There are literally thousands of music blogs on the Internet and keeping track of them can be a major hassle. Its also difficult to get an idea of what’s hot at the moment since the buzz is dispersed over so many sources. The Hype Machine is essentially Technorati for music - a music blog aggregator that tracks all of the music blogs on the internet and provides you with the tools to make sense of it all.
The recently redesigned site is a major improvement over the previous version. The site still maintains the spartan style of the previous version but utilizes color and simple design elements that make navigation is cleaner and text much easier to read. Aside from the standard list of all music pulled from every tracked blog, The Hype Machine has some very interesting and useful features…
The Hype Machine provides you with a dashboard that allows you to manage your favorite songs, blogs, people and searches. These items are then aggregated into your customized Love Feed. You can check your Love Feed for new music, play songs directly in the page and add them to your Loved Tracks. Unfortunately there is no way to play your love feed as a playlist at tis time.
Keeping track of what’s popular at the moment across thousands of blogs is easy with The Hype Machine. The Popular tab provides a ranked list of songs that are getting the most clicks and plays on the site. Its a great way to see where the blogosphere buzz is at the moment. However, there is no easy way to tell which songs are posted on multiple blogs which is also an indicator of buzz aside from just clicks and plays.
The Hype Spy is another interesting way to get a feel for the current zeitgeist. The Spy basically shows you what all users are currently listening to at the moment. Additionally, they also provide a list of the most recent searches.
When you click an artist name, you will see a list of blog entries and songs across the blogosphere that contain that artist. Additionally, these pages also include links to purchase music across multiple stores, tour dates and music videos.
You can also access the full list of blogs tracked by The Hype Machine. In addition to a list of top blogs, you can browse the directory alphabetically.
Overall the new Hype Machine is a welcome change and a site i will be using frequently to find the latest and greatest from around the net.
The slickly designed player continuously plays videos in order or allows you to directly jump to a video of your choice. When viewing other people’s video playlists, you add videos to your QuickList which you can then use to create another playlist. The best part is you can embed your video playlist for use on your website, blog or social network profile.
Sometimes the videos don’t match up exactly so Fiql provides the ability to change the video used for the song if there is more than one option or delete the video entirely.
Now they just need to step up and embed some kick ass playlists for that next Bar Mitzvah.
While the UI looks simple and straightforward its is very problematic. When you type in a an artist name, you will see live search results. Unfortunately, many items that display in the live search box are actually not represented in the catalog (it would be better to just restrict results to available content). There is also no difference between your play queue and search results - if you search for something new (or click an artist or director name), the results replace your play queue. Not only that, but it often inserts songs you have just listened to. It would be better to have the queue and results separate and provide the ability to add items from the results to the queue. This approach would also alleviate the site’s biggest problem - there is no apparent way to get back and access your personalized channel based on items you have rated.
Ratings are also problematic - you can only rate videos but not artists. I may very much like an artist but not like a particular song and VV does not seem to have an understandable method for how this common occurrence is handled. There is also no way to see videos you have rated. Additionally, the site does not provide any data regarding what album the video is from or links to purchase songs.
VV does provide a nice selection of good quality video (that surpasses services that rely on poorly encoded or labeled YouTube for their content) and it’s fun to click around and check out different artists. However, the problems of the service are significant and need to be addressed before it can graduate to a truly compelling offering.
LastFM introduced a new widget today that allows people to compare their music taste with yours directly from your website, social network profile or blog. The beauty of the widget is that users don’t need to be LastFM members to compare tastes - they can simply type in names of their favorite artists and see how you match up. This form of openess is a welcome change from lock-in widgets that require users to already be members of a service to interact. You can also click on a “Listen to music like this” button which basically provides similar artist radio for the top artist match between the two users.
I came across this delicious collection of vintage Asian albums covers from the ’60s and ’70s (including Singapore, Indonesia, honk Kong, Japan and Thailand). The covers clearly demonstrate the influence of Western design while maintaining a distinct Asian flavor. I only wish they had some samples of these albums to listen to.
