Why I deleted my digital music collection

I deleted my digital music collection on the weekend. More than thirty thousand tracks, taking up over 160 GB of space, all gone. It took me years to collect all of those songs, but just minutes to get rid of them. The story of my digital music collection is probably not very unique, but it does illustrate just how far technology has come in such a short period of time.

It started, of course, with Napster. Everyone was talking about Y2K until Napster came along and stole the spotlight. Like so many others, I downloaded the software and quickly found myself searching through thousands of songs. I tried Kazaa and a bunch of other services too. Those services opened my eyes to what was possible and introduced me to a bunch of new artists. Eventually I learned about BitTorrent. No other service came close to matching the convenience, selection, quality, or speed of BitTorrent. I never had a favorite site, but I did use Suprnova, The Pirate Bay, and Mininova.

Once I realized how useful having music in the MP3 format really was, I used MusicMatch, and later Windows Media Player, to rip nearly all of the CDs my family owned (which, let me tell you, was quite a few). One of the first MP3 players I had was Creative’s Nomad Jukebox. It was huge (and looked very much like a discman), but it had a 6 GB hard drive. I loved my original iPod, well except for the battery life. In 2004, I got the Creative ZEN Touch for Christmas (which despite the name did not have touch functionality). I had a variety of other MP3 players over the years, and my favorite was probably the iPod Touch.

Score! iPod touch!
Purchasing my iPod Touch from the Apple Store in NY in 2007

I have purchased one and only one album with DRM. If I remember correctly, it was Social Code’s A Year at the Movies. Though I had read a lot about artists earning more from concerts than albums, I wanted to try to do the right thing. Turns out syncing it to my devices was not easy. Moving the album to a new computer was even harder. The experience was so horrible that I vowed to never purchase DRM-enabled music ever again.

I tried lots of different software for managing my growing library, but nothing worked better than Windows Media Player. I have never been a fan of iTunes, which is quite possibly the worst software ever written for Windows. Most other apps just fell over when I added the entire library, but WMP just kept working. I spent quite a bit of time organizing songs, making sure they had the right metatags, adding album art when WMP couldn’t identify it automatically.

Now I find myself wondering why I ever put in all that effort. The answer of course, is that I didn’t have any other options. You couldn’t buy digital music at first, and then when you could, it was laden with DRM. Streaming music services didn’t exist probably because Internet connections were slow and intermittent. The “cloud” wasn’t yet a thing.

I haven’t touched any of my downloaded music in months. That’s why I deleted it. I’ve been a paying customer of Rdio for exactly a year now, and I love it. With over 12 million songs in the catalogue, there’s rarely something I want to listen to that isn’t available on Rdio. It works on all my devices and in pretty much any browser. It connects to Facebook to automatically share what I am listening. The audio quality is fantastic. Every album and song is labeled correctly and has album art. It’s amazing that I get all of that for just $4.99 per month. Streaming music services have most definitely arrived!

I know some people prefer to “own” their music libraries, but I have never felt that desire. I never built a massive physical media collection like a lot of people did, so I guess I never developed any attachment to “owning an album”. For me, listening to the music I want, when I want, where I want, is really all that matters. Five or ten bucks a month to have access to an impossibly large collection, on any device, at any time, is totally worth it to me.

As much as I love Rdio, I think I’ll probably switch to Xbox Music when it becomes available. For me it’s all about the ecosystem, and I have chosen Microsoft’s. An inexpensive service that works on my computers, my Xbox, and my phone with a first-class experience on each? Yes, please.

Live Music in Edmonton now at ShareEdmonton with YEG Live

It’s difficult but not impossible to discover all of the events that happen in Edmonton, and I’m continually working to improve the listings at ShareEdmonton. One of the ways I’m doing that is by working with others who already have large, accurate collections of events. The latest such example is YEG Live, Edmonton’s source for local live music, artist, venue, and event listings. You can now see all YEG Live events at ShareEdmonton!

