Author Archives: Jake

iTunes vs. The Cloud

iTunes vs. The Cloud

I have spent over a decade building a collection of digital music. During that time, through many obsessive late nights, I made sure that my music remained in impeccable order. Each artist filled in, each album complete, and each year carefully researched. The library was organized by artist first, and then by album chronologically for each artist. Before the days of iTunes, I had to assign each file an ID3 tag individually, a process that took an unhealthily long time.

However, with the advent and quick rise of iTunes, inputting and maintaining music became immeasurably simpler. I would spend hours poring over my music and organizing it meticulously. I continued along this path for many years, and all was well. All was well, that is, until the cloud came and rained on my parade.

My iTunes library, now uploaded to Google Music en masse, has been relegated to the digital doldrums of my computer. Editing file names, artists and albums has become a chore, and one that I’m not man enough to undertake. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not even sure how to edit the details of my music once it’s uploaded. Is there a way? Please, someone tell me! Before it’s too late!

Now, I know that most streaming and storage services are just catering to the vast majority of people who do not have an unhealthy compulsion to organize their music libraries for several hours at all times of the day and night. But it would be nice if there were a service out there for the obsessively detail-oriented among us who cannot sleep soundly at night unless everything is in its right place. Sometimes the names of my songs are so altered in the upload that I cannot locate the music that I’m trying to find.

The cloud has undoubtedly made it easier for me to have extra space on my computer when I need it. And I can constantly update my friends about what I’m listening to and what they should try on for size. But, unless I’m using a streaming service like Spotify, I cannot upload my entire library to the cloud without sacrificing at least some of the meticulous cataloguing that took me days to achieve. Some might call this a fake problem. They’d tell me to let it go, to get over it. What’s the value in organizing a music library anyway? It’s not like it’ll sound any better.

That may be true. But the next time I can’t find the song I’m looking for in my own uploaded library, I’ll grow a little more bitter about the lack of customizability of Google Music, and this unintended consequence of storing music in the cloud.

By Jacob Hyman

The Paradox Of The Cloud

The Paradox Of The Cloud

As I see it, the purpose of the cloud is to increase and ease our ability to access and store music. The cloud is an invisible external hard drive for us, and a perpetual playlist of music that isn’t ours but to which we can have virtually unlimited access. The theoretical convenience of such a system is undeniable. Most of us carry phones that have high speed connectivity to the internet, so it makes sense that we would store our music there rather than on the memory cards and hard drives that previously housed our music libraries.

However, as a resident of New York City and frequent rider of underground public transit, I cannot help but wonder if the cloud hasn’t significantly reduced my access to my own music. I store my music library of roughly 15 thousand songs on Google Music, and – until recently – also carried an iPod with 80gb of space. My iPod held about three-quarters of my music, and I was never lacking for listening options or podcasts. My music would play instantly, without buffering, and I could listen to it underground, above ground, or on a plane. My access to a rather extensive music library of my own design was unabated as it was. What problem does the cloud solve for me?

Well, for one thing, my iPod never could house all of my music. The constant dance of checking and unchecking songs for upload was admittedly getting a little frustrating. Why should I have to remove Fleetwood Mac just because I also want to listen to the new Kanye album? Furthermore, how many people can say they have 15 thousand songs on their computers or portable listening devices? The cloud expands access for all music listeners, even those with libraries as overblown as my own, to include not just what an individual would choose, but also what is recommended to that individual by friends and robots…I mean…algorithms.

And, perhaps most importantly, the cloud makes it possible for individual listeners to share the listening experience with each other via social networking media. This ability to influence each other’s musical choices and tastes is revolutionizing the experience of listening to and discovering new music.

By Jacob Hyman

Cloud B-Sides: The End Of The Album

Cloud B-Sides: The End Of The Album

Cloud B-Sides: The End Of The Album

cloud computing music

For most of the history of music, composers wrote long pieces of art, which were then consumed by discerning listeners in the manner in which they were intended…as one long stream of music consciousness. This is a concept that reaches back to Gregorian Chants, through Wagner’s Der Ring das Nibelungen, and as far forward as modern classics such as Radiohead’s OK Computer or Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. The work of art is the sum of its parts, as a painting is the result of hundreds and thousands of brush strokes or a book is simply a compilation of words on pages.

