AirPods: First hundred days

I am not an audiophile. I thought the AM radio (WLS) music coming out of the dash speaker on my Ford Falcon sounded pretty damn good. During the 70s I wore headphones four hours a day. I lived through the refrigerator sized speaker era. It all sounded good to me.

But the music never sounded as good as it does coming from the tiny Apple AirPods. Is that perceptual? Maybe. But all music is perceptual unless you have a spectrum analyzer implanted in your head.

I’ve never heard better, more natural, separation. I was listening to CSN&Y (on the highway) this morning and could hear acoustic guitars in my left ear (for lack of a more scientific description). Even that little raspy sounds made when the fingers are dragged along one of the base strings (?). I could shift my awareness to the base in my right ear. (Channel is a better word, isn’t it?) And the vocals were somewhere in the rear-center of my noggin.

It feels like I’m hearing these songs for the first time. I know, I know… this is old news to you pros with the big cans clamped to your head. And good for you.

I’m seeing more AirPods here in the coffee shop every week. If I’m familiar with the person I ask how they like them and why they decided to give them a try. Usually some variation of the story above.

There are probably a lot of good reason NOT to try AirPods. That they’re made by Apple is not one of them.

The people who make the streaming playlists

Good piece from last year on the people who curate playlists for streaming music services:

“As streaming has gone mainstream, these curators, many of whom began their professional lives as bloggers and DJs, have amassed unusual influence. Their work, as a rule, is uncredited — the better for services designed to feel like magic — but their reach is increasingly unavoidable. Spotify says 50% of its more than 100 million users globally are listening to its human-curated playlists (not counting those in the popular, algorithmically personalized “Discover Weekly”), which cumulatively generate more than a billion plays per week. According to an industry estimate, 1 out of every 5 plays across all streaming services today happens inside of a playlist. And that number, fueled by prolific experts, is growing steadily.”

“All the signs point to playlists being the dominant mode of discovery in the near future,” says Jay Frank, senior vice president of global streaming marketing for Universal Music Group, the largest of the major label conglomerates. “When it comes to trying to find something exciting and new, more people are going to want to go to trusted playlists.”

I hope these folks always have a job and I sort of think they will. Not convinced an algorithm can do the voodoo they do.

How was your day, Ian?

In chapter 8 of The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly talks about Remixing. “Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombining in all possible ways.” He spends a good bit of time talking about video and the amazing new ways we will find to create and use it.

I will have my AI (we’ll all have one, or more than one) pull all of the available video of Ian Emmerson. He lives in the UK somewhere. Don’t know where. Or what he does for a living. But there’s a bazillion cameras in the UK so there will be no shortage of video.

My AI will edit each day’s video into a montage (of sorts). Ian waiting for one of those big red double-decker buses; Ian trudging into the building where he works; Ian in his cubicle; Ian getting fish and chips from a curb-side truck; Ian (alone) in the pub, having a pint before going back to his ‘flat.’ Pretty much the same stuff every day with an interesting character tossed in from time to time. Or, perhaps, just a character.

Each ‘episode’ will end with one of Ian’s songs, like the one below. I’ll let the AI pick the tune, based on that day’s ‘footage.’ I’ll probably let the AI pick a name for the series but I kind of like, “How was your day, Ian?”


I just purchased ($10) the 1968 cast recording of the Broadway musical Hair. I couldn’t find the album in Apple Music so I had to purchase from the iTunes store. The album charted No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the last Broadway musical cast album to do so (as of 2016, which finally saw The Hamilton Mixtape chart No. 1, although that is not a cast album). So says Wikipedia. Hair’s cast album stayed at No. 1 for 13 weeks in 1969. You had to be there.