I can’t remember how I was introduced to YEG Live – it might have been via Twitter, or it may have been because they use one of my photos for their header background. In any case, I was impressed. Founders Chris Martyniuk and Cameron Gertz have created an excellent online hub for local music in Edmonton. Most importantly, they really care about the accuracy of the data on the site. As a result, YEG Live has a superb collection of artist profiles, venue profiles, and of course, live music events. I contacted Chris to see if he’d be interested in working together, and fortunately, he was!

Now when you browse entertainment events at ShareEdmonton, you’ll see the ones that come from YEG Live highlighted with the icon to the left. When you click through to an event, such as tomorrow evening’s show featuring Sweet Thing at Haven Social Club, you’ll see all of the usual details you’d expect at a ShareEdmonton event page (start & end time, location details, related tweets, etc) as well as links and short bios for the artists performing (which link to YEG Live). There are also prominent links to the YEG Live event and ticket information pages.

Thanks to Chris for all the work he did to make this integration possible! There’s no sense in duplicating the tremendous effort he’s already putting into creating an accurate calendar of live music events in Edmonton, so I’m glad we were able to work together. It’s a win-win-win as I see it: ShareEdmonton is a little more complete, YEG Live gets a little more exposure, and Edmontonians are more likely to discover great live music events happening in the city!

That’s Edmonton For You!

What a great weekend here in Edmonton! Lots of sun, temperatures above 25 degrees, and plenty of things to do. Perhaps the main event on Saturday was the Edmonton Pride Parade, which was a smashing success according to everyone I talked to. Dave has a good post about it here, and Paula has dozens of photos here. Also on Saturday was the City Centre Market followed by Al Fresco on 104th, which Sharon wrote about here. Summer in Edmonton has finally arrived!

Yesterday’s big event was That’s Edmonton For You!, a free concert from noon until 3pm featuring leading members of Edmonton’s indie rock scene at Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. The event was commissioned by the City of Edmonton for the ICLEI World Congress. Conceived of and produced by Trevor Anderson, the event featured Edmonton’s poet laureate Roland Pemberton (Cadence Weapon) and 13 other musicians. Each created new songs about sustainable community, drawing from personal experiences.

I arrived at around 12:30pm, just as the crowd was starting to grow. I took a few photos and checked out the information booths that lined the edges of park area. Edmonton Next Gen was on hand to promote Pecha Kucha 4, Vegans & Vegetarians of Alberta had a busy table, Epcor had a portable water tap, and The EATery at The ARTery was offering food and beverages. Before long I made my way back to the Shaw Conference Centre however, to escape the sun and heat! The one drawback to the venue is the complete lack of shade.

I did make one more trip out to the concert, but unfortunately missed most of the last hour (I was inside for the ICLEI opening). Councillor Don Iveson stayed until the end and said the final song, which featured audience participation in the form of key jingling and bicycle bells, was truly amazing. The crowd that gathered was quite impressive!

That's Edmonton For You!That's Edmonton For You!

If you couldn’t make it down yesterday you missed a great event, but don’t worry – you can download the full album of songs from the website! Very cool, and not something I expected.

Considering the concert was created specifically for ICLEI, I’m not sure it’ll happen again, but I hope it does! It’s a great showcase for local musicians, and a great opportunity for Edmontonians to experience an afternoon of music.

You can see the rest of my photos here, and don’t miss this collection of excellent shots by Chris.

comingzune in Edmonton on May 16th

The iPod still has a lock on the market for portable media players, but at least Microsoft is doing some interesting marketing. Over the weekend I was notified about the comingzune parties happening in seven Canadian cities (it seems Montreal was a late addition).

comingzune

The Edmonton event takes place on Friday night at 9pm at The Artery, which Sharon tells me is an up and coming venue in our city. Here’s the map of the location.

I love the band name – The Wicked Awesomes! Never heard of them before though. They are five local guys, apparently influenced by devo. Take from that, what you will.

