Apple Music Seeks to Dethrone Spotify

As if world dominance in mobile enterprise was not enough, now Apple want’s your “streaming” dollars as well. During this week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) Apple announced their desire to master the streaming world as well. Apple had tried this before when they purchased Beats but that went nowhere.

Apple spoke for 2+ hours about their new upcoming streaming service which will cost subscribers about $10 per month with no free version available.

“We do have one more thing,” Cook said near the end of the keynote, when he announced the $10-per-month music streaming service, essentially a rebranded and revamped Beats Music, which Apple acquired last year as part of the $3 billion deal for the headphone maker Beats Electronics.

Record producer and label owner Jimmy Iovine, who joined Apple, as did his partner Dr. Dre, as part of the Beats purchase, stepped on stage for the first time at a company event to introduce Apple Music. “The music industry is a fragmented mess,” Iovine said. “Can we build a bigger and better ecosystem?”

Apple Music will be a single app where a customer’s entire music collection will reside, but will also provide access to an on-demand backlist catalog leaning on the human-curated playlists that Beats made popular if not profitable. “Algorithms can’t do that emotional task,” argued Iovine.

iTunes purchases and established playlists on iOS and OS X devices will be automatically integrated with Apple Music, said Eddy Cue, who heads Internet software and services, and manages the company’s music business. Cue demonstrated the new app, walking through the various components and features of Apple Music, including integration with Siri to call up tracks, genres, tunes from a specific year or those played on a film’s soundtrack.

Apple Music will launch June 30 on iOS, OS X and Windows in more than 100 countries — on Android and Apple TV this fall — for $9.99 a month, $14.99 for a family plan of up to six, after a three-month free trial.

It is believed by many that Apple at least has a shot at unseating the current leader in paid subscriptions, Spotify. However I would not place any bets on this myself.

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Microsoft’s Play with OneDrive for Your Music

Could Microsoft be on the way to stealing some of Apple's iTunes users?

Could Microsoft be on the way to stealing some of Apple’s iTunes users?

If you are a dedicated OneDrive user like me, and if like me you have “unlimited” OneDrive space the one thing missing from this perfect cloud storage relationship is a built in music player for OneDrive. With unlimited storage (with Office 365) there is no end to the amount of music that you can store in the cloud. However Microsoft has not built in a music player for OneDrive… but that is about to change.

Microsoft announced today that the company is selling its MixRadio music service to LINE however at the same time the company is about to make some serious improvements to its Xbox Music service and it comes with a little help from OneDrive.

There has been rumor and real evidence recently that OneDrive was going to soon support music storage. An upcoming update to both OneDrive and Xbox Music will make it possible to store your music in OneDrive and access it anywhere using the Xbox Music app.

It is also believed that there will be an option to import playlists from other services, such as iTunes.

This update for Xbox Music and OneDrive will make it easier to access your content on nearly any device and proves Microsoft’s commitment to the music streaming service. This this means that music lovers like me with large audio libraries will be able to listen to all of their music, anywhere, without any additional fees.

This is a big deal for Microsoft because Apple currently charges $24.99 for a very similar service.

It is believed by many that the update could roll out soon. I will be watching closely for this update and report on it as soon as I get a chance to check it out. This will be Microsoft’s attempt to snatch some users from Apple and other music services for Xbox Music.

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Music Coming to OneDrive

My favorite cloud storage service is apparently about to get even better.

With unlimited storage coming to OneDrive all of my my music will be able to travel with me, wherever I go!

With unlimited storage coming to OneDrive and the ability to handle music all of my my music will be able to travel with me, wherever I go!

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Music storage is repprtably coming to OneDrive. This has been the one feature Microsoft’s cloud storage service has been missing. A tipster to Windows Central points out that going to this link will automatically create a folder for your tunes in Redmond’s cloud ecosystem, and when the feature officially hits it will apparently bring an additional 20GB of free storage with it too. The service will reportedly be free and your music will be accessible across a range of devices including Windows 8.1 computers, phones and tablets, browsers Xbox.

This is another demonstration of the impending cloud dominance of our devices and services. Very soon the size of your physical drive, be it on your smartphone, tablet or even PC will be minimized in it’s importance.

