apple music streaming service

*from the perspective of a broke anti-streaming slacker*

Thanks to the annoyingly catchy and _trendy_ tv commercials it’s pretty hard to miss the news that apple have started a music streaming service. For anyone that has an iphone and has bought an app, and therefore has an itunes account, it’s very easy to opt into and start the free three month trial of “Apple Music”. Important reminder: go into the settings and turn off automatic subscription renewal.

The first noteworthy thing is that 3 month trial. Three months is a long time. It’s very clever. Not many companies would have the capital to pay for all that initial set up without some return in the near future. More importantly, for schleppers like me three months is long enough to get hooked.

Up til now there have been a couple of global streaming services – spotify and pandora. I tried spotify for about half an hour and was not impressed. They have no free trial. If you want to listen to it for free then they insert lame-oh advertisements after every second song – thus turning your favourite album into bad radio.

So I started trialling the apple service a couple of weeks ago expecting it to be rubbish. It’s not but the jury’s still out on whether I’d actually pay for it. It’s 12bucks a month in Australia so over a year $144 which if you’d decided to take a different path through reality, would be I guess about 6 physical albums. If at the end of that year you cancel the service then you’re left with nothing except those sweet memories. And then there’s always the chance apple will raise the price.

For me one of the big sticking points is that it’s streaming. That’s okay at home using the internet and wireless router but for outside I’m a) on a budget phone plan and use phone megabytes sparingly. I try to make 100Mb last for two months. It doesn’t work but there’s certainly no room for 4Mb per song or whatever it is. B) Even cellular coverage in Australia is patchy let alone the thought of streaming via wifi while out and about. I lose phone reception on the train between Geelong and Melbourne. But at home it’s fine and I was listening to music all day and it didn’t use any noticeable amount of bandwidth here.

The main thing I was dubious about was what music they had available. One neat thing is you just use the itunes program on computer or app on a phone the same as you would with your own _owned_ albums. So for the last two weeks I’ve been quizzing it. I think of some old or somewhat obscure artist and think Oh you got that? – look it up and mostly I’ve been impressed. Although my musical taste has been sliding to a slightly more mainstream point over the last ten years.

They got 13th floor elevators, they got Stetsasonic, they got Ganggajang and they even got this album (just packaged differently) :

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 Of course it’s always possible to find the odd artist here or there that’s not on the service, perhaps because the artist had previously taken control of the copyright to their music — taking it from whichever company originally published it. An example it the ’90s Melbourne indie group, Sandro. Their album Hate Songs is not on there. But then you could trawl five or six music shops in Melbourne and not find the CD there either.

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Here is a list of other failings I found.

  •  The Bell Sisters. I tried loading up an album of theirs. It was a compilation but I don’t know that they ever really did proper albums. Some music librarian data entry person goofed because instead of those two ’50s girls voices I got Duke duke duke duke of Earl.
  •  Swervedriver. Despite being a pretty popular alternative crusty UK grungish rock outfit in their time, Swervedriver ended up with a series of record deals from hell — or something like that. A couple of good albums were essentially buried, deleted and difficult to get a hold of for years and years after release (in the ’90s). And indeed 1995’s Ejector Seat Reservation is missing.
  • Occasionally songs just don’t come through. Like Guantanameraby The Sandpipers. It’s the lead track of their 1966 album, Guantanamera. I click on it – and nothing. Yet the other tracks from the album play. *[Edit]* A week later I try it again and now it’s working.
  • Even for a well known artist like Aphex Twin there’s a whole lot of stuff that’s not there – like (one of my faves) the EP Mike Flowers Pops Vs The Aphex Twin, and the Mike & Rich album. That’s one thing but also Richard D James recorded under a whole load of names (AFX, Polygon Window etc.). The iTunes interface could make it much clearer in linking collections of music made by the same artist. There is an ‘artists you may also like’ thing on the side but then for example on the Aphex Twin page it lumps AFX in with completely unrelated, maudlin try-hards Autechre.

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My other major criticism is the search function is always steering you back to the popular. I look up an artist and you get in order, top singles, top albums, and then ‘albums’. The top result is nearly always a ‘best of’ compilation.

I like drilling back, finding who influenced who and I just prefer to go about it more studiously most of the time and listen to one album at a time.

Or at least that’s the theory. The convenience of looking up any music you can think of and have it playing a few seconds later is pretty mind-blowing. I’m still in the phase of engorging myself and barely getting to the end of one song before going on to the next thing.

*What I’d like, uh-huh*

I’d like to be able to search by record label. I type in Tommy Boy, and I want to see a list of the albums released by that label. Same with 4AD and so on.

I’d like to be able to click on that 150 X 150 px jpeg of the album cover and then get a much larger HIRES version of it to look at and if possible be able to flip to the liner notes or inside fold artwork.

For us cellular-challenged Australians I’d like to see a function where an album or selection of songs could be downloaded onto an iphone in a way so that the album could be played once but then be locked — so it’s not being _stolen_ but can be listened to once at least, offline before getting back to somewhere with wifi.

I’d like to be able to use the Siri voice recognition function (on computer as well as phone) to cue up albums or songs using only speech so that I might feel *LIKE A GOD*.

