Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brush with Fame

Spotted this item from NPR:
So You Think You're A Superfan? : The Picture Show : NPR
Last month, we asked you to send us photos of yourself with your favorite musician, and to tell us about the time you waited outside the club in the freezing rain for hours and finally got to — gasp — MEET THE BAND!
It brought to mind a funny story...
Robbie FulksA couple of years ago my buddy George and I saw Robbie Fulks perform at the Black Swamp Arts and Music Festival. After Fulks’ set we wandered (well, stumbled…) over to the merchandise tent to buy some CDs and see if we could talk to the man.
The couple in front of us in line asked Fulks if they could snap a photo with him. He happily obliged. Then it was my turn. I congratulated Fulks on a great set, got him to autograph the CD I’d just purchased, and then handed him my camera and asked if he’d snap a photo of me and George.
Fulks looked confused for a moment, then chuckled and took this photo.
Bob and George

Why I Love Rhapsody

Amazon Cloud Player? No thanks.

So Amazon is getting a lot of attention with the introduction of its new cloud-based music service. Yawn…
I don’t see that it stacks up at all against Rhapsody, a truly cloud-based music service.
About two years ago I was at QCon San Francisco and had a great, wide ranging conversation with a software engineer from Rhapsody.  About a year later, while calculating how much I was spending on music every month – mostly on iTunes, occasionally on Amazon – I remembered that conversation and visited the Rhapsody site. The price was right, $10 a month for all the music I wanted.
I signed up, and haven’t looked back.
Short-sighted luddites will say, “Yeah, but you can’t download the music, and if you drop your subscription, your music goes away.” Wrong.
Here’s the deal….
The only reason we buy CDs or download music is a matter of access. You lay down your money to insure that you can listen to your tunes any time you want, any where you want. That concept made sense in the steam-powered days before the Internet. Back then you either carried your music with you on some kind of storage device (cassette tape, portable CD player, or later, MP3 player) or you listened to it on the radio. Your access to music was limited by how much you could afford to buy, and/or what your favorite radio station played.
Fast-forward a couple of decades… Cassettes are dinosaur bones, and CDs are going extinct as you watch. Most music is purchased online and downloaded to a computer, where it can then be transferred to a portable MP3 player. A vast improvement in convenience over vinyl or CDs, but not without issues.
One big issue is storage. Once you download that music you have to put it somewhere safe so that if your computer craps out the money you’ve invested in tunes doesn’t vanish along with all your other data.
So you buy back-up drives, or you pay for a back-up service like Carbonite. That made sense. Once.
Which brings me to why I love Rhapsody:
  • At $10 bucks a month I now pay a fraction of what I used to pay for music on iTunes.
  • Storage is no longer an issue. True, I still have 10,000 songs on my hard drive (one of the reasons I have a Carbonite account). But most of the music I “own” and regularly listen to is available on Rhapsody. So if I lost those files through hard drive failure, not a big deal. In fact, had Rhapsody been around when I bought those tunes originally, I could have saved a ton of money.
  • I can listen to entire albums by unfamiliar artists at absolutely no risk. If I like what I hear,  I add it to my Rhapsody library. No messing around with 30 second samples. If I don’t like what I hear, no loss. This means that I end up listening to a lot of stuff I might otherwise miss because I didn’t want to risk $10 on an unfamiliar album in iTunes. So I can afford to expand my musical horizons, because no matter how many songs or entire albums I add to my Rhapsody library, I still pay only $10 a month. I spend more on coffee.
  • The Rhapsody app on my iPhone makes my Rhapsody library portable. I can put my phone in the dock  connected to the sound system in my living room, or plug my phone into the system in my vehicle.
  • Music in my Rhapsody library can be downloaded to my iPhone for listening when I’m not connected to the 3g network or wifi.
Is there a downside? Yes. Rhapsody’s music selection is vast, but limited. There are some gaping holes, in fact. No Beatles, for one. But iTunes only added the Fab Four in the past year, so that omission isn’t all that surprising.  But Rhapsody’s selection also includes a lot of music that I was surprised to find, rare stuff by some obscure bands. And I expect that as time goes on the gaps will be filled.
In the end, it’s all about access. As long as I have 24/7/365 access to the music I want, why would I want to store the stuff locally? Like many people I’m getting pretty damn tired of the term “cloud computing,” but that’s where it’s all headed. Most of my TV viewing is now done via Netflix and Hulu Plus – services that offer the same benefits as Rhapsody: a vast selection of on-demand content that I can access through multiple devices anytime I want, anywhere I want.
And if Rhapsody goes away, some other service will be there to take it’s place. My music will always be available. No files, no storage, no risk. Just all the tunes I want.
So Amazon’s Cloud Music Player…? No biggie.