These past couple of month’s have been good to Microsoft and OneDrive’s ability to store and play music will play a big part in Microsoft’s dream of conquering the cloud space.

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What is Qello?

Windows Phone screenshot.

Windows Phone screenshot.

I probably should be covering this story over at our sister blog, www.mannmusicjourney.com however I wanted to make sure anyone who read this fine blog and enjoys music is aware of Qello. This app has been available on Android and iOS for quite a while and now it also comes to Windows Phone. In addition Qello is also available on Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV.

So what is Qello anyway?

Qello is billed as the Netflix of music concerts and documentaries.

The app offers access to a large collection of full length HD concerts and music documentaries, on demand, and a variety of genres are covered, from rock and country to jazz and blues, indie, metal, hip hop and, of course, pop.

Here is their official description:

“Do you love live music? Qello brings the concert to you – wherever you are, whenever you want it. Qello is the world’s largest collection of full-length HD concerts and music documentaries on demand.

Whether you want to watch Tom Petty, Jethro Tull or Coldplay in concert on your phone or a documentary about The Doors, The Grateful Dead, or JayZ on your tablet, Qello delivers the ultimate music experience – in crystal clear High Definition video. Qello’s library of full-length live concert videos spans the spectrum of musical genres, from the 1920s to days, giving every music lover a feast of entertainment.”

Not only can you enjoy thousands of concerts in HD you can even select specific tracks, within the concert.

Not only can you enjoy thousands of concerts in HD you can even select specific tracks, within the concert.

The documentaries are equally entertaining, providing backstage access and more.

Although the app is free, the service is not. You can sign up for $4.99 a month to get your hands on the full collection, though a free 7-day trial is on offer. I actually checked this out several months ago using the trial and by the end of the day I had signed up. It really is like Netflix for music fans. I actually use this for the most part on my Amazan Fire TV and the concerts and look and sound great on my 60″ TV and home theater.

You can learn more about Qello here.

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Apple & Beats Combine Forces

In a surprising move, at least to me Apple is actually set to purchase Beats.

Apple will buy Beats for about $3 billion and bring recording mogul Jimmy Iovine into its ranks, hoping to win points with the music industry and help it catch up in fast-growing music streaming market.

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As expected, Beats co-founders Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition of the music streaming and audio equipment company.

While the price tag represents a very small portion of Apple’s roughly $150 billion cash flow, it marks a significant departure for a company that for two decades has stuck mainly to acquisitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

what really surprises me is that Apple, the once dominate player in innovation has turned to trying to buy it’s way into the growing music streaming market. This is something new for Apple and makes me wonder if real innovation is in the rear view mirror for Apple.

The deal is seen as Apple’s effort to jump-start an uneven attempt to make headway in music streaming, the fastest-growing segment of the market, as iTunes sales decline. Meanwhile Pandora Media Inc and Spotify have raced ahead while Apple’s eight-month-old iTunes Radio has not made a dent with subscribers.

To add further woes for Apple music downloads have continued to decline and record labels have been putting pressure on Apple to get its act together on streaming. It is believed that the record labels hope Apple can turn Beats Music into a strong competitor to Spotify and other streaming services.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, Apple said on Wednesday, May 28.

 

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Goodbye iTunes

51a50hbQS1L__SL500_AA300_It seems like it has been years now that I have been stuck with iTunes and although I have really grown tired of if it was never really possible to find a music management application and player to both handle my music library on the PC and my mobile devices. In fact I still have an old iPod and iPhone that I have been using if I wanted to listen to music “on the go”.

Since switching to an Android phone several months ago I have been searching for something to replace iTunes and my old iPod player. If you have an account with Amazon.com and especially if you are a prime member you may want to check out the Amazon Cloud Player.

First did you know that if you purchase a CD on Amazon in most cases you get the digital download of the album? Once I installed and setup the Amazon Cloud Player the digital versions of many albums were sitting there ready for me. Some of these CDs I had purchased 5 years ago!

One music platform to control them all, even if you purchased a physical copy of a CD years ago (through Amazon). Goodbye ITunes!