Bon Jovi Rocked!

Bon Jovi!Last night I went to the Bon Jovi concert here in Edmonton with Megan, Riva, and Ken. My parents flew down from Yellowknife for the concert too, which was pretty sweet. Megan saw Bon Jovi in Calgary during the summer, and she said last night’s show was probably better. I have to say, I was really impressed!

There was a really wide range of ages in the audience. If you couldn’t tell by looking at faces, you certainly could by the high number of lighters in the crowd! At JT it was almost 100% cell phones, but not so last night. Hedley opened the show, but I think the young people were still there for Bon Jovi.

Megan was the photographer for most of my photos, as she has steadier hands than I do. My new camera worked pretty darn well, I have to say, even zoomed in 15x.

It was the most expensive concert I’ve ever been to (~ $160) but it was well worth it.

Thoughts on Capitol v. Thomas

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Record labels have filed over 20,000 lawsuits related to file sharing since 2003, and the first one to go to trial received a verdict yesterday in Minnesota. The jury found defendant Jammie Thomas guilty and ordered her to pay the six record companies that sued her $9,250 for each of the 24 songs they decided to focus on.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that this is an extremely unfavorable outcome.

  1. The record labels will take this victory as “a validation of its “sue our fans” strategy, rather than realizing it’s finally time to try a different model.” (Techdirt)
  2. This case will have absolutely no effect on file sharing. “According to BigChampagne, an online measuring service, the number of peer-to-peer users unlawfully trading goods has nearly tripled since 2003, when the RIAA began legal onslaught targeting individuals.” (Wired)
  3. The record industry needs to stop fighting the inevitable. “Eventually, unless governments are willing to take drastic measures to protect the industry (such as a mandatory music tax), economic theory will win out and the price of music will fall towards zero.” (TechCrunch)

The case has potentially set a number of legal precedents favoring the record industry, such as “making available”, described by Declan McCullagh in his excellent analysis:

Jury Instruction 15 is more important. It says that the RIAA doesn’t need to offer any evidence that rapacious Kazaa users actually downloaded songs from Thomas’ computer. All they need to do is claim that Thomas left the songs in a publicly accessible directory where they could have been downloaded. Big difference.

Wired has more:

In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant’s computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive. And the RIAA did not have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas’ share folder.

Also, the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files. That was a big bone of contention that U.S. District Judge Michael Davis settled in favor of the industry.

That’s just wrong. Is it illegal to leave a music CD out in the open? Of course not, but anyone could come along and steal it or copy it. How is leaving music files out in the open any different? Copying media for personal use is considered Fair Use (though the RIAA is doing everything they can to change that). As I understand it, combining your Fair Use rights with an open Wi-Fi connection (the default setting on virtually all wireless routers) would then make you liable for copyright infringement, if the precedent set by this case holds.

I’m not sure the precedent will be upheld, however. Last December the judge in UMG v. Lindor ruled that the record labels would have to show that Lindor actually shared the files. Demonstrating that she made the files available for download was not enough. Actually, I’m not sure why that earlier decision was not used in this case against Thomas.

Another problem is the fine amount. I think $9,250 per song very clearly conflicts with the Eighth Amendment, which states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The songs in question are available in the marketplace for less than $1. Furthermore, wholesale pricing has been confirmed by record label executives as being close to 70 cents per track. From that perspective, the fine levied against Thomas is almost surely excessive.

These lawsuits are very clearly about money, not about protecting artists. I look forward to the day when record labels as we currently know them cease to exist. It’s only a matter of time.

There is a ton of commentary on this story at Techmeme. That’s how I found Michael Geist’s post, in which he explains the Canadian context. Definitely worth a read.

