Tag Archives: music

A Glutton for Punishment

I’ve heard mixed reviews on the new iOS 10 beta’s music app. Long-time readers will no doubt remember that I gave up playing music on my iPhone altogether a while back, due to the Music app being completely incongruous with the way I listen to music, not to mention constant issues with songs not downloading, going missing, etc. So I’ve been happily using my old iPod Classic for a while now.

And that’s going great, actually. The old iPod is still working. But I’m a tech geek, and I don’t believe in hanging onto the past forever, so with every new iteration of iOS, I am bound to look at what Apple does with Music to see if there’s a chance they may have actually fixed the issues that drove me away.

Right off the bat, looking at Music.app in the iOS 10 beta, I see two things that have me rather hopeful. First, there’s the Downloaded Music section, which shows you only the songs you actually have living on your iPhone, rather than showing your cloud songs mixed in with your downloaded songs. In previous iterations of Music, there was a switch in Settings to show or hide cloud music, but this dedicated space within the app is actually way better. It gives me the option of looking for a cloud album to download when the mood strikes and I happen to be connected without having to drop out of the app and dig through Settings to flip the cloud music switch.

Second and much more important, when you sort by Artist, you now finally once again have a separate screen between the albums and the individual songs. Which means it’s now possible again to play a single album from an artist when sorting by artist. Hooray. Functionality that existed in iPhone OS 1.0 is now back—many, many years later. This alone was the reason I originally ditched the built-in Music app for Ecoute before giving up on Music on my iPhone altogether.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, I’m doing a little experiment. I’ve moved Music.app back to my main home screen, and I’ve downloaded some music to my phone again, via iTunes. Not my whole library, as I only have a 64GB iPhone at the moment, and my whole library wouldn’t fit on a 128GB, anyway. But come fall, when iOS 10 is released, and with it hopefully a 256GB option for the next iPhone, I may finally be able to replace my old iPod Classic for good, if all the file disappearing and syncing issues have been resolved in iOS. I may finally have all my songs in my pocket again, without carrying around a separate, aging device with a hard drive and battery that are due to fail any minute now.

But that point about the file issues is a huge if. Thus, the experiment. So far, I’ve only added about 15GB of songs onto the iPhone, to see if they actually stick. I’ll keep adding more and more as I go and keep a close eye on whether or not the songs are actually there. Will songs simply disappear again? Will duplicates show up for no reason? Will album tracks show up out of order? Will tracks appear to be there, but when I hit play simply skip to the next track? If history is any indication, all of the above are not only possible, but likely. But I have my fingers crossed. After all, I’m an optimist at heart.

The Music app is far from perfect in iOS 10, but just those two simple changes are enough to get me to at least try it again. I’ll write up some of my gripes about what’s still broken in the near future.

Airplane Mode’s First Music Video

Airplane Mode’s first music video goes live today. I can’t even express how much fun this was to make. Nor can I express my gratitude for everyone involved in the process.

I’ll have more to say on the Airplane Mode blog later. Dave has written a wonderful piece about putting the video together from his perspective.

In the meantime, enjoy the video. And if you’re in NYC tonight, come to Subject LES for our release party at 7pm.

And don’t miss our podcast episode about this song. Lots of background info, for those of you who like the inside scoop.

Airplane Mode: Episode 1

I’ve been a musician since before I owned my first computer. Music will always be my first love. To feed my creativity in this way is beyond exciting. I hope you enjoy:

Airplane Mode Episode 1: Let’s Start a Band

There is much, much more to come. We’ve got the songs written and are in the process of recording all of them to the best of our abilities. Along the way, we’ll be documenting our process, our thinking, and everything in between. We’re just getting started.

A very special thanks to Hover for being our first patron in this adventure. They have always been a great supporter of the tech community; to see them supporting independent music makes me respect them that much more. Don’t forget to use “tidalwave” when you sign up to save 10% on your purchase.

And you too can join Hover in patronizing the arts. Sign up for our Patreon here.

Read more from Dave on why we’re doing the podcast here.

Meet Spin

Spin is an original indie band, formed from the remnants of a cover band that I founded in college with my brother Matt decades ago. Neither Matt nor I are in what became Spin, but I like to think I had a little to do with the guys getting together. My other brother Hank is on lead guitar, and my high school friends Jim and Eric are on keyboards/vocals, and guitar/vocals respectively.

I take no responsibility for Lou, their drummer.[1]

I bring up Spin here on my blog, not only because they’re a cool group that you should check out. They have songs and albums out there you can purchase, and you can also find their music on streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, etc. They’ve been gaining traction lately and have even sold some of their music for use in various video games and TV show soundtracks (more on that later).

If you’re a Stalker fan, you’ve probably recently heard their rather dark cover of Happy Together

The reason I bring them up is to demonstrate my thinking about the Apple Music free trial. How better to assess the effects this trial will have on indie musicians than to ask an actual group of indie musicians?

When the whole Taylor Swift love letter to Apple thing happened, I decided to ask my brother Hank what he thought about streaming services like Spotify and the new Apple music.

The brief resulting conversation didn’t surprise me, but you might find it illuminating.

Spin made a total of roughly $100 last year from streaming services, give or take. You read that right. $100. For the whole band. For their entire catalog. For the entire year.

Now, Dave Wiskus kindly did the math on what Taylor Swift was bound to lose from the three-month free trial of Apple Music, and he concluded that it would take eleven-and-a-half years for her to make up the revenue she’d likely lose in that three months.

