Music Management

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with my music lately. Re-ripping everything I own in lossless format, and also trying a bunch of new stuff via lala. The amount of data involved now is substantial enough that I would be sad if I had to rerip everything. And we are a multi-listener, multi-ipod household, so I need to provide access to the music for multiple users. Here is what I currently do.

  • Acquisition. I rip everything in flac lossless format using dbpoweramp using accuraterip to insure quality. I used to use exactaudiocopy, it is a fine program too, but I find the dbpoweramp interface a little cleaner. From this effort, I get an ever-growing store of flac-encoded content as I rerip all my cds.
  • Conversion. Unfortunately the iPod doesn’t speak flac, and the ipod hard disks aren’t big enough to handle flac. So weekly I downconvert all my new flac content to mp3 using dbpoweramp again. works pretty well in batch mode.
  • Library-ization. I take the converted mp3 content once a week and add it to iTunes on one machine, and I let iTunes rename/reorg the files on this machine only. Because I am replacing old mp3s from previous rips, this sometimes creates some cleanup work for me — dupe files, etc. I’ve tried various strategies to limit he cleanup work but none of them work well.
  • Fanout. To get the library on all machines, I currently use beyondcompare. It seems pretty fast and has an intuitive interface for me. I can save my various configs, it is pretty quick and painless to get everything in sync. this gives everyone a copy of the mp3 lib, and on their machines they can keep their own ratings, etc. Oh one key thing I also use — on my mac mini I have just started using sharepoints — makes it easy to share an arbitrary directory for network use by pc clients.
  • Archiving. I also use beyondcompare to make a couple copies of the underlying flac storage, even though no one really uses those versions directly. I did install a flac filter on one machine so I could play the flac versions directly in WMP but I rarely do that.

The next two things I intend to do are:

  • add in another hard disk to the fanout/archiving mix, and rotate it to my office, so that I have offsite storage.I’ve already done this informally but I need to make it a core part of the process.
  • look into how to export the itunes ratings from one machine to another. I personally use two machines and I’d like to keep the ratings in sync on those two. I’ve seen articles on how to do this, just need to dig in a little.
  • I also need to start thinking about how to integrate multiple ipods for my own use. my music collection in mp3 format far exceeds the storage of the biggest ipod. so far I’ve been able to keep on top of this by rating songs and dumping all the 1-stars off the ipod automagically at sync time. but with all the lala-provided discs I am trialling, I have way too much music — I want to carry around all the songs I know I like, plus all the ones I have yet to listen to. Not sure what the right strategy is here yet.

Re-ripping everything lossless

After expunging the Netgear SC101 disaster from my network, I found that I had lost about 10% of my ripped CDs — notably all my Led Zep.

So time to rerip. After reviewing all of Rich’s goodness on codecs, I decided it was time to go lossless. On my new WidowPC rig, I installed:

* dbpoweramp for ripping
* the flac codec for lossless support
* accuraterip to help insure correct ripping

So starting the process now. Will take months to complete as a background task. Glad I still have all the cds around. I rip to flac for longterm storage, and then convert to mp3 so that the ipod and other devices can deal with. Really not much more painful than ripping straight to mp3 — dbpoweramp does a pretty good job at batch conversion.

Trying out Rhapsody

The economics of owning an iPod are finally getting to me. I collected a list of 30 artists/discs I wanted to try out recently, and it would have cost me like $300-500 to get all their cds, a lot of time to rip them, and then I might have liked only 20% of the music. So I decided to try one of the subscription services and settled on Rhapsody for random reasons.

After 48 hours of use, the pros:

  • they had all the artists I was interested in.
  • almost all of the music is downloadable to one of their supported music players. Only exception I ran into was Tom Petty’s greatest hits Cd
  • there are a variety of players available, many that are available as cheap refurbs.

The cons:

  • If rhapsody hits any problem at all, it just fails silentlly and confusingly. In my case, I stored my library files on a network server and the server had gone toes up. this totally confused the rhapsody player.
  • another example — I had an old samsung flash mp3 player that I tried to load up with music. this particular player is not able to support the rhapsody-to-go drm and so I was unable to place music on it. the error messages around this were massively confusing.

I can’t say I am a convert yet but I suspect I will stick with Rhapsody for a while as a way to trial music. If I decide to purchase I will go buy the Cds.

