How many songs is enough?

My recent purge/re-org of photos was productive and satisfying. So I decided to tackle my iTunes music library next. I collected a lot of music in the 60s and 70s. LPs, reel-to-reel, cassettes. After I left radio (no longer “on the air” playing music for others to listen to) I pretty much lost interest in music until the iPod came along in 2001. But I never amassed a giant collection of songs.

As I turned my attention to my iTunes library I discovered I had 800+ titles. Scanning and sampling, it quickly became apparent that I hadn’t listened to some of these songs in years… and probably wouldn’t listen to many of them ever again. The result of ripping and entire LP that included only two or three songs that I liked. Or purchasing an entire “CD” from iTunes. But you don’t delete songs, right? You might listen to them someday. So, just tuck them away in a folder or playlist for that day.

In some manner I can’t explain, keeping those never-gonna-listen-to-them again songs were preventing me from listening to the stuff I liked. So I purged. Down to about 650 songs.

I’m still organizing. Creating playlists, adding ratings, etc. This morning I picked my 100 “favorite” songs (from the 650). Much harder than I expected and certainly a moving target. I’ll keep refining that. The goal will be, I think, to reach a point where any song that comes up in shuffle will prompt me to think/says, “Ooh. I love that song!”

I know what you’re thinking (as does The Amazing Kreskin): Why not subscribe to Spotify or Beats or one of the other streaming services and enjoy ALL the songs. See, that’t the problem for me. I can’t enjoy all the songs. Too many choices. I’m glad those services exist and hope there are more and better ones coming, but I’m gonna concentrate on really listening to and enjoying the music I have.

The transistor radio

From Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators:

radio“Transistors were being sold in 1954 to the military for about $16 apiece. But in order to break into the consumer marker. Haggerty insisted that his engineers find a way to make them so that they could be sold for less than $3. They did. He also developed a Jobs-like knack, which would serve him then and in the future, for conjuring up devices that consumers did not yet know they needed but would soon find indispensable. In the case of the transistor, Haggerty came up with the idea of a small pocket radio. When he tried to convince RCA and other big firms that made tabletop radios to become a partner in the venture, they pointed out (rightly) that consumers were not demanding a pocket radio. But Haggerty understood the importance of spawning new markets rather than merely chasing old ones. He convinced a small Indianapolis company that built TV antenna boosters to join forces on what would be called the Regency TR-1 radio. Haggerty made the deal in June 1954 and, typically, insisted that the device be on the market by that November. It was. The Regency radio, the size of a pack of index cards, used four transistors and sold for $49.95. It was initially marketed partly as a security item, now that the Russians had the atom bomb. “In event of an enemy attack, your Regency TR-1 wiU become one of your most valued possessions,” the first owner s manual declared. But it quickly became an object of consumer desire and teenage obsession. Its plastic case came, iPod-like, in four colors: black, ivory, Mandarin Red, and Cloud Gray. Within a year, 100,000 had been sold, making it one of the most popular new products in history.”

“More fundamentally, the transistor radio became the first major example of a defining theme of the digital age: technology making devices personal. The radio was no longer a living-room appliance to be shared; it was a personal device that allowed you to listen to your own music where and when you wanted—even if it was music that your parents wanted to ban.”

Apple Watch

sandisk-mp3-player_2From my blog, November 2004: “I gave some serious thought to purchasing an iPod or similar digital audio device. But the buggers cost $300-400 and I didn’t want to pay that much. And I don’t have 10,000 mp3 files, anyway. So I sprung for a SanDisk Digital Music Player. This little gem has 512 meg of (flash) storage and will play for 15 hours on a single AAA battery. It was on sale at Best Buy for about $120 and I can take it back if I don’t like it.”

Like thousands of such devices, mine is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. Which is where all of the android watches will wind up. Within a year or two of the Apple Watch launch the only place you’ll see these ugly fuckers is on the wrists of Dungeons & Dragons ‘wizards’ or that girl in your National Honor Society who sold the most Christmas cards four years in a row.

