Google debuts music subscription service

It’s called YouTube Music Key and that feels to me like a cobbled-together name but then I often think Google hurries things out. Sometimes I think they hurry things away too, including times when I’ve relied on their services which get switched off.

Anyway. I am still pursuing music and vacillating between iTunes Radio and Spotify but now there is Google YouTube Music Key. Here’s an unhelpful video. (Isn’t that the definition of YouTube?)

It’ll cost you £9.99 in the UK. Details from Google. Note that it’s a beta release and while that’s becoming a meaningless term – didn’t Gmail stay in beta for a century? – in the short term it means not everybody will get access to it. But it’s rolling out, it’ll be available to you in the next few days or at most weeks.

Streaming yourself writing – madness or genius?

I lean toward madness. But that’s just in general life. Over this specific question, I truly do not know. I do know that I won’t be doing this. But maybe it has more benefits than it might seem. This is a video of a fella named Ross Pruden. It’s a video of him writing. For hours.

Actually, for four hours. He says at the top that it’s a marathon five-hour writing session but, face it, he could’ve been pretty sure nobody would watch to the end to find out. Let the man have a lunch break, why don’t you?

There’s a lot of piddling about at the top but then it is a straight locked-off shot of this man typing. You can’t see what he’s writing but there is a clock, a word count and a total number of stories he’s written. All these numbers go up just about exactly as excitingly as football scores change on Ceefax. I’m honestly torn over what I’d watch more of: at least football has – no, I’m stuck for anything football has. Fortunately, there are other choices than football or this, but before you too race off to ANYTHING else, do take a peek.

Take a peek to see if I’m kidding. I’m not, but you need to know. And then have a think: is he doing this because it’s a brutally persistent form of accountability? To save you digging into this as I have, you should know that Pruden has a bit of a mission on: he was trying to raise Kickstarter funds for a writing project. Is it a spoiler if I tell you he succeeded? Take a look at his Kickstarter page.

But maybe, just maybe, we could live stream ourselves writing. You and I. Maybe it would be competing for the world’s most boring Skype call – a hotly contested trophy – or maybe it would really, really, really make us write.

You go first.

After Pruden:

Shazam updated with Rdio playback

20140715-183707-67027567.jpgSeriously, you get something on your mind and then it is everywhere. I’ve been thinking a lot about streaming music lately and today Shazam updated to include some of that.

Shazam is the app by which you can hold your iPhone up toward a speaker playing music and it will tell you what that music is. You can probably find this app in the music section but I think it’s properly filed and catalogued under Alchemy.

What’s new today is that once you’ve heard some music and Shazam has told you what it is, it can now play you the whole thing via the Rdio streaming service. That is the specifically new thing in this latest update and it does require you to have an Rdio account.

But to try it out for you and also because I’d been meaning to try Rdio for myself anyway, I got such an account and then I checked Shazam.

It’s true. I went through all the previous songs I’d had Shazam identify in the bars and clubs of my exotic lifestyle and there was an Rdio button. But there was also a Spotify one. That’ll be because I have a free Spotify account.

So on the one hand, I caught the news about Rdio yet had missed the one about Spotify whenever that was added. And on the other hand, I went off trying Rdio all day. It has one advantage over Spotify: it lets you use all the premium features for 14 days so I was able to get it to play me entire albums in sequence. That’s as compared to Spotify’s free version only allowing shuffled songs and to iTunes Radio’s way of not necessarily playing you the album at all.

Concluding the streaming music debate – a bit

Previously… I write to music, always have done, I get into ferociously irritating habits of listening to exactly the same piece over and over again. I get a lot of headphones as Christmas presents. I resisted streaming music because I had what I feel is a big collection. But then I tried streaming.

Actually, just to break the Previously and tell you something new: I’ve realised why I tried. I said before that it was iTunes Radio and that’s true, I got access to that early and enjoyed hearing new music. I’ve steadily less enjoyed the steadily increasing number of ads on iTunes Radio but I’ve also realised that its way of playing you types of music rather than letting you specify artists or albums and hearing only those got a bit wearing.

And I heard a song.

I forgot that I could check back in iTunes history to see what it was and instead stupidly spent a while googling every lyric I could be fairly sure I remembered. And I found it.