Spin, on the other hand, can skip getting a beer after their next gig and be pretty much caught up on the $25 they’d lose in three months on Apple’s service.

I don’t question Taylor Swift’s motives in removing her latest album from Apple Music. It’s her music, and she’s in a position of power to make that strategic choice. But her claim that “This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt” strikes me as a bit hyperbolic, given what actual young songwriters actually get paid from any streaming service. Indies know that streaming is a bum deal, financially. Only a fool would expect Apple Music to be your ticket out of debt. And she knows that.

The guys from Spin don’t put music on streaming services hoping to make money. Selling your music to the general public is a losing proposition in 2015. Instead, they put their music out there so it can get discovered, to raise awareness, to gain future fans who might spend a little money down the road. Any service you’re not on is lost potential for finding new true fans.

Does that suck? You bet it does. Is that Apple’s fault? The music labels? Yeah, a bit.

But it’s also our fault. We like to talk about how all artists should be compensated for their art, but then we join Spotify and Apple music, rubbing our hands at the prospect of all the music we can eat for free (if we’re willing to listen to ads) or for $5 or $10 a month.

Taylor Swift, knowing full well how bad an idea it is to chastise the masses for not paying for music (see Lars Ulrich) turns her guns instead at the streaming companies, which now include Apple. Smart business move, absolutely. Lots of hearts and minds won. But is it a way to effect meaningful change in how artists get compensated? I doubt it.

Here’s the thing: It’s not like Eddy Cue is going to buy another Ferrari with all that money he’s not paying artists. There just isn’t that much money to go around in the first place with a streaming service. And it’s a long way around. Because remember, the folks at Spotify and Rdio and Apple need to get paid. The engineers, the accountants, the lawyers, the HR people, and on and on. They all need to divvy up your pittance, and rightfully so. And that’s before your own label employees, promoters, lawyers, etc. We can’t expect people to work for free, can we?

By the time it gets to the band, well, you know… There’s simply nothing left.

So if you oppose the three-month free trial from Apple, which is a step up from Spotify and Rdio, where you can listen for free indefinitely, then take a moment and ask yourself whether you should be opposed to streaming music services altogether. Because the economics of streaming are such that there is no way to make a successful service that actually pays artists.

Or else be in favor of streaming services as a promotional tool, and do your part to help out the bands by buying an actual album or two every month, in addition to the measly $10 you’re paying for the privilege of listening to whatever you damn well please 24 hours a day.

Everyone seems to want Apple to shell out the money to the bands for those three months. How about we do that? I’ve got $25 to give to Spin.

As I was about to post this article, Eddy Cue announced on Twitter that Apple will, in fact, pay artists for the free trial months. Sad to think that this red herring will be enough to placate all the complainers. It’s still a terrible deal for indie musicians.

But no doubt, everyone will shut up now, once they’ve congratulated Taylor Swift on winning a victory for the little people.

It’s all good as long as someone else pays, right?

But the indie bands are still in the same boat, getting paid squat and looking for alternative revenue streams. Like they always have.

I told my brother Hank that Taylor Swift is his new patron saint of indie musicians. He was amused. Not in a disrespectful way, but more in a “we’re all missing the point” sort of way.

If you want to help indie musicians, buy their albums. Go to their shows. Get the T-Shirt. Upvote them in every promotional nonsense contest they get dragged into. Be a fan. And tell your friends. Help indies get noticed by someone who has real money and a need for a good tune to place somewhere.

And then they might just sell another one of their tunes to run during the end credits of the next Avengers movie. Or maybe they’ll pen a song for Taylor Swift. There’s actually still good money in that sort of thing.


  1. They have no bass player. Just couldn’t find anyone worthy when I left, I guess.  ↩

Jordan Rudess on Developing for Android vs. iOS

Phil Simon: Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess Talks Music Apps: “There are so many people out there with Android, and I know that it’s a really good system. Personally, I’ve had some problems with it — and that’s why I took so long to get into it and am not anxious to keep working on that platform. First, there’s been an inherent issue with the audio on Android, which has been frustrating to a lot of developers. When you touch the screen to play a sound, there’s a delay, which destroys the reality of the musical experience. It’s a latency issue. Obviously the people in charge of Android’s release overlooked this. It’s a problem that’s definitely preventing some of the music developers I know from wanting to create apps for the platform.

The other problem with Android is, as far as I’m concerned, that the systems aren’t set up to allow for a solid business. Android piracy is rampant. For example, we put out a really cool Android version of MorphWiz Play (even better and easier to use than the one on iOS). But, according to the numbers coming back to our company, it’s being ripped off right and left. Android employees need to create a system that’s fairer to developers.”

(Via huffingtonpost.)

But Android is winning, right?

People think the details don’t matter. But they do. It’s not just about iPhone vs. Galaxy whatever. People say “who cares?” when I talk about how much smoother and responsive scrolling is on the iPhone. Well, here’s a perfect example of why cutting down on latency is extremely important. 

And don’t get me started on the App Store vs. the Android Marketplace. It wasn’t easy to make the App Store a place where both customers and developers could make out well. But that good balance makes all the difference, and it’s obvious when you try and find a good app on the Android Marketplace.

I love all of Jordan’s apps. Love that musicians are finding more and more innovative ways to create music with technology. And I’m happy that he can make some extra bucks on the side from building quality apps. His experience with Android is the reason most of us never bother trying to write an app for Android and probably never will.