Radiohead shows us the music industry of the future

radiohead

What if you could set the price for an album you wanted to purchase? Wouldn’t it be great to have the ability to spend $5 to check out a new band, and $25 for a band you absolutely love? It might happen sooner than you think, with Radiohead leading the charge:

As expected, Radiohead has gone an unusual route for distribution of its seventh studio album, “In Rainbows.” The set will be available for digital download from the band’s Web site beginning Oct. 10, but with a twist — fans can name their own price for the purchase. “It’s up to you,” reads a disclaimer on the checkout screen.

Make no mistake, this is a big deal. Radiohead is obviously a very successful band with a huge fan base which allows them to experiment like this, but dammit someone has to. It might as well be Radiohead. I’ve written about making the music free before, and I’m glad to now see some action.

Techdirt notes that there is more to the story, in that Radiohead is also offering a “discbox” for $80 USD that contains the album on CD and vinyl, along with an additional CD with seven tracks, plus photos, artwork, and lyrics.

In this case, Radiohead isn’t really selling the “music.” After all, you can get that for free. They’re selling the full collection of stuff that comes with the music. Funny how it’s the musicians, and not the record labels, who seem to realize that adding value and getting people to pay for it is a business model that beats suing fans.

This is really cool. Music fans everywhere should be extremely happy about this giant leap forward! There’s more great stuff on the story at Boing Boing.

Read: Billboard

A 75th Birthday Tribute to John Williams

johnwilliamsTonight I went to the wonderful Winspear Centre along with Dickson and Sharon to enjoy the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performing some of the more famous works by John Williams. It was the first night of the ESO Robbins Pops, and it was a great show. Conductor Bruce Hangen from the Boston Conservatory was on hand for the evening, and he shared some short video clips before most pieces of him talking with John about the music. It’s really quite amazing how much John Williams has accomplished in his career. From Wikipedia:

In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in history, including those for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Harry Potter. In addition, he has composed theme music for four Olympic Games, numerous television series and concert pieces.

Sadly, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park were not performed, but the rest of those themes were, along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Amistad, Catch Me If You Can, and Saving Private Ryan. With four of the fourteen pieces they performed coming from Star Wars, you might say that was the theme for the evening, and it was complete with storm troopers, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader. Yes, they actually had people in Star Wars costumes! (UPDATE: Here are some photos.)

Another neat thing about the evening was that Bruce got the audience to sing happy birthday to John on camera! As a thank you for allowing ESO to perform his music (some which hasn’t been published, like Jaws) and for allowing the interview clips to be shown, John will get a copy of our birthday song.

During the interview clip for Schindler’s List, John said he looked at the film and was deeply moved. When he went to talk to Steven Spielberg about the music, the conversation went something like this:

John: This film is incredibly moving, you truly need a better composer than me.
Steven: I know, but they are all dead!

I really enjoyed the show, and hearing the music definitely makes me want to watch the movies again. I had forgotten how perfectly frightening the music for Jaws is! And when they started to play E.T. I couldn’t help but smile – it was like I was transported back in time! E.T. was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, and it still is. The music just gets me every time I hear it.

Happy Birthday to you John Williams! I hope you continue doing your thing for years to come.

Read: Winspear Centre

Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds in Edmonton

Around this time last night I was at Rexall Place to see Justin Timberlake. I was so excited for the concert! Jane, Megan and I got tickets the moment they went on sale months ago, which was good because it sold out almost immediately. We ended up selling two, and Jane’s friend Sarah came so there was four of us in all. That’s right, three gals and one guy. Fairly representative of the audience I’d say – there were far more women than men. Age was much more distributed though.

The place was absolutely packed! And keep in mind this was a concert-in-the-round, which means all 16,000+ seats were filled. Ours were really good, and Jane’s camera worked pretty well in the dark, so here’s a decent shot that she snapped:

This is probably the biggest concert I’ve ever been to, and it was nothing if not a spectacle. Velvet Revolver was quite the show as well, but even it was nothing compared to JT. The lights, stage, screens, smoke, dancers, instruments, everything, it was just awesome. I was really impressed. The one thing that surprised me was how adult-oriented the show was. I remember seeing a few younger kids with their parents, and I’m sure the parents weren’t thrilled with the mostly naked dancers or the heavy gyrating and sexually suggestive dancing.