I have to say — if the iPod economics are so unfriendly that they drive a guy in my socioeconomic strata to try out alternatives — well this doesn’t bode well for Apple in the long run. Apple is going to have to come up with a subscription offer.

Podcast Recording Setup

Two recos on podcast recording setups:

* Rich’s recos — low end podcasting
* Dan Bricklin’s setup — higher end.

I haven’t done a podcast yet, and well, it just needs to get way easier and simpler than this if I am ever going to. I can’t see podcast creation ever becoming mainstream, certainly not at this level of complexity. Maybe if I could just talk to my cell to record a high quality podcast, i’d do it.

Making a multi-ipod household work

We love ipods so much that we have four in the house.

And itunes really sucks at handling this. we like to keep all our music on one server and this just creates a legion of problems. Getting itunes on all machines to take notice of new music on the server. Sharing playlists across the network. Ratings collision — we all have different ratings we want to maintain. And doing different loads of music onto each ipod.

Here’s how we manage the last item today — getting different subsets of our collection onto each ipod.

* We keep all our music in one huge directory, with subdirs per artist and album. Makes backup, searching, and all other operations easier.
* In itunes I create partitioning playlists. Basically a playlist per user that represents the music they want on their ipod. In our case this is fairly easy as our interests break cleanly on genre lines, and it is easy in itunes to create playlists like “female vocal OR male vocal OR new age OR holiday”.
* Then I configure our respective ipods (in the itunes app) to only pick up these playlists on synch.

As I said it is not perfect. Ratings collide. We have to avoid fights over genre tags. I have to do tag maintenance every once in a while. But it works ok for our household.

I am playing around with a different approach — using Beyond Compare to fully replicate our music collection to a bunch of individual machines, and then letting people tag and rate their music as they want on that machine and sync on that machine. This creates a whole bunch of other problems, best solved if we only rip cds on one machine in the house (which is the case today), but it does work better in some ways with itunes.


Paul Thurrott’s Internet Nexus — “Tunebite supports customer to hear their music everywhere they want. Did you purchase your music online and do you find it frustrating that you can?t listen to it wherever you want to? Tunebite is fully automated to free you from this annoyance when you listen to music. With Tunebite you can listen to your music everywhere from now on, even on your MP3 player. Legal & foolproof: Tunebite runs in the background on your Windows PC. When you play back a piece of music, Tunebite automatically re-records the song. This is legal and foolproof.” Awesome.

Music Manipulation Weekend

Besides watching movies this weekend I also did a lot of mindless music bit twiddling.

* Installed two new ipods. Downloaded the latest itunes and ipod drivers. Point itunes at my server with all my mp3s and had it crank away and import them all. While my laptop was doing this…
* …I Installed ExactAudioCopy, which requires Lame and AccurateRip, and you might as well install dbpoweramp. Ripped all the latest CDs i have purchased. While my desktop was doing this…
* Bittorrent churning on another machine, downloading various (completely legal) torrents, which come in RAR files and Ogg Vorbis encoding. Downloaded a RAR unpacker, and the Ogg Vorbis Codecs. And now I really needed dbpoweramp to convert the Ogg Vorbis content to MP3.
* Then back to the laptop to jam it all onto the ipods.
What a production. Man this has to get easier.

Prince's distribution experiments; open source Jay-Z

I don’t understand how the music industry is going to evolve, but I sure love artists that are attempting experiments and not just sitting back and letting the RIAA lob bombs at everyone.

Kudos to Prince for his own music store, I loved his original body of work and am going to have to give him a try again.

And kudos to Jay-Z I think — the Jay-Z construction set is totally cool, allows users to build their own mixes. I’m not sure if Jay-Z actually sanctions this work, maybe he hates it. But letting users interact more deeply with the music seems like a great way to add value to music and thereby encourage people to buy it.

Synthesized singers

Freaky, now you can create synthesized singers from correctly annotated lyrics and scores — Slashdot | Yamaha Releases Singing Synthesis Software. I wonder what range of vocal performances this can encapsulate — I was listening to Led Zep/Robert Plant in the car this am, can you specify a vocal performance in his style? I am sure the answer is no, but how many iterations of Moore’s Law and algorithm development will we need before you can do something like this?