Tag Archives: iTunes

Mixing Metaphors on iTunes

Well, the fruit of our labor is available for general consumption.  

I invite any and all of you who cannot come to the CD release show on March 7th to go and invest your $9.90 in our record.  It’s a really good work, and we’re proud of it, and we think it’s worthy of your dollars and your listening attention.  

If you do like it, how about a review?  

Blessings to all of you.

iTunes, without the ball and chain

Apple Fanboys had their orgiastic expo-tacular today, where new products are typically unveiled by His Steveness. Steve was absent today, part of the ongoing effort to confirm the internet rumors that he died in March of last year.

Nothing big was announced: a new laptop, upgrades to popular software suites iLife and iWork, pretty much what was expected. The big surprise for me was the announcement that iTunes would be going DRM-free. For those of you who don’t take the time to memorize every TLA that you come across, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It’s the thing that prevents you from emailing a song to a friend, or playing it on another computer, or taking advantage of any of the awesome powers granted to us by the digital era. It’s the industry’s lock and key.

I haven’t bought anything on iTunes for about 12 months, and DRM is exactly why. I love everything else about the Apple model, but I can’t abide having my audio files locked away, preventing me from doing things that are well within my legal rights to do (like playback on any device I own). I switched to the Amazon MP3 store because they offered a universal file format (mp3), and no DRM lockdown.

In some ways, I think Apple was paying the penalty for being first to market. They made a deal with the devil to get major record labels to agree to release their catalogs to the iTunes music store, and the price was DRM lockdown. Once the model proved successful, other distributors (amazon, for example) were able to negotiate much more favorable terms for their own download sales. Steve Jobs said as much almost two years ago.

I’m glad to see Apple unchain their content. I hope this marks a step forward into a new model of distribution for all kinds of digital media, from video to software.

I dream of a wireless, portable, personal, and highly fungible digital future, where my data moves with me and works for me, without barrier or constraint.

iPhone Apps I’d Like To See

I love the new iPhone Apps store – another coup for Apple in their ongoing campaign to change how we use technology. The release of the WordPress app got to me thinking about other iPhone apps that I’d like to see. Hopefully some of these software makers will take up the charge and release these apps!

Terminal

I realize this one is a geek-out, but I’d love to have a command line interface that will allow me to login to remote servers via SSH, and do basic maintenance tasks (like deleting Zack’s bootleg collection of vintage pinup girls that he keeps uploading to the server). This shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

Tivo Command Center


Find programs, record them, manage season passes, order video rentals from Amazon’s UnBox, all remotely. And by remotely, I mean from the kitchen table. Tivo already allows http access to your home box, through both Yahoo’s TV listings and amazon’s website, so the code infrastructure should be in place.

Remember The Milk


Remember the Milk is my favorite task-list software, and it already has a very nice iphone web interface. So what would they add by building an iPhone app? The ability to import and export tasks from the iPhone calendar, the ability to add contacts to a task, and the ability to push alarms for incomplete tasks. Basically, the ability to take away every excuse for my total lack of personal organization.

HULU


I know. iTunes video downloads rock, hulu.com sucks. I said as much myself, some while back. You know what? I was wrong. Hulu is fast, high quality, has a very broad catalog (including great older shows), and the ads are less obtrusive than on broadcast TV. I realize that this will never happen, because 1) Hulu videos are flash-based, so far an iPhone no-no, and 2) Apple maintains tight control over apps that are released in the store, and there is zero chance that they are going to allow access to an app that directly competes with one of their primary profit models. Still, a girl can dream.

Armagetron


If you don’t yet know the awesomeness that is armagetron, here’s the recap – you race the light cycles from the movie Tron. Now, picture the same thing, but with the motion sensor in the iPhone controlling your cycle turns. Awesome.

Well, that’s me. What about ya’ll? Anything you’d like to see someone build for the iPhone?

Dear NBC, …really?

Okay, so I’m stealing a bit from an oft used bit on SNL, but really? So since I missed the last two episodes of the greatest show on television (#2 behind The Fall Guy), I can’t just go onto iTunes like I’ve done in the past, spend my less-than-two-bucks, and watch in peace. Now I have to go to your site, select the show by way of a semi-clunky flash interface, then go to episodes. Once I’ve done that, I have to choose which chapter of the episode I’d like to see. “Chapters”? Really? Any chance you might assume that folks would want to see the whole show? Once I’ve chosen the chapter(s) I’d like to see, I have to sit through 30+ seconds of commercials for each chapter. This was one of the reasons that iTunes worked for me. One-click, no commercials. I spend some money, you make some money, everybody wins. But you had to go and screw it up.

Remember when we had that great relationship? Remember when every college dorm in America filled up on Thursdays to see if Ross and Rachael were gonna finally hook up? Yeah? Well that’s done. I still love the greatest show on television, but it’s a reluctant love. As if the greatest child alive was born by accident from two parents that suck.

NBC Dumps iTunes

Booooo! Boooooooooo!

NBC has decided that their new strategy for making money off of their content will be to remove it from the most popular, low-operational-cost, and globally effective distribution network ever built. Yup, according to the New York Times, NBC is pulling its content from the iTunes music store.

NBC on iTunes
This is just an awful idea. I think I’m a pretty typical customer of iTunes content – I’ll buy maybe one or two albums a month, and a few TV episodes a month. Check out the photo I’ve linked to the iTunes NBC page – it lists their 4 most popular shows. Here are the ways iTunes has enhanced my consumer relationship with NBC, and why NBC’s choice to pull their content is an awful idea.

The Office

Discovered it on the BBC, love the NBC version even more, but I’m not home to watch it when it’s regularly scheduled. Instead, I grab episodes online. I only follow one or two shows this way, so it’s cheaper than getting a TIVO.

Heroes

I followed this show on TV, but would occasionally miss an episode. How to get them? iTunes, of course! I jumped online and downloaded the episode the day after it aired.

Scrubs

I liked this show when it first came out, and then it got … what’s the word … stupid. I don’t follow the show at all anymore, but I wanted to watch some of the early episodes again. Rather than waiting for them to roll around on the syndication schedule, I jumped online and got them from iTunes.

30 Rock

This is the real tragedy of NBC’s choice. This show is probably the best new show they’ve developed in the last, let’s say, 39 years. How did I discover this show? They gave away an episode as a free download on iTunes. I downloaded it, loved it, am now a fan. Now, when I happen to be flipping channels and see it on TV, I stop flipping and watch the show. They earned a viewer for their broadcast network because of their use of alternate distribution channels.

Bad Business

The NYTimes article gives one