One music platform to control them all, even if you purchased a physical copy of a CD years ago (through Amazon). Goodbye ITunes!

The Amazon Cloud Player is east to install and does not take over your PC in the same annoying way that iTunes does. I am still learning how to use it but so far it has been a refreshing change from iTunes. The Amazon Cloud Player on mobile devices is also very easy to install and use.

There are many great capabilities of this music player (mobile & pc) which I really like. Here are some of the capabilities I have been impressed with.

  • Lets you play, manage and download all your music with ease and convenience.
  • Incorporates ‘smart’ features to ensure that you get the most out of your music experience with the least amount of effort.
  • Amazon Cloud Player for PC is fast.  It’ll get you from launch to play in seconds.
  • Simply launch Amazon Cloud Player for PC and it will add your iTunes, Amazon and Windows Media Player music for you.  Now you can finally play all your music from one place.
  • Amazon Cloud Player for PC detects and adds new music to your library even if you bought it from iTunes or ripped a CD.  Your music library will always be organized and up-to-date.
  • The Amazon Cloud Player is free for both iPhone and android devices.

If you haven’t tried Amazon’s Cloud Player, and you have an Android, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, perhaps now is the time to give it a test drive. You get 5 GB of free storage up front, and you can upload and stream any tracks you already have with it. Anything purchased from the Amazon MP3 store can be automatically added to your Cloud Drive without counting against your storage quota. What’s more, Amazon will give you an extra 15 GB of free storage when you purchase at least one MP3 album, bringing your storage limit up to 20 GB.

You can learn more and down the Amazon Cloud Player here.

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Don’t Leave Me Now

Ian Mann... your brother misses you and wants you to stop by to play.

Ian Mann… your brother misses you and wants you to stop by to play.

OK – I admit it. This is a technology blog, not a personal blog and I get it. So don’t worry tech bloggers I will be launching a personal blog very soon which you will be able to find at http://www.mannmusicjourney.com. But in the meantime be patient because at the heart of technology is the desire of mankind to communicate with one another… and I am communicating.

Anyway, my beautiful wife and boys aside, Star Trek and technology aside and history there is nothing that comforts me more then music. It is in music that my past meets my present and leads to an undiscovered future. It is also in music that my dear little brother lives within me. My heart remains these past few months broken and shattered and whenever moments of quite are upon me I reflect and dream of my little brother, who I loved so very much. What I would do now – for one more fleeting moment with him. One more argument about politics, one more discussion about sports or science or music or just to be with him and share a pint or two. Sadly that is not going to happen. However today music and memories of my little brother collided. Ian probably never heard this song. He was so much younger then me. This Supertramp song always resonated with me, from the first time I heard it. Now remember that was back in 1982. It is as if this song’s true meaning sat in queue waiting especially for me… because of my family’s particular tragedy.

In this song I do think of me… however I really think of my beautiful sister-in-law, Brianna who Ian loved and continues to love from the stars. This 1982 song is straight on with how I feel in those most quiet of darkest nights thinking of Ian. The aimless journey of the kayak in this video is actually kind of true to the journey we all lead through life.

I promise to move music and non-technical articles to my upcoming personal blog, www.mannsmusicjourney.com soon.

You can learn more about the 1982 Supertramp album, “…Famous Last Worlds…”, their last truly great album here.

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Introducing the LP Browser

Check out another Blog Site that I am partnered with at www.lpbrowser.blogspot.com.

If you love music and have or collect vinyl records be sure to check it out.

Here are some random examples of the custom made, handcrafted LP Browsers which are made out of the wood selected by the customer such as Douglas Fur, Poplar, Maple and Oak and stained in any style requested.

These presented here are proudly owned, displayed and used by this very blogger!

There will always be a link to the LP Browser Blog on the left panel of this fine blog.

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Vinyl 101

Oh What To Spin Now?

Technology sometimes, if rarely, does shift backward. This does not occur very often because in most cases technology changes improve on what has occurred before. There are a few examples of when looking backward can actually be a good thing.

Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s was a wonderful time, especially if you had an ear for music, which I did. Classic Rock was all around me and consumed much of my time, both in listening, collecting and enjoying the sheer awesomeness of the artwork. Like most people in my age group, let’s just say the late 40’s most of my vinyl was eventually sold or given away when CDs burst onto the scene in the 90’s.

What a mistake that was! During the past couple of years I have rediscovered vinyl and a new hobby was born. And I am not the only one to rediscover vinyl. Vinyl sales have been steadily growing during the past few years and most artists are now actually releasing vinyl versions of their new material. Because of these factors vinyl is one of the few exceptions where technology takes a step into the past.

Why Buy Vinyl?

There are two basic reasons for this: You are an audiophile, and appreciate the sound of analog recordings, or you simply like the sound of vinyl records, packaging, and turntables. And it usually is both! But the aesthetics, the physical aspect of it, is pretty key to its appeal. These records are more beautiful and substantial than CDs, which mostly have the look of office supplies, and they are the best way to make purchasing music feel like something. Vinyl allows you to have a sentimentality about albums — there’s a tactile quality, a ritual to pulling a record out of a sleeve and putting it on and focusing your attention on the act of listening for one side at a time. Even if you still mainly listen to music on your computer or iPod, it gives you the option of having a more special experience with your favorite albums, and an object you can display in your home.


Is Buying Vinyl A Smart thing To Do?

In my opinion buying vinyl records today is the truly only way to purchase music that is likely to give you a return on your investment. You can’t resell a digital file, and in most cases, CDs have almost no value on the secondary market. Vinyl records — new or old — retain a lot of value, and so long as your copy is in decent condition and there is some demand for the title, you can often make a profit if you choose to sell. You probably shouldn’t get into buying vinyl as a way to make money — there are much easier ways to do that — but it’s definitely nice to know that if you had to, you could sell your collection.  But I of course have no intention of selling mine.

What Does Analog Mean?

Analog means that there is a continuous signal in which the varying part of the signal is a representation of another time-varying quantity. So, when it comes to sound recordings, the instantaneous voltage of the signal varies continuously with the pressure of the sound waves. Basically, the groove of a vinyl record is like a drawing of the sound wave in a single continuous line through the entire side. Your turntable essentially reads that and decodes it in real time, which results in the sound you hear from the speakers.

How Is Vinyl Different Then Digital?

Digital signals are not continuous. They are discrete, which means that they send a series of samples of an audio signal’s power at precise intervals. Sound does not naturally break down, so a digital system subdivides it into bits, the smallest possible form of information. This is binary code, so everything is broken down into one of two directives, which is typically described as 0 and 1. The benefit of binary code is that by breaking down information to its smallest possible form, it can represent virtually anything with only two elements.

Does Vinyl Actually Sound Better Then Digital?

Sometimes. It depends on a lot of factors, and most of them have to do with the quality of your turntable, amplifier, and speakers, and I will get to that in a future post. If you’re listening to a vinyl record, CD, or high-quality digital file of the same song on a good stereo system, you probably won’t notice a lot of difference between what you’re hearing unless there is a problem with the actual physical media — scratches, dust, defects. There have been many studies that show that the untrained ear can’t discern these differences, and that those who favor one format have a confirmation bias based on their preferences or values going into the test.

Why Do I Like Vinyl Sound So Much Better then Digital Sound?

There are aspects of vinyl records and analog recordings in general that you definitely can notice beyond the pops and crackles of surface noise. This sound is actually a result of analog’s limitations in capturing and reproducing sound, particularly on the low end of the mix. Digital recordings are far more accurate than analog recordings and can capture a much broader dynamic range. Analog recording is much less detailed, and the gaps in data result in a slight abstraction of sound that is often very pleasing to the ear. You get a very similar difference between images captured on film as opposed to digital cameras – purely digital recording can feel too precise, cold, and clinical, and lose the “warmth” and humanity many people associate with analog technology.

Do You Need a Stereo Receiver to Enjoy Vinyl?

Yes. If you are buying a stand-alone turntable, you will need the receiver – or just an amplifier – to process the signal from the turntable and line out to your speakers. This is where the volume and audio control knobs for your system will be. Some receivers will have a radio built in, and you can line other things into the receiver too, like CD players and televisions.