The album – the piece, the work in its entirety – is nearing its extinction. With the rise of digital music, and the subsequent fall of our attention spans, listeners developed new and previously unprecedented habits: skipping tracks. iTunes libraries are notoriously difficult to keep neat…unless you’re as obsessed as I am with a tidy collection full of only complete albums. The iTunes Store also encourages the purchase of singles, as do record labels, in an interest to cater to the quickest dollar. This is compounded by the fact that commercial radio has maintained its three-decade strangle hold on most of the country’s listening habits, and is still force-feeding single after single down our throats with no regard for decency, either human or musical.

Lo and behold! The end of the album as we know it. The icing on the cake is what has become of the digital music revolution…the “cloud.” Artists and listeners alike have taken to hosting their music on the internet in an effort to satisfy the demands of a public in constant need of instant gratification. The day a single comes out, it is streaming on SoundCloud, where it remains for all to access and listen to ad nauseum free of charge. This easy and unlimited access devalues songs and desensitizes listeners to such a point that the album itself becomes virtually irrelevant. Unless an artist can pump out a dozen songs like “Call Me Maybe” or “We Are Young,” there’s no hope of listeners paying attention long enough to recall the name of the band or song they just listened to. Before they can commit it to memory, they’re on to the next track.

If I sound somewhat cynical and bitter – even nostalgic – about this topic, it’s because I enjoy experiencing entire works of art so much. There is much to be said for the value of a good pop song. But without the challenge of a long, well-crafted album, that pop song just seems to have an unfair advantage in today’s digital world of instant cloud streaming and shortening attention spans.

By Jacob Hyman

The Cloud Eclipse Of MySpace

The Cloud Eclipse Of MySpace

I remember a time, not three years ago, when a band was measured and judged primarily by the number of views and – more importantly – plays that they had managed to amass on MySpace. This was after the time, of course, when bands were measured solely on the merits of their musical ability, but that’s neither here nor there. Way back in 2009, if a band had 1 million plays on MySpace, you could bet that that band would soon be scooped up by an indie label trying to find the industry’s next social-media-driven up-and-comer.

But MySpace has come and gone. There are new metrics for statistically judging a band’s reach, such as the nearly indecipherable Facebook “InSights” and Twitter “Analytics.” Neither Facebook nor Twitter, however, allows a band to easily host its music. Therefore, it is clear that what replaced the need for MySpace in terms of the music industry was not either of those immensely popular social networking sites, but rather the advent of streamable music via the cloud.

As of now, cloud-streaming services have all but eclipsed the former ubiquitous MySpace as the public’s main access to free streaming music online. Spotify and Pandora are the most obvious examples, but even sites like SoundCloud and HypeMachine offer listners a much more interesting experience than they could have ever hoped for on the sloppy, clunky, unmanageable MySpace. These new sites all offer users a way to interact in real time with other users and the streaming platform itself.

Where MySpace had only basic controls and a limited scope, Pandora offers users the ability to hear music they would not normally have sought out. Taking this one step further into the interactive realm, Spotify allows users to publicly post to their other social media in order to expose friends to the bands and songs that they are listening. And, with cloud services like SoundCloud and HypeMachine, users can interact with each other and artists by commenting and liking at points throughout each song, as well as posting publicly on social media.

It is no wonder MySpace has been unable to hold their reign as tastemakers. The service simply could not keep up with the ever-advancing industry that it helped pioneer. The only surprising part is that, while MySpace provided a platform for users to both listen to music and form a social network, no site since has been able to completely integrate those two ideas. Our social media and media consumption have become more compartmentalized since the days of MySpace, rather than more mainstreamed, which is the opposite of what one would expect given MySpace’s swift and certain decline.