Chipotle FM

I eat at Chipotle’s a couple of times a week. On Friday I realized I was bobbing my head in time with the song coming from the restaurant sound system. Didn’t recognize the song or the artist. Thinking back, it occurred to me the music there was always to my liking. So I asked Google “do all Chipotle’s restaurants play the same music?” and found the answer in a story at Businessweek (yes).

Chris Golub the founder and sole employee of Studio Orca which “creates customized playlists for restaurants tired of putting their dining atmosphere in the hands of Pandora or Sirius XM Radio. His job consists of researching music, discovering bands, and asking questions such as, “Would you rather hear folky banjo music or classic Motown as you eat your steak burrito bowl?”

“Golub runs Studio Orca out of his spacious apartment in a Brooklyn high-rise. There he spends 8 to 10 hours a day researching music for Chipotle, which lets him play anything he wants. “I’m looking for songs that make you want to dance around your kitchen in your socks and underwear before you’ve even had your second cup of coffee,” he says. “Not many songs can do that.” Golub listens to about 500 songs before he finds one that will work.”

“Chipotle’s 1,500 stores all play the same music. […] Four times a month he loads up his iPod with 15 to 20 new tracks and goes to a restaurant in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to see how they sound in the store. Once a month he sends the updated list to Mood Media, formerly known as Muzak, which then streams the mix over the online service Rdio and into every Chipotle store.”

I put the Rdio app on my phone so I can listen to Chipotle FM for a bit.

Is Gen Y changing the workplace?

Generation Y (GenY) is made up of those born between 1981-1999. I hear a few knocks on today’s young people but mostly from older folks with a very different view of… everything. I found the following in a story on a Canadian website and have applied for membership in Gen Y.

Clay Collins, author of The Alternative Productivity Manifesto and Quitting Things and Flakiness: The #1 Productivity Anti-Hack, argues that Gen Y is different than previous generation workers in the following ways:

  • Gen Y uses modern tools and technologies, including software that’s easily accessible and free from the Internet;
  • Gen Y easily maintains their to-do lists, and priorities by synching with the PDAs and iPODs;
  • Gen Y are not workaholics, and understand the relationship between a balanced life and productivity;
  • Gen Y are more likely to love their jobs, because they change jobs more frequently, and stay in jobs that match their passions and talents;
  • Gen Y has a continuing thirst for learning and personal growth;
  • Gen Y wants to have new experiences, try new things, and be creative;
  • Gen Y doesn’t stay in jobs they don’t like just to be comfortable and secure.

Understanding Generation Y is important not just for employers. Older workers–that is, anyone over 30–need to know how to adapt to the values and demands of their newest colleagues. Before too long, they’ll be the bosses. via Is Gen Y changing the workplace? Entrepreneur Financial Post.

Pandora Radio

Top 40 radio was just what it sounds like. The 40 most popular songs played over and over and over. The idea –as I understand it– was people would rather hear the popular songs more frequently than have a bunch of new stuff mixed in.

The little station I worked at had a longer play list. Maybe 100 to 150 songs? It was pretty loose. Nobody got too upset if you mixed in something not in “the box.” But it was pretty easy to get burned out on the most popular songs if you played them every…single…day.

By the time I left in the mid-80s, I’d heard about all the music I needed for a while. And the only easy way to listen to music at the time was… on radio stations with very “tight” playlists. Somebody else was picking my tunes.

It was nearly 15 years before the iPod rekindled my interest in music. I ripped the few CD’s I had and started buying music on iTunes. It was nice.

The idea of “streaming” music didn’t immediately appeal to me. I wanted to “have” the songs. But when Pandora came along a couple of years ago, I gave it a try and was immediately hooked.

Now I start each day at the Coffee Zone (6:30) by popping in the ear buds and firing up one of my “stations” on Pandora. More on those in a moment.

When I hear a song I like, I give it a thumbs up. If I don’t care for the song, thumbs down immediately rejects it. I think you can reject up to 5 songs an hour. If I want to give my station more variety, I can add and artist or a song and Pandora will start mixing in similar music. It isn’t perfect but over time, Pandora gets better and better at playing songs I like.

