Music Interfaces is moving!

February 15, 2007

Dear Reader,

I’ve gone and bought a proper domain and will now cease updating this version of the blog. Please come and visit Music Interfaces at www.musicinterfaces.com where I intend to continue posting about wonderful – and occasionally not so wonderful – music technologies!

See you there, Colin.


Last.fm: excellent concert notification

February 13, 2007

Screenshot of last.fm gig screen

I recently posted about iConcertCal, a free iTunes plug-in that sought to provide notification of concerts based upon the iTunes library. Last night, I was clicking around my Last.fm account and stumbled upon its own concert notification system. Very nice it is too.

It’s very Web 2.0 as all of the concert listings are user-generated. Users can enter concert details and indicate whether they’re attending or on visiting other users’ pages and spotting an already listed gig can join to be displayed as attending. Gigs are displayed in the left sidebar under ‘Events’ of users’ chart pages. Last.fm makes concert recommendations based upon your – and your musical neighbours’ – listening habits. Tick boxes allow users to choose from one or more of the following choices: ‘Events I’m attending’, ‘Friends’ Events’, ‘Recommended Events (based on my profile + location)’ and ‘All Events Near Me’. With all but the last criteria selected, I’m shown an impressive selection of concerts, many of which I wasn’t aware of, but would consider attending (John Cale, Lee Scratch Perry, 4hero, Theatre of Hate, Adrian Sherwood and Manu Dibango to name but a few). There are a few misses – the prospect of seeing The Killers or The Arcade Fire doesn’t interest me at all, but I suspect would a few of my Last.fm registered friends.

I’m also glad to see that since this functionality was first iterated in a very limited fashion, it’s now possible to see past events that you’ve attended and if they’ve been covered in users’ blogs, links are dynamically generated to those reviews.

I’m very happy to note that all of this information is available via RSS feed so I don’t have to keep checking back on the Events page, but can instead see it in my preferred newsreader. Unfortunately, I can’t link to my page for you to look at as you have to be logged in to see it, otherwise the URL defaults to the Last.fm homepage. I do think this is a brilliant addition to Last.fm and really deserves to be promoted much more widely than it currently appears to be. It could really drive traffic to the service. If you don’t already have a Last.fm account – now’s the time!


Additions to this site

February 9, 2007

As well as regular posts, I’ve been working on some overview pages, two of which are now visible below the image header: Overview: mp3 players and Overview: music recommendations. These pages aren’t finished, but I wanted to publish them to get going on on them. I’ll be updating and extending them as I go. I hope they prove useful. Any advice gratefully received. I will be adding one or two more of these overviews in the future.


Reaction to Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Music

February 8, 2007

Screenshot of Steve Jobs statement

Reaction has been mixed: The Economist thinks Jobs is dead right, but PC Mag quotes an unimpressed Norwegian Consumer Rights Group spokesperson as follows:

“ITunes Music Store and others are unfair to consumers no matter how many download services follow the proprietary approach,” wrote Torgeir Waterhouse, a senior advisor at The Norwegian Consumer Council, in response to a letter written by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and posted on the Apple Web site on Tuesday.

More: NYT: Europe Cool to Apple’s Suggestions on Music, Digg listing on ‘Steve Jobs DRM’


‘Thoughts on music’ – Steve Jobs writes about DRM

February 7, 2007

Screenshot of Steve Jobs statement

In an unprecedented move, Steve Jobs has published a statement entitled Thoughts On Music in which he details his views on DRM. Unsurprisingly, he states that iPods can freely play music ripped from CDs and other media before laying responsibility for the increasingly unpopular rights management applied to music sold via the iTunes Music Store fairly and squarely at the feet of the big record companies:

Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

He then goes on to suggest three future scenarios: continuing on the current course with incompatible players and systems (not at all desirable for users), licensing Apple’s Fairplay DRM to third parties (deemed highly problematic because difficult to control) and thirdly to abolish DRM (is that cheering I hear in the distance?) with the following argument:

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

Given the growing number of European countries threatening to pursue Apple in the courts, Jobs’ statement is timely. Needless to say, the web is awash with the news, it’s excellent PR and it puts Jobs firmly on the side of the consumer.

Link: Jobs’ statement on the Apple site
Further comment: Macworld , Playlist, TechCrunch


CDRs mimic the vinyl they replace

February 5, 2007

Close-up of CDR

Sacrilegious to some, fascinating to others I guess. CDRs could certainly do with being made a little more interesting.

Link: product page
Via: Tokyomango


Good introduction to ear-canal headphones (Playlist)

February 4, 2007

three types of canal headphones

As more and more people own iPods, Zens, and Zunes, and use those players in noisy environments, in-ear-canal headphones—commonly known as “canalphones” or “in-ear monitors”—have become increasingly popular. As a high-quality option for replacing the cheap headphones included with portable music and media players, the selection of canalphones has, over the past decade, evolved from a few expensive models to a wide-open market with dozens of choices across a wide price range.

I bought my first pair of ear-canal headphones a couple of years ago – Shure E3Cs. Once I’d got the hang of how best to wear them (over the ear, but with the cord hanging down under my chin), I’ve found them to be really comfortable to the point of not being aware that I’m wearing them. The sound is generally excellent – though the sub-bass of Dubstep and Jungle does get rather lost, however I suspect the same would happen to other types of headphone as well. Needless to say, I’d love to hear what the top end ear-canal versions sound like. Even before buying my Shures I used what the article refers to as canalbuds, but the difference in the general richness of the sound is really noticeable. I did notice when getting friends to try out the canalbuds that the sound took a little while to get used to – particularly when swapping from the iPod default headphones which although woolly and undistinguished sound initially a little fuller. Once acclimatised there was no way of going back though.

Link: Playlist article

There’s another shorted and less detailed introduction just been published at MacWorld.