It was Come to My Window by Melissa Etheridge. Love it.

And I love it enough that I once again tried Spotify. At least with Spotify, I thought, you could name a specific track and play that.

This is sort of true. And it’s also definitely true now that Spotify is free on iPhone and iPad – which is almost certainly true because of the competition from services such as iTunes Radio. Everybody wins, and it earns the artists nothing. Or very little, anyway.

Last time I mentioned this, it was because I’d found this article explaining all the various streaming services and I intended to investigate them. I intended to do this because I was sick of iTunes Radio – I’ve since come back around to it, it’s a mood thing with me – and because Spotify was irritating. I realise they want you to pay a subscription price and not only do I understand that but, spoiler alert, I’m now today thinking of it. But for trying out the service, I thought free was helpful.

But Spotify wouldn’t stick to the music I asked for, it would bound off places playing me other things that might be fine, yes, but I couldn’t stop them when I wanted to. In the end, I would just quit Spotify and force it to restart again. You can’t do that very easily while driving.

Only, today I tried it again. Instead of my usual beloved BBC Radio 4, I had Spotify and a playlist with about 25 songs on it. Including the Etheridge. For 170 miles driving, maybe 2 miles walking and for 90 minutes on buses today, I listen to those 25 songs. Over and over.

There were many, many interruptions for ads and it worries me a bit that most of them were what’s called a house ad: if you can’t sell an ad spot to someone, you use it yourself to advertise something of your business. You want to have some house ads, but you need the revenue from outside companies.

But apart from those understandable interruptions, Spotify played me those songs of mine for a not-very-understandably long time.

I’m a fan. I think. I’m going to play it a bit more to see if I go off it as I have at times with iTunes Radio. And I’m going to wait a bit to see when iTunes Radio officially launches in the UK because the price for it includes some extra benefits and is also substantially cheaper than Spotify. Both Spotify and iTunes Radio start at free but then to get the benefits of the paid-for services, it’s £9.99 UK or $9.99 US per month for Spotify and £21.99 or $24.00 US per year for iTunes Radio.

But for the meantime, I think I’m a convert. That’s a very strange feeling for a man who remembers vinyl, who remembers CD coming in, who lived through DVD coming in and then dying away. But it’s true: I had a very good time today with Spotify.

For streaming music, start here

I play a lot of music while I work yet I’ve been a slow convert to streaming music. Perhaps it’s the millionth time of hearing every track I own that has converted me, maybe it’s just that I tried out iTunes Radio and liked it more than I expected.

But the problem is that here I am, converted , yet I can’t stay converted. I still like iTunes Radio though the increasing number of ads is discouraging me. (You can go ad-free if you subscribe to iTunes Match. But I’ve only got iTunes Radio access because I have a US iTunes account. All my music is in iTunes UK so even if I paid the subscription, I wouldn’t get iTunes Match on that. The fee is $25/year which is fine for just getting radio but knowing it should also give me this other Match feature makes it hard to pay up.)

Very often I want to listen to a particular artist , album or song, though and and iTunes Radio doesn’t guarantee any of that. You choose an artist and get, say, Suzanne Vega Radio which has her plus similar artists. (There are no similar artists to Suzanne Vega, iTunes is lying.) But it’s five to ten and pick ’em whether you get to hear any Vega and close to no chance you’ll hear the song. No chance at all that you’ll hear the album.

So faced with a lot of driving recently, I tried Spotify again. I try Spotify from time to time and can’t ever remember why I stop. Except now. Now I remember. You can get Spotify to play a list of your favourites – or a friend’s list – but at some point soon it will go off the reservation and on to music it’s sure you’ll like. It might be right but I was liking that music fine enough.

You can’t always switch or skip that stuff, either. So Spotify irritates me.

There are many other firms and options, though, and that’s what this linked article is about. There aren’t as many services for us in the UK as there are in this American article but the issues and points are interesting and well made.

I’m pondering this lot. Take a look yourself at MacObserver’s Head to Head Comparison of 14 Streaming Music Services

Streaming is greener than shiny discs

So a DVD is this disc, right, and you have it, you have it in your hands and then you have it in your DVD player. Streaming video uses your TV or your computer, it uses your internet connection, it uses any number of other computers between you and Netflix or whoever you’re streaming from. And then that company has a lot of computers too. All on now, all working now, all needing support staff and a lot of electricity. Yet streaming is more ecological than shiny discs.