By Jacob Hyman

Indaba Music: A Cloud Based Music Network

Indaba Music: A Cloud Based Music Network

In my last article, I discussed the remarkable benefits of using Dropbox to produce, record, and share musical ideas. As if that all wasn’t revolutionary enough, Indaba Music has developed a platform, much like that advanced by SoundCloud, that allows for real-time partnership between musicians from anywhere in the world. Uploading, comments, and collaboration all occur within a shared window and are viewable to the public (only if made public, of course). Most commonly used for remixes and interactive direct-to-consumer projects and competitions by major artists and production companies (Linkin Park, Snoop Dogg, Disney, and Universal, to name a few), any producer or musician can also use Indaba to share, swap and collaborate on musical ideas.

Indaba was established in 2007 with the mission to make it as easy as possible for musicians to network and make music together. A Zulu word, indaba “refers to gathering in order to share ideas, do business, and discuss important matters.” This sense of community is “central to the mission of Indaba Music.” I attended the Indaba launch party at CMJ in 2007, and that feeling of togetherness and resource sharing has truly been the crux of the company’s goals from day one.

music cloud

During the five years since then, however, Indaba has become a place that is far more than a social network of musicians noodling with creative ideas. It has evolved into a breeding ground for careers. Artists now have the tools to learn from their peers, promote and distribute their material, and even license work to outside media such as commercials and TV. Partnerships can be forged between technology experts, artists, producers, and others to make the most out of the ever-changing modern web-based music industry.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of Indaba’s platform is the potential for collaboration between major artists and virtually unknown hobbyists. For one of Indaba’s current contests, for example, The Darkness offers the opportunity for fans and collaborators to attempt an “epic guitar solo” over a section of their new single. The winner gets $750, a signed Epiphone guitar, and a veritable grab bag of goodies. Last year my band, Freelance Whales, partnered with Indaba to offer remixers of our single a chance to win a trip to Coachella 2011, as well as $500. Beyond offering artists at home the chance to work together, Indaba offers artists a chance for authentic and productive musical interactions with fans. That ability, previously reserved for open jams, has now – like most things – made its way to our fingertips.

By Jacob Hyman

Making Music In The Cloud

Making Music In The Cloud

freelance whales

There was a time – and not all that long ago – when the only options for musicians to create together involved enclosed spaces, physical isolation from the world and, above all else, physical proximity to each other. This physical proximity is the subject of many a dramatic “Behind the Music” meltdown anecdote, and has led to innumerable arguments, physical confrontations, and band break-ups over the past sixty years. I can attest to the strain that such intense and constant contact between creative individuals places on an artist’s ability to create calmly and productively. Making an album is a volatile process, and one that is a paradox of physical, emotional, and artistic elation and exhaustion. This paradox is something that every band that has ever tried to make music for an extended period of time has come up against, but it is this paradox that has been summarily solved by the existence and evolution of cloud file sharing.

Since 2008, DropBox has been steadily making a name for itself as one of the most efficient ways in which individuals can share and collectively edit files over the internet. As one person uploads files into a folder designated as shared, those with whom the folder is shared have immediate and unlimited access to the files being uploaded. For anyone who has ever worked in a group setting, the benefits to remote file viewing, downloading, and editing, are obvious. That immediate access means that musicians, engineers and producers don’t have to be crammed in a sweaty, smelly recording studio for weeks on end. Rather, those people can be comfortably creating both in the studio and at home, yet still have access to all the same vital information.

This revolutionary concept is even further changing the face of a nearly unrecognizable music industry. Not only can people make music together in home-based recording studios; people can now make that music and instantaneously make it available for cloud collaboration via Dropbox. There are similar file sharing services (MediaFire, YouSendIt, GoogleDrive), but none of them allow for the same unique and pivotal real-time interface that Dropbox allows its users. Folder sharers can literally see the files and their progress as they are being uploaded into the folder. Short of remotely accessing a desktop, we as computer users and musicians have never had this sort of unbridled ability to communicate and collaborate virtually.

By Jacob Hyman

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