whyd, “A Human Pandora”, Really?

Been reading recent ink on whyd, a social record collection. They have an iPhone App available here.

whyd’s goal is to be a “Human Pandora “, which allows people to discover new music that they wouldn’t have found out about otherwise.

As a music connoisseur I’m resistant when it comes to someone “picking my music for me”. I rejected BeatsMusic as a music service because their music curation method presented itself like progressive FM disk jockey playlist, all filler no substance…

I consider myself a crate digger. I will happily comb through vinyl record crates for new music. In addition I search extensively through music magazine Web sites such as Rolling Stone, Uncut, MOJO Magazine, Paste, etc. for music recommendations.

Don’t get me wrong I’m open to human curation. I think we can benefit from another person’s music explorations, choices and playlist builds.

I keep expecting to see Spotify with their acquisition of The Echo Nest evidence “intelligent” software curation in the Spotify application.

I just installed the whyd app today so I don’t have enough time in service to comment on its capabilities yet. I will follow-up at a later time with a technical assessment of whyd.

Raspberry Pi and Music (Media Center) Technologies

We are on the brink of SXSW 2014 in Austin Texas. How I would love to attend that one day. Talk about your geek and music nirvana ;). SXSW 2014 will be the announcement site for Neil Young’s PONO high resolution music technologies. Can’t wait to write about that on March 11th which is the announcement day.

Speaking of computers, music and technology directions I have written a quick post about Raspberry Pi and Music (Media Center) technologies.

Raspberry Pi was released to the public as an Open Source Linux credit card sized computer on February 29, 2012. It celebrated its two year birthday yesterday, March 1, 2014. The technology initiative has grown substantially in that time frame. The latest estimate is that 2.5 million Raspberry Pi computers have been sold worldwide.

I liken Raspberry Pi to the Radio Shack, Popular Mechanics hobbyist crowd. Raspberry Pi is a raw, unfinished computer in comparison with say an Apple iPhone. In terms of finished goods Raspberry Pi has many exposed components. In order for you to fully engage yourself with Raspberry Pi and the software, peripherals, cables etc it’s best to posses an erector set mentality to persist with this experience. Raspberry Pi is playing a major role in the M2M: Internet of Things (iot) that is disrupting how we are reshaping the InterWeb.

My interest as a music technologist is specifically focused on the Raspberry Pi Media Center and Volumio (formerly known as the RaspyFi Project). The Raspberry Pi Media Center when connected to your Hi Def Television, WiFi and your cable Internet system becomes a powerful, self-programming solution for you to curate your own media programming. Volumio is an entirely new music system. It is designed to play all your music, whether is an Hi-Res file or a Web Radio, with the highest quality.

Once I get the Raspberry Pi Media Center I want to experiment with I will post again about what I am learning about this cool technology through my living room entertainment system.

Here are some resources that I have discovered to help you with Raspberry Pi, music and the technology.

O’Reilly Books

O’Reilly publishes the best technology books bar none ;). I am pleased to finally see a Raspberry Pi Cookbook available and written by Simon Monk.

Packt Publishing

A definitive source is the book, Raspberry Pi Media Center by Sam Nazarko. You also want to make sure you are browsing and keeping up with Raspbmc* at this Web site: http://www.raspbmc.com/about/

*Raspbmc is a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi.

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No thanks beatsMUSIC, I’ll be staying with Spotify

I have completed my trial evaluation of beatsMUSIC. I am impressed with their interface and “human” curation. But unfortunately I found beatsMUSIC a “Closed” cloud music solution. I am a music technologist who respects innovation and music software development. beatsMUSIC achieves those attributes to a “degree” but it lacks being an extensive “development” platform. beatsMUSIC doesn’t publish an application programming interface that encourages music software development.