A whole other thousand words could be written about how streaming audio media is going to completely reshape the experience of music but I can’t do it now. I can barely think because of Jello Biafra & DOA’s Full Metal Jackoff is rattling the windows — I haven’t heard it (or thought of it) since the sharehouse in Westgarth in ’95.

PS. It was just in the news that Australians love to pirate media more than most countries, and it was pointed out that if movies or whatever were more easily accessible (legally) and priced reasonably then people would go for it. This is where Apple Music is succeeding – in comparison, torrenting albums is arduous. And the streaming service is relatively reasonably priced.

happy? Happy in Paraguay.

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While I’m on lists here are some other things I’m enjoying.

  1. Friendly old people! Folks who don’t scowl, look you in the eye when passing and even say hello sometimes.
  2. Small talk at the counter when purchasing items. I’ve completely forgotten how to do this. Living in a non-english spkng cntry is a form of assbergers all by itself.
  3. Early afternoon scoping the supermarket for Reduced Price items. Some would say I’m spending too much time in the supermarket…  But just look at this:
  4. <div align:”center”><a href=”” title=”meat-sm by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”218″ height=”227″ alt=”meat-sm” /></a></div>
  5. $2.70 for this steak. Funny thing is that I was veggo before going to korea these 5 years ago, but steak is so expensive there I can’t help but buy and eat this.
  6. People from non-english speaking countries who don’t give a rat’s arse about their pronunciation of English. I’ve realised that korean people being self-conscious of their english speaking ability _while still in korea_ is their version of ‘does my bum look big in this?’
  7. People who’ve come here from other countries in general. It was a strange year last year in that I was watching the SBS news online three or four times a week, and while it did produce some raw info, I now am starting to see the slant that they, consciously or not, put on things simply to create tension. Asylum seekers was a constant, and just because of the way they framed it even I –from where I was– was thinking, well gee can australia really take any more refugees? And bless me if it wasn’t _malcolm fraser_ to set my head straight by saying that back in the 70s or whenever, plenty more people were coming here (from places like vietnam) and it doesn’t seem to have done the country any harm — far from it. In fact the pie I just ate for lunch was got from a bakery run by vietnamese people, and it was great!
  8. Looking at attractive women who look like they could be from almost anywhere and not just korea or possibly china.

Having said that, there are two things I am missing.

  1. My sweetie. Whenever I go out I start to imagine how much fun she’d be having if she was here. On the train, her: What’s that? Me: That’s the yarra river. Her: Yuddah!? -she’d say in her chortling, amused but not-in-a-negative way. She’d love it here.
  2. Playing my guitars on my amp. True I have two here, but these are the ones I want to get rid of, and an elctric with no electricity isn’t much use in my opinion.

All up it’s been a really pleasant stint back. Comparing to, a couple of years ago, I was walking around and felt a bit like being haunted by the ghosts of my own past. Seeing places I’d been, remembering things I’d done.  I’m still getting that but it’s more mellow now.

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It’s interesting to grok a bit more how the different media channels are used and or not used between here and where I live.

I did find that the local public library has free wifi access. Bring along your laptop and provided you have a library card, there’s no limits on time or MBs. Thank god for that! How the heck else am I supposed to get anything else done here?

I like that the ABC and SBS have a lot of interesting docos on. There’s been some good ones on music, and the thing is, I wouldn’t know these existed while sitting in Korea, even if they were downloadable. And it’s good that SBS and ABC now have an extra channel each, because the commercial stations are doing a lot less well, mainly due to the fact that they have commercials. When I’m watching a d/loaded movie at home I hit the spacebar to pause when I want to refresh my beverage or take a toilet break. If I’m watching commercial telly here, I can use ad breaks for this, but there are way more commercial breaks than there are things to get up for. And basically it’s an insult to the intelligence to be exposed to the same fucking ads over and over.
If there weren’t so many people living in Richmond, I’d be a major proponent for nuking GTV9 from orbit. “Nothing but shit” should be their slogan. Chopping parts out of movies for no other reason than to suit their timetabling, and the fact that they let shows run up to 15 minutes longer than scheduled are two things they do regularly.

It’s amazing how the proliferation of broadband in Korea shapes things compared to the broadband starved Australia. I don’t see (legit) DVDs on sale hardly anywhere there. In Hoju, they’re everywhere.

I’m guessing that the US is somewhere in between these two extremes, but I would say that the future is online. Commercial tv will go down first. There may be a chance for news channels to offer an online-style subscription service provided there were no ads, at least not in their present two-dimensional, 30 second format. I don’t know, but what I do know is that australia is becoming culturally impoverished because only a small few here are able to share in Happy in Paraguay.

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Hi There

I had to record this. Last night I was watching the third episode of what likely will be the only season of an american tv show called ‘Damages’ starring Glen Close and Ted Dancin’. There was a scene where the main character — the younger woman was sitting at home with news-radio on softly in the background when in comes her fiance. Dialog commences.  BUT the news V-O in the background is the same as is used in on of the <a href=””>Fensler GI Joe PSAs</a>. A little quick googling shows it to be from a song lyric by some band called chamillionaire. How bout that.