I don't buy much, music is still too expensive, and I don't agree with the iTunes DRM setup so I'm holding what little money I would spend on media until things settle down in audio and video publishing town. What I have bought so far is very good, I've got it on all the devices I currently use as well so I'm at least mostly satisfied.

I can satisfy my music cravings for the time being, I focus right now on organizing my current collection and finding ways to share what I have with my friends, legally. iTunes does a great Job of organizing my digital audio and I have built up my entire collection into it and added album art, year, song numbers, and more into the tags of my mp3s. I have rated everything most important to me at this time and created virtual playlists which collect everything I have rated to make playlists of my favorite songs (2+, 3+, 4+, and 5 stars). The only thing I wish I could do is go through the genres and correctly edit each song but I'm not going to take the time until a system which allows multiple genres (on one song not a genre per song like current techniques) is available through iTunes (or any music player/organizer which has all the features iTunes currently has and is freely available).

My CDs are in a file cabinet, not organized really, but they are in a small holder and there are less than 25 (I think). I do have them all entered into Listal.com, a nice place to catalog movies, albums, and books (I actually prefer another service for books that I will mention another time). This is one way I share what I like with friends legally, but I don't have everything I listen to on there and there's a lack of information regarding which songs I like best. You can rate albums, but not songs, besides how good is a rating I set a year ago and never got around to changing?

I have grown very interested in the idea of having people know what I am actually listening to any any particular moment, not only now but in the past, "How many times did David listen to that Matisyahu album I let him borrow I wonder?" my friend Mark might ask himself. Now he can find out on last.fm. The web application actually keeps track of everything I listen to on iTunes (or at least every piece of audio I play on iTunes that the service recognizes, and that I play a certain amount of time, I noticed if I skip to another song sometimes it won't show up, a good thing I think). It's interesting for me especially to look through the bar graphs of songs I've listened to during various periods of time, and it gives me direction when looking for more to purchase. I should make it clear that iTunes doesn't upload what you play to last.fm or to any other place automatically, in order for last.fm to work an iTunes plugin must be installed which will collect information from tags on what you listen to in iTunes and upload it to last.fm when an internet connection is available; Again, no internet, no compatable music player (iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.), or no plugin (iScrobbler or jScrob2) and last.fm won't work for you (at least not for knowing what you listened to on your computer without the last.fm streaming player). The list of media players looks pretty good, I'm surprised to learn they support both WMP and iTunes. Here's the

Last.fm's streaming player let's you listen to music in a radio like system but with a few differences. First of all you can tag, rate, skip (skipping is most likely limited), and ban music as you listen and as you do what you play is listed on your profile. One of the nicest features of having access to your music preferences in a database is finding music you haven't heard and might like based on it's similarities to your collection and listening patterns. I'm not sure how deep last.fm goes into finding new music for you but there's a few ways they give you and I've been pleasantly surprised so far.

A combination of various tools like this will really help the media industries in my opinion. It would be hard to convince me that a change hasn't already been seen because of these various services; iTunes, last.fm, listal.com, and Pandora.com. Let's not forget MySpace.com, they aren't the teenage chat room you might have previously thought they were, they started in music and remain to be going in a great direction where this is concerned. Music by the people, not the giants, I think everyone can agree that the music pushed to the top should be pushed by the all of the people who have to (or want to) listen to it.

So, what are you listening to? How? I want to know, I'm interested, and I think other people are too.

Do you know of another service that helps to find, organize, or share music? Please drop a line or leave a comment, I'm happy to check out anything that will help. Also, let me know if you've tried any of the services I have mentioned, I'm interested to learn of your experiences.

Hopefully a Part III will come soon with news of Pandora.com or something new and just as useful, until then I hope this helps.


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