I just updated my iPhone with the latest firmware that adds the wi-fi store functionality. Its not often that I require the need to purchase a song on the spot but I can imagine several instances where it can be useful. For instance when I was on vacation last week, a friend of mine played a bunch of new music that I really liked. I didn’t bring my laptop with me and really wanted to get some of those tunes for the rest of my trip. The wifi store would have been a perfect solution.
Featured Releases and Charts
You access the store via a new icon on your main menu screen. The first page you see is Featured New Releases which shows a combination of small promotional banners in addition to selected albums. You can also access What’s Hot and Genre Features as well.
There is another tab for Top 10s where you can view the top albums and songs across the iTunes service. At the bottom of each list there is a link to view 10 more items. When you tap it, the iPhone loads the next 10 items below the previous 10 so you never need to use a back button - a very nice use of “progressive disclosure”.
You can search for songs by typing in what you are looking for. Like iTunes, the wifi store thankfully utilizes live search so as you type you are provided with matching keywords. The more you type, the more accurate the suggestions.
Viewing an artist will display 2 albums (with a link to view all albums) and 25 songs (with a link to view 25 more songs). Albums also show ratings as well as the number of reviews though you cant access reviews at this time. To listen to a song, simply tap the song name and you will hear a 30-second sample.
Purchase and Download
To purchase a song or album, you click the price and it changes to a buy now button. This is a nice feature because it greatly reduces the chance of accidentally purchasing a song. Click the buy now button and the item animates into the download tab in the bottom left. You are then asked to enter your account password. Songs download incredibly fast over a high speed connection.
While the full iTunes store offers much more in terms of exploring and discovering music, the wifi store is a very elegant and impressive implementation. Now the problem is how to control my purchasing impulses when waiting in (the ever expanding) places that have wifi access.
Rocketsurgeon’s Music 2.0 Blog has been quiet the last few weeks. A combination of an insane work schedule and a week of much needed vacation has kept me from blogging on a regular basis. I’m back now and you can hopefully expect a return to more regular posts and analysis.
iTunes added a live search feature to the iTunes music store today. When you begin typing a menu appears to try and autocomplete your search keywords. The feature does seem to provide keywords for artists, albums and songs though there is no visual distinction between the keyword types. While this is a welcome addition, Yottamusic has had a similar feature now for months, and does show the distinction between keyword types.
iTunes Live Search:
Yottamusic Live Search:
iToner is a simple utility that allows you to use your music collection as iPhone ringtones. Simply drag and drop music files on the iToner window and sync to your iPhone. You can also create a custom playlist within iTunes for your ringtones an use iToner to sync all content of the playlist. To assign a ringtone to a specific contact, just go to the edit contact screen on your iPhone, click “assign ringtone”, and select the ringtone you want.
MyStrands launched a personalized streaming music video site this week. The service streams music videos from YouTube based on your favorite artists scrobbled via the MyStrands desktop application. In addition to the video stream, the service provides additional video and channel recommendations, Mystrands members who listen to the current artist and artist discography (Amazon).
A very nice feature is the ability to set the next video to a similar artist, the same artist or other artist (from your favorites). You can add videos to a favorites list and use a set of simple icons to rate or block videos. The service also keeps track of your recently played videos in case you want to go back and review them.
Unfortunately, It doesn’t seem like there is an easy way to embed your personalized player into a web page at this time, but you can directly link to your personal channel. Overall a very nice beta.
I was playing around with Virb, the MySpace for people who like well designed web pages. Their video player keeps with their minimal, but elegant design philosophy. A really great feature, in fact the player’s only feature, is the ability to essentially “turn the lights off” and view the video on a darkened background. Simple design at its best.
The concertgoing landscape forever changed the day when that first fan raised his lighter in a darkened arena to pay tribute to his favorite power ballad. In the years that have followed, people stopped smoking and many venues have banned it altogether. A recent trend is fans using cellphones as a hollow replacement to the mesmerizing, elemental lure of flickering fire. No need to worry though - a new iPhone application lets you keep the flame alive in our new clean-living world.