Americans can save enough power to run 200,000 households a year by streaming videos with efficient devices instead of driving to the store to buy or rent DVDs.

Researchers studied five different ways of viewing movies and, using a systematic method called life cycle analysis, estimated the energy used and carbon dioxide emissions produced for each. They determined that video streaming can be more energy efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than the use of DVDs, depending on the DVD viewing method.

DVD vs Video Streaming: Which Wastes More Energy? Northwestern University, University of California, Berkley (2 June 2014)

That’s the academic world’s version of a come-on title: it’s saying that watching films is wasting energy resources, regardless of which method you use. But beyond the guilt trip, there is analysis and you’ve already guessed why streaming wins:

“End-user devices are responsible for the majority of energy use with both video streaming and DVD viewing,” says Eric Masanet, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University.

“Much of the energy savings estimated in shifting to video streaming comes from shifting end-user devices to more energy-efficient alternatives—in other words, away from old DVD players,” he says.

Read the full piece and learn where to read even more.

Here’s how Apple’s WWDC keynote will go

june_2014_posterframeSo there was this journalist, right, who complained that Apple took two hours to do its annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference keynote, “exactly like they always do”. He was covering it for somewhere and it was all how dare they do exactly what they always do. If he’d said they took long on certain parts, I’d have agreed. If he’d said he could’ve read all the news in a press release afterwards, I did agree. I just didn’t know why he wouldn’t do that. If you don’t like the keynote and you know it is two hours long, skip it.

I do like the keynotes.

WWDC is for developers and my own development projects are small. But this one speech is always for every Apple user, it is always the same, it is usually good fun and occasionally it is really interesting. I remember wondering how I’d tell Angela that I was definitely going to buy an Apple phone when she came home saying “did you hear that Apple’s making a phone?” We both got one.

But like or loathe the Apple announcements, the one next Monday 2 June at 6pm UK time will go thisaway:

18:00-18:10 “Good morning!” (It’s 10am in California.) “We’ve got some great announcements for you.

18:10-18:25 Statistics about how Apple has been doing since the last keynote. Expect only good numbers. Be sure that you know how Mac sales are up and that maybe more people buy Android phones than iPhones but they don’t appear to be using them much at all. (With graph.)

18:25-18:30 Retail. There’ll be a count of how many Apple Stores there are now or there’ll be something like how many sales were made in total. There will be a video of a new and impressive store with a new and impressive queue of customers lining up outside it on the first day.

18:30-19:00 These half-hour blocks are interchangeable, depending on what Apple wants to emphasise. But a typical one will cover Mac OS X first. It will do it by revealing new hardware then the latest version of OS X. Expect a wacky name to follow “OS X Mavericks”.

19:00-19:30 Again, may swap with either 18:30-19:00 or 19:30-20:00 but a typical one will cover iOS. Specifically iOS 8. There will be a video with designer Jony Ive filmed against a white background.

19:30-20:00 Potentially the most interesting half hour. It can change if there’s something really new to mention about Macs, in which case Mac stuff moves to here. Same with iOS. But this is where newer stuff goes. It’s also the last half hour so if there is to be one of Apple’s near-patented “One more thing” (Columbo is disputing the patent) then naturally it has to be here.

This year Apple is live-streaming the lot on its website here. I won’t be watching. But only because I’m working that evening. Otherwise, I will be tuning in to the recording later and I’ll probably be avoiding reading too many news sites because it genuinely is fun to see the show. Apple presents very, very well. Just watch a Microsoft presentation, preferably with Steve Ballmer, and then contrast it to an Apple one. Regardless of the products being shown, Apple’s presentation works and Microsoft’s tends to be a bit embarrassing.

I have no idea what Apple will reveal or release this year. They do like saying “available today”, which I like too. I like that they don’t very often talk about products that are coming out eventually or that they intend to make, it’s always about what they’ve made now and what you can buy now, if you so choose.

And I will be buying, if you can call it that. There is no question but that iOS 8 and the next OS X will be revealed, if not yet shipping, and both of those will be free. Both of those I will get. Beyond that, I don’t know.

But I do enjoy finding out. Call me a geek, but.