I am staying with Spotify because it is an “Open” cloud music platform. Spotify allows me as a subscriber to choose the music application I wish to use to grow my music listening experience. Spotify offers a cloud music architectural platform that embraces music software engineering (music hackathons) to take place on a global scale. We in turn as listeners get the advantage of harnessing those apps and interpreting music from new vantage points. I don’t get those options at all from beatsMUSIC. beatsMUSIC programs my music for me (didn’t radio do that for decades…) or I can build a music playlist, underwhelming options, already available elsewhere if you ask me.

The true competitive advantage Spotify has over beatsMUSIC, Pandora, etc. are the applications Just like on Apple’s iPhone or the Android phone the rich set of applications helps to sophisticate the use of these devices. Spotify like Apple’s iOS is a software platform.

Let’s look at Spotify from the jazz listener point of view. The Spotify Web application has the option App Finder listed under the Apps section. I found two premier Spotify Jazz apps from 2013, Blue Note Record’s Timeline and JazzTimes Magazine and Concord Music Group The StylusThe Blue Note application leverages the Blue Note historical timeline of jazz. You can set various filters for jazz artists by sector (Tradition, Groove, Voices) and instruments.

The Stylus app was developed for JazzTimes and Concord Music Group by a development company known as Neon Roots. Albeit a random app to play with I find it intriguing to discover jazz genres and artists. Give it a spin sometime and see what I mean 😉

Spotify continues to innovate and invent on behalf of the music listener with a technological interest towards what lies next in the cloud music ecosystem.

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Berklee College of Music – MOOC Course, Introduction to Music

I enrolled in my first massive open online course (MOCC) with the Berklee College of Music. I am an educator  who is emphatic about online learning. I have a graduate degree in instructional design in online learning with Capella University. I earned my degree by participating in a three-year online learning program. I am now a practitioner of designing and delivering a computer network management curriculum with Canvas by Instructure, an Open Source Learning Management System  (LMS). Much of my courses are facilitated directly online along with virtual labs or as a “blended” learning solution of classroom and online learning combined.

When the opportunity presented itself to enroll in edX a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT I leapt at the chance to belong to this prestigious community. I realized I could learn more effectively about building, designing and offering MOOC curriculum as a student first, instructional designer second.

The course that appealed to me the most was the Introduction to Music course from a school I have always wanted to attend the Berklee College of Music (part of the edX consortium). I have an undergraduate degree with a major in business and a minor in music. I was missing the music university learning experience in my life.

This free online course will be facilitated online by John P. Kellogg, Esq., Assistant Chair of Music Business Management at Berklee College of Music. Mr. Kellogg is an entertainment lawyer who has represented the late Gerald Levert and the O’Jays. He was also the lead singer for Cameo.

John Kellogg has written a substantive book, Take Care of Your Music Business, Second Edition: The Legal and Business Aspects You Need to Know to Grow to 3.0. His book serves as the recommended reading resource for the course.

I hope to become better informed about the music business which I write about as a music journalist. I can write from a position of strength with authority about music business matters. This course will serve as a foundation for the research I am conducting about cloud music, artist’s rights and micropayments. 

I have read many Web music business and technology articles about the direction that cloud music is floating towards.  It’s a fascinating, controversial, evolution of the music industry. John Kellogg’s course and knowledge is helping to shape my understanding of how the music business operates. This will prove valuable in shoring up the foundation of music industry knowledge I must know.

Wish me luck with my online MOOC course experience. I’ll try to write another article about what I learned from John Kellogg and my fellow students six weeks from now 😉

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Talk About, X-Box Music

I was acknowledged by Hypebot, one of several music news services I follow that X-Box Music and GraceNote have entered into a strategic alliance. GraceNote and The Echo Nest represent two of the biggest metadata solutions for cloud music.

It stands to reason that since Apple iTunes has at its core a GraceNote database, that Microsoft would follow suit with X-Box Music since it closely mimics iTunes for Windows users. X-Box Music also differentiates itself from iTunes in several distinct ways.