Results from the search are not as comprehensive as similar services such as Skreemr and Seeqpod - even for popular and classic french pop. Also search terms need to be exact as the system is very unforgiving of typos and splitting multiple keywords. The UI elements are also a bit confusing - a star traditionally connotes a rating but here it means to “use this song as a specific search term.”
Here is an example of the widget:
“The heart of Animoto is its newly developed Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology that thinks like an actual director and editor. It analyzes and combines user-selected images and music with the same sophisticated post-production skills & techniques that are used in television and film.”
Select Video Type
You can create short 30 second videos (free) or full length videos ($3).
Simply select the files from your hard drive you wish to upload. Animoto is actually surprisingly fast - I uploaded over 80 images in under 3 minutes. Once uploaded, you can reorder images, rotate them and set which images should be given added emphasis.
You can select music from Animoto’s limited library of music (indie rock, electronica, or hiphop) or upload you own song from your hard drive.
Finish Your Video
Animoto provides a detailed progress meter to show you the production stage your video is at.
The Final Product
The final widscreen video is output directly on screen. You can play the video directly and go back to remix it either manually or by running the engine again. You can also send the video to a friend via email or use the embed tool to get code for posting videos on your website, blog or profile page.
The results are really very good. As you can see below in this 30 second short, Animoto does an excellent job at analyzing the music and providing transitions and motion to reflect the tempo.
ITunes is now offering a suite of widgets that help them dip their toe into the music social networking space. The suite of widgets are beautifully designed (as expected) and provide a range of customization including different sizes and color schemes. The widgets allow you to share items like your iTunes purchases, iTunes reviews, and iTunes favorites.
While this is pretty cool, the widgets only provide data based on your interaction with the iTunes store, which is cool if you buy lots of music and happen to only listen to your purchased items. I guess that way no matter who’s widget you see, the music will always be available for purchase. However, it would be great if they provided a means to actually share your true charts that included no-store music. Until that day comes, I guess I’ll stick with the Last.fm widgets.
Live Nation, the online concert ticket and search service, introduced a set of widgets and browser tools to help extend their reach. The Concert search widget comes in two skins and lets users search for concerts and venues directly from your website, blog or profile page. The Venues widget lets you keep track of upcoming events at your favorite local venue. A search bar for IE7 and Firefox adds Live Nation search functionality to your browser’s search bar.
Out of the many Concert 2.0 tools, Live Nation has lagged behind in terms of artist tracking, venue tracking, personalization and social features. While these widgets can certainly help move the service towards Music 2.0 goodness, they still have a long way to go.
Sometimes when listening to terrestrial radio (oh so music 1.0) you may find yourself in that rare instance where you actually come across a song you like. But terrestrial radio doesn’t always have a means for letting you instantly know what is playing. A new iPhone application allows you to see what songs are currently playing on the radio. The application allows you to browse several major markets to see what is currently on. Data is provided by Yes.com.
Execution is pretty basic at this stage. It would be great if they eventually provided album art, and the ability to purchase and download songs from iTunes (as soon as that feature is available on the iphone of course).
Smashing magazine has a great overview of the current state of data visualization methods. There are music examples, many of which I covered in my Last.fm Visualization tools article. An interesting find was a Java tool called The Shape of Song. You can either upload a MIDI file or select one from their repertoire. The application then provides an interactive visualization of the song.
Arcs represent parts of the song that have identical passages and the diagram as a whole represents the composition’s deep structure. As compositions become more complex, the tool allows you to see very interesting patterns and relationships. MIDI files can be divided into several tracks, which typically represent different instruments or voices. The software in The Shape of Song analyzes each track separately, since each instrument often has a unique pattern of repetitions. Unfortunately tracks are represented by numbers instead of the instrument name so its difficult to tell exactly what you are looking at.