I think one of the reasons the concert was so good was the venue. As hockey fans will know, Rexall Place is fairly unique. Justin remarked that Edmonton was the loudest crowd of the tour, and even if he was just saying that at first, the resulting noise would have made it true. It was LOUD! Seeing thousands of cameras flash at once was pretty neat, as was seeing thousands of cell phones swaying for the ballad. I really can’t imagine a new hockey arena being any better than Rexall Place…anyway, back to the concert.

I would have been happy if Justin had only sung “What Goes Around…” and called it a night, but fortunately he sang quite a few songs. I particularly liked his rendition of “LoveStoned”. And for the “intermission” there was a special guest – Timbaland! I had heard he wasn’t going to be there, so it was definitely a surprise to see him join JT on stage. He did a number of popular songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and a few Nelly Furtado songs, and he did the obligatory Aaliyah tribute. He also performed his popular single, “The Way I Are”.

One of the songs Timbaland used in his mix was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and it really stuck out for me. I think it’s because Justin incorporates a lot of what made MJ successful into his show. Lots of dancing? Check. Fancy footwork? Check. Distinct fashion? Check. Fedora hat? Check. Falsetto? Check. Crotch grab? Check. One needs to be careful when making comparisons to Michael Jackson, and I’m not saying that JT is the new MJ, but I do think he’s smart for adopting some of the trademark aspects of Jackson’s performances.

Justin came back to perform “(Another Song) All Over Again” for the encore, and as he was finishing, a young woman appeared out of nowhere on stage. The security guard looked like he was going to tackle her (how did she sneak by in the first place?) but Justin stuck up his hand, and proceeded to handle the situation extremely well. He got her to help finish the song, but also took the opportunity to call her crazy and tell her “you scared the shit out of me, you know that right?” Heh.

All the dancers, musicians, and backup singers joined JT on stage at the very end for a big group bow which I thought was kinda cool. Then left alone on stage, Justin ran from side to side and waved to the crowd. Much better than some shows I’ve been to, where the performer just disappears.

I had a great time, and I’d wouldn’t hesitate if I got the chance to see JT in concert again!

UPDATE: For those of you with Facebook, this video that Jane uploaded of JT dancing during “My Love” is pretty wicked.

REVIEW: Good Girl Gone Bad – Rihanna

Post ImageCan you believe it has only been two years since Rihanna released her first album? It was August 2005 when Music of the Sun hit store shelves. I reviewed that album, and wasn’t incredibly impressed. In April 2006 she released her second album, A Girl Like Me. I didn’t review it, but I did like it much better than the first. It spawned more singles than the first album too, such as the incredibly catchy track SOS.

Now Rihanna is back with a third album. Released on June 5th, Good Girl Gone Bad (wikipedia) has already reached #1 in Canada and #2 in the United States. Most reviews have been positive, as they should be – the album kicks ass!

You may recall that I was “completely addicted” to Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds last year (still am, looking forward to the concert in August too). I shouldn’t be surprised then that I love Rihanna’s new album, as Timbaland produced three of the songs, and Timberlake co-wrote and provided backing vocals on one of them. Other collaborators include Jay-Z and Ne-Yo.

To say that the album is different from her previous efforts would be a big understatement! It is more up-tempo, fun, and memorable. The first single is also the first track on the disc, Umbrella. It “features” Jay-Z though he really only has a short rap at the beginning. I think my favorite song on the album would be the fourth track, Breakin’ Dishes. The second single, Shut Up and Drive, is also really catchy. The Timbaland-produced Sell Me Candy is also a great song, but it’s too short at only 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are four or five singles released from this album – I think it’s that good. That’s probably a good thing for Rihanna, considering she probably will want to take a break after three albums in two years! I definitely recommend Good Girl Gone Bad.

Read: Rihanna