For example, X-Box Music is now available as a distributed cross-platform application. X-Box Music became available today for Apple iOS and Google Android. X-Box Music is also available as a Web application and as a Windows 8.1 Panel App. X-Box Music is highlighted on the X-Box One where you can take advantage of X-Box Smart Glass and the full-range Dolby® Digital N1 SurroundBar for maximum high performance audio.

You can free stream X-Box Music on the Web and Windows 8 for six months. I will resort to that option after I trial X-Box Music on my Apple iPhone 4s with the 30 day trial. This device option requires an X-Box Music Pass which translates into having to give Microsoft X-Box Music a charge card to hold your account reservation for the first 30 days. I will cancel on day 30 because I want to experience X-Box Music as a digital music service via AT&T 4G, but I’m not convinced to pay $9.99 a month.

pass

Initial X-Box Music testing has been fun and immediate. It’s not cumbersome and distant like I found the Google Play interface and navigation experience. I was a Zune Music user for three years before I switched to Spotify North America, on Day 1, July 14, 2011. Quite frankly I would have stayed with Zune Music if they didn’t have such a disruptive and unfriendly (rude) non-transition strategy. I was never offered a transition from Zune to X-Box Music. I was orphaned by Microsoft as a Zune Music customer. I resent their lack of acknowledgement and appreciation of my customer loyalty.

I have enjoyed Spotify these past three and a half years. I realize as a technology professional that no technology is permanent. Spotify faces competitive challenges from Google Play and X-Box Music. I don’t see iTunes Radio as a competitive challenge for Spotify nor do I see Pandora, Rdio, Amazon Player or any of the other cloud music also rans as much of a joint threat for Spotify.

I do however see significant challenges for Spotify from next years cloud music solutions Beats Music and Neil Young’s PONO. To be quite honest with you I am leaning heavily towards PONO due to its promise of 100% high-resolution audio. I suspect that X-Box Music is MP3 320kbs just like Spotify but keep in mind Beats Music is sight and audio unseen for me. I am not one of the exclusive few who is testing Beats Music.

I appreciate the Beats Audio music chassis and how intelligent curation will expand and shape my listening experience. I have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor. I have yet to experience what the rest of the Beats Music team will bring us from the cloud.

Spotify is readying a December 11th New York City product and strategy announcement (supposedly it has something to do with a new feature that will allow users to pick specific tracks and listen to them on mobile devices for free?) I am eager to see if the 12/11 Spotify press conference will become a pre-emptive strike on Beats Music and You Tube Music (rumored but not formalized (announced) as of this writing) etc. Google Play should be integrated with YouTube Music if Google is smart, which they are 😉

So I continue to test X-Box Music with my ecosystem (iPhone, MacBook Pro (Web) and Windows 8.1 in VMware Fusion). I’d love to experience X-Box Music on X-Box One so I understand how that works and benefits listeners.

It will be an exciting time ahead for cloud music filled with new solutions, increased functionality and dimension from existing players and the anticipated fall-out in a crowded, competitive arena.

To the victors go the spoils!

I suspect that Beats Music will partner with GraceNote too. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised to see a Beats Music and The Echo Nest partnership. Beats Music open music architecture could make it real interesting cloud music battle.

 

Beats Music – Reading The Tea Leaves

I sip my freshly brewed tea anticipating the pattern of the tea leaves I will find in the bottom of my cup. I contemplate what will occur in the next rounds of competition in cloud music.

I am not concerned about Spotify and its ecosystem. Rumors of Spotify’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Spotify is very practical as it has a fluid model. It is a well architected cloud music platform with an open set of APIs. It is still very much the darling of the music hackathon global audience. Spotify’s effective use of The Echo Nest music back-end is superior to the “pay” model cloud music, look-alike/similar features crowd (amazon cloud player, X-Box music, Rdio, Google Play and Pandora).

