Category Archives: Music

Google Play Vs. iTunes Match

I signed up for the Google Music beta a while ago and promptly forgot about it. I was either too busy to check it out or unimpressed with the feature set. I recently took another look at it after it was renamed to “Google Play.” It’s suddenly making a bit more sense now that I’m trying it out again.

Google Play (I’m really just talking about the music part) lets you upload all of your music to Google’s servers. This step seems kind of dumb but I guess for legal reasons they can’t just recognize your music and use their own copies of songs. I’m sure they’ve got the technology to do it. Anyway, once your music is uploaded you can play it from “the cloud.” While this seems like something so simple that Dropbox could do it, it’s the details that matter. In this case, Google offers a pretty neat interface to listen to your music (and buy more, if desired).

I haven’t used iTunes Match personally, but from what I’ve read, it seems to do something similar. iTunes Match will scan your music library and “match” them up with songs in their database. If a song isn’t on your iPhone but is in your library, you can download and listen to it from your device. So far, it doesn’t seem like there’s a desktop component of iTunes Match besides iTunes (meaning you can’t listen from a website). Also, iTunes Match costs money.

What I like about Google Play is that there is a web interface, so I can listen to all of my music at work without having to download iTunes. I complained earlier on Twitter about how there isn’t a native app for iOS that lets you listen to your Google Play stuff, but there does happen to be a web based player that seems okay. iTunes integrates more easily with your library (no need to actually upload stuff) but seems more rigid about re-downloading music.

Overall, it seems like Google Play is the better service. If it had a native app for iOS it would be the clear winner. Eventually I would like to lower the amount of space on my phone that I’m using for music, which would allow me to have more apps, photos and videos. Hopefully the two services continue to develop and compete with each other to the point where they’re both improving.

Facebook Trolling: Ticker Edition

I sort of have a tradition when it comes to Facebook updates. When Facebook introduced polls, I took advantage of the viral sharing properties to expand my poll to more than my close circle of friends. The Facebook ticker feature just rolled out this week, and yesterday Spotify integrated with Facebook’s new graph api.

I’ve noticed a whole lot of ticker updates since then from my friends’ playlists. I decided I would have some fun with the Ticker feature, so I went on Spotify and made a playlist of just “Never Gonna Give You Up.” At first I thought it had not worked, but it looks like my friends are now all aware of my favorite song in the world.

I mostly mess with Facebook to point out unintended consequences of their design decisions. In this case, something passive like listening to music overpowers stuff that might actually be interesting, like a comment or a post. I wonder if Facebook will change their ticker behavior, or continue to allow it to be used for a “firehose” of info while the news feed will be used for more interesting/important stuff.

Thoughts on Spotify

I was lucky enough to get an early invite to Spotify last week thanks to my high Klout score (I honestly think anyone with a pulse got an invite) and I’ve been playing around with it for a few days. Here’s my thoughts on the service thus far.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m using Spotify for listening to stuff that I don’t already have in my library. This is sort of weird because I recently switched to an SSD and none of my music is actually in my library. Yet I use Spotify for listening to stuff that’s not on my external hard drive (which I almost never have plugged in). I think this behavior might be due to the fact that Spotify is making me a fat kid in a candy store (but for music). I want to keep searching to test Spotify’s limits and see how much music it really has. So far it’s been doing really well.

Specifically, I have been using Spotify mostly to listen to music that was popular when I was in middle school (this was like, 14 years ago). This music is stuff that I’m either too embarrassed to have on my hard drive, or I simply never had. Yet it’s totally great for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve been listening to No Doubt, Toni Braxton, Weezer, Mariah Carey, etc. Stuff that brings me back to that era. It’s pretty cool.

One workflow that Spotify has replaced for me is the awkward one of going to YouTube and looking for a video of a song I want to hear. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to go to YouTube and searched for something like “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears just to listen to a song (it’s just a static image of the album cover). It’s much, much quicker just to search in Spotify and get super instant gratification.

Comparisons to the new hot startup, Turntable, are pretty much impossible to avoid. Turntable is really fun for interacting with people (and music discovery), but sometimes you just want to listen to what you want to listen to (and not wait for other DJs before your song comes on). I think the two services have very different use cases, and each works well for its intended use.

One thing Spotify could work on is music discovery. It’s kind of ridiculous the only music it pushes are the top albums, artists and songs. All the stuff on this list are top 20 bullshit that I really have no interest in listening to (just ignore the top 20 “bullshit” from the 90’s that I just admitted to listening to). In this day and age, it’s ridiculous for a music service to not include some kind of recommendation engine or radio feature. Browsing music on the service by genre, year or anything besides search is impossible. In terms of features, Spotify is actually kind of disappointing.

Despite the obvious shortcomings, I have a lot of high hopes for Spotify. It’s a really nice example of how consumers can enjoy getting stuff from “the cloud” without making it too complicated. I hope that it continues to improve, especially in the music discovery and browsing categories.

Ingrid Michaelson at The Ark, Ann Arbor 8/9/10

I went to see Ingrid Michaelson with my .gf at The Ark in Ann Arbor on August 9th, 2010. This was the third time I’ve seen her in concert, which is the most times I’ve seen anyone in concert, I think. Besides the band I was in myself, which doesn’t count.

I had recently seen her and the band in Seattle in October last year. I was hoping there’d be a lot of new material, but for the most part it was a lot of songs from her latest two albums, Everybody and Be Okay/Girls and Boys. She played one new song called “Parachute” that was catchy.

As usual, Ingrid and the band came off as genuinely having a good time. I think it helped that this was a fan show (they pre-sold out to the fan email list) and they had been opening for a band so no one knew who they were for the past few shows. As with any live show, the best parts are when the band does something unexpected. In this show, they mixed in the chorus from Poker Face into Soldier (I think they might’ve done that last time, too), did a cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic as a last song (before they left for an encore) and also played a punky fast version of The Way I Am as their real last song (which they also played at normal speed earlier in the show).

Overall, It was a really fun show. Ingrid and the band really have a good time, and it rubs off on the fans, especially in a small venue like The Ark. Hopefully a new album is on the way. I’d like to hear more new material next time.