And I can have as many stations as I want. If I’m feeling funky, for example, I jump over to my Al Greene station.

Pandora keeps a record of every song I vote up or down, including the date and time I did so. You can check this out if your interested. I can also bookmark songs and/or artists and post a link to Twitter or Facebook.

I was surprised by some of my choices. And by the percentage of new music by artists I’d never heard of. And songs I don’t think I’d hear on our local radio stations. And certainly not commercial-free. You can listen to 40 hours of Pandora a month for free. I opted for the paid version (Pandora One) which cost $36/year. Best money I spend.

Apps for the iPhone and iPad, of course.

New tech continues to gnaw at radio use

That’s just one of the findings in the latest State of the News Media annual report from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism

“Fully 236 million Americans listened to at least some radio in an average week in the fall of 2009, a number that has been basically static for the past five years, and news/talk/ information remains among the most popular formats. NPR’s audience in 2009 rose slightly, up 0.1%, from 2008. But new technology is encroaching on the amount of traditional radio use. More than 4 –in 10 Americans now say they listen to less terrestrial radio due to iPod/MP3 use, and nearly 1in 3 now say they listen to online radio.”

Traditional broadcast radio experienced an 18% drop in ad revenue in 2009 compared to 2008. Internet and mobile radio revenues are growing (a projected 9.4%), but they do little to alleviate the pressure – counting for less than one fortieth of total. In satellite radio, SiriusXM in 2009 increased its revenue 3.7%, compared with a year earlier, to 2.5 billion compared to 2008. The company, however, both before and after the merger, has continued to report net losses in each of the last three years. In 2009 SiriusXM posted a net loss of $441 million.

The number of stations identified by Arbitron as news/talk/information rose in 2009 to 1,583, up from 1,533 in 2008. This category is broadly defined and includes a large amount of talk programming. But all-news stations make up a much smaller category. In 2009, there were just 27 commerical stations around the country that listed themselves as all news, down from 31 the year before. And even here the label is self-defined and may include talk or other less news-oriented programs. In commercial radio, local all-news stations now tend to be limited to only the largest markets.

TV station gets iPads, saves on paper and looks hip

Last week, news anchors and producers at Barrington Broadcasting Group’s WFXL Albany, Ga., replaced their paper scripts with electronic versions displayed on the iPad. They project the move will save nearly $10,000 a year in paper costs. From the original story:

“Newscast scripts are composed as usual. But rather than printing to paper, the final version is formatted as a PDF file and transmitted to each iPad via e-mail. The PDF translation is handled by iAnnotate by Aji.LLC, a $7 program sold and downloaded via Apple’s App Store.

Although WFXL doesn’t employ iPads as teleprompters, it could if it chose to. Apple’s App Store already offers two third-party applications for scrolling copy on the iPad: Nairo Techology’s iPrompter for $2.99 and Bombing Brain Interactive’s Teleprompt+ for $9.99, which allows any iPhone to double as a remote controller.

In addition, hardware vendor Bodelin Technologies offers a new version of its through-the-lens ProPrompter HDi display, which mounts the iPad as a prompter monitor on both studio and field cameras. The $850 device includes “professional” display software, which is also controllable through an iPhone or iPod Touch.”

And they look pretty cool. No small thing in the world of TV news.

I predict it will become common practice to cover the Apple logo with the station logo.

Streaming video of committee hearing

I took the little BT-1 Bluetooth webcam back to the Missouri capitol yesterday for a hearing. Used twitcam to stream. The audio was poor to marginal and the video about what you’d expect from a $150 camera. It was basically a final field test and I was pleased.

If you look closely (red arrow) in the top left corner of the photo above, you can see the aluminum legs of the small tripod holding the camera. I was about 20-25 feet away. The camera was very unobtrusive and it was convenient to be untethered and out of the way.

One of these days there will be a high-profile news conference we’ll want to stream live and I’ll just grab the BT-1 and the MacBook Pro. We don’ need no stinkin’ satellite truck.

PS: I have no idea why Wilfred Brimmley is on the committee (top center)