The next shoe to drop could be Apple iRadio as early as the World Wide Developer Conference June 10-14. Apple may not announce iRadio the much rumored streaming subscription iCloud music service if they can’t secure revised licensing deals with Sony Music, Warner Music Group, and BMG. (See the latest MacRumors Web article “Difficult Negotiations May Prevent ‘iRadio’ Launch at WWDC“)

Taking a fresh sip I focus next on Beats Music, the brainchild of music industry visionaries Jimmy Iovine and Trent Reznor. Beats Music has acquired MOG Music  and appears to be architecting it to the vision of Trent, Jimmy and Dr. Dre. I wrote about this project when it was codenamed “Daisy” late last year.

There has been significant traction in the Beats Music company formation since that blog post. I have dug around in Google and LinkedIn to get a sense of what is transpiring.

Beats Music requires a well-articulated, open cloud music architecture to distinguish its offering from the present cloud music vendors, which I call the Round 1 players. I am curious how Beats Music will re-engineer the MOG distributed music service to meet that goal. Based upon the software engineering talent I see Beats Music attempting to hire they have their design and development work cut out for them.

I foresee Beats Music harnessing Beats Audio with renewed purpose on the Android and Windows Phone devices. I can’t visualize how the Apple IOS Beats Music dev team can get synchronicity with the lack of a similar Beats Audio chassis in the iPhone. I do recall that Tech Crunch mentioned that a meeting took place in March of this year that strongly hints at Apple and Beats Music partnering later this year (It’s a great hedge their bet play with i Radio don’t you think?)

The Music of Our Heart will continue to watch the Cloud Music skies for more definitive plans and announcements from Beats Music and Apple.

Oh and don’t forget when it comes to 100% high-resolution audio in the clouds we also have Neil Young’s PONO solution pending too. Could that be why Warner Music Group is dragging its feet with Apple? One never knows 😉 (Mind you that last comment was purely speculative on my part…)

Special Mention

Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre have warmed the cockles of the music of our heart with their $70 million endowment to the University of Southern California.

The duo’s gift will set up the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, an environment for those rare undergraduate students whose interests span fields such as marketing, business entrepreneurship, computer science and engineering, audio and visual design, and the arts. The program will prepare them to become a new generation of inspired innovators.

I Googled this announcement after reading the NY Times article from May 14, “Two Music Minds Seek a Different Kind of Mogul“.

The Beats Music ecosystem is establishing very firm academic roots. If you couple that with the investment funding that Beats Music has secured (Forbes: Blavatnik’s Investment In Beats’ Music Service Signals Major Change) I see this initiative as a very serious cloud music innovation play in the months and years ahead.

Google Play Music All Access Is Version 1.0

Google announced and demonstrated Google Play Music All Access at the Google I/O Conference today. A logical phase in the evolution of the Google Cloud Music strategy.

I signed up for a 30 day “free” trial. If I decide to pay for a monthly subscription it will cost me $7.99 a month ($9.99 if I decide to buy later).

Google positions Google Play as a Version 1.0 cloud music store. Google Music released in May 2011 translates Google Play into two-year beta. The question you may be asking is what did Google do in two years with Google Play? My direct response is “parity” with the rest of the cloud music players Pandora, Rdio, iTunes and Amazon Cloud Player. I respect “parity” can be an enormous undertaking but this makes Google Play a follower not a leader in the crowded cloud music marketplace.

She’s Not There

Three “natural” technology competitive advantages Google failed to capitalize on with Google Play 1.0.

1) YouTube integration (limited to Share YouTube Video now). This is a trump card for Google, especially since Google announced a YouTube subscription model just recently.

2) Google+ integration. Social networking with Google Play should be a slam dunk. Google Play Hangouts as a listening party makes perfect sense.

3) Voice activated Google Play is missing. “Okay Google. Play me Three Dog Night’s Celebrate.”

Google Play as the “Spotify” killer greatly exaggerates the situation.

High on my list is to hear Google Play on an HTC Beats Audio so I can better discern Google Play’s sound on a smart phone.

That’s my first take on Google Play.