 
 
 
Setting Up the Receiver
 
If you have a turntable with a built-in pre-amp, it’s as simple as connecting everything with the appropriate RCA cables and stereo wire. If your turntable has no pre-amp, it will be a bit more complicated because you will need to “ground” the system so that electricity flows properly or you will hear a constant low-pitched hum through your speakers.
 
Buying Vinyl
 
Anywhere they sell it, really. If you don’t live near a record store, you can’t go wrong with Amazon since it stocks a wide range of new vinyl at reasonable prices and will ship anywhere. There are other good online shops such as my personal favorite Discogs. You can buy vinyl from the official websites of many artists and most independent labels. Buying used records this way, or at record fairs or garage sales, is a great way to build up a solid collection without spending a lot of money. Probably the most fun way to purchase vinyl is to find a local record shop, like the Electric Avenue Music at 323 East Gay Street in West Chester PA where you can simply browse until you find something that catches your eye… and ear. This is also the best way to meet really cool people who also have a love of vinyl.
 
 
 
 
What Is The deal with 180 Vinyl?
 
Most new albums will be very well made and sound great on even an average stereo system. A lot of new records will have some sticker announcing that it’s on “180 gram” vinyl, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re an audiophile. The thicker, heavier vinyl will degrade more slowly than a thinner pressing and the records will stand up to repeat play a little better. That said, all vinyl degrades a tiny bit every time you play it. Not to worry though I still enjoy a lot of vinyl that was pressed in the 1950s and 1960s.
 
 
What About Old Albums Released on 180?
 
You should be cautious of new reissues of old albums on vinyl. In many cases, the master is made from the most recent CD of the title because the record label does not have access to the original analog master. If you are into the “warmth” factor, like me this totally defeats the point of having the recording in this format because you are basically just buying a lesser, imperfect version of a CD. If you’re unsure about whether a new reissue is sourced from CD, take the time to do some research beforehand. If you have the option of finding an original vinyl pressing of the album, you should just do that. 
 
Buying Old Vinyl (My Favorite Part)
 
If you are planning to acquire vinyl copies of your favorite albums, you should know that many records either were never released in the format, or were released in very small numbers and are now out of print. The latter is especially true of vinyl produced in the ’90s through the early ’00s, when vinyl sales were at their lowest and CDs completely dominated the market. Vinyl pressings for major-label albums released in this era can be incredibly difficult to find and very expensive to buy on the secondary market. Searching sources like Discogs is probably your best bet here.


Storing Your Vinyl

You should always store your records in a cool, dry place, and have them standing up vertically. If you stack them on top of one another, you run a high risk of warping the vinyl. If your records are warped, they will never sound right again, and you can’t fix it. It can be a challenge to find just the right way to store your vinyl that works in your home. Customized “LP Browsers” like the one pictured above is the best way to go. You can learn more about the amazing “LP Browser” here.

There is so much to cover regarding vinyl that I will post a second article soon….

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Pink Floyd Invades Spotify

A month or so ago my son was praising the merits of the internet music service, Spotify. I checked it out and there is a lot to like about it but I had a couple of problems with it.
 
You can now enjoy the entire awesome Pink Floyd catalog on Spotify.
 
1. Although there is a free version of this – you can not listen to Spotify on mobile devices without paying $9.99 per month. That is too expensive for me, especially since I already am a subscriber to Sirius/XM Radio.
 
2. My son went on about the massive song selection, however I found that there was almost no Pink Floyd there. This was a big problem for me.
 
Meanwhile, shortly after I checked out and gave up on Spotify my favorite rock group Pink Floyd gave the green light to Spotify to host the band’s entire catalog. Why did the greatest rock band ever formed do this? Well apparently Pink Floyd announced earlier this month that it would resist releasing its music on Spotify until the 1975 classic “Wish You Were Here” hit 1 million streams.
 

Well, the song hit 1 million, and Spotify announced via Twitter that Pink Floyd’s tunes are now unlocked.

You can check out Spotify at www.spotify.com.

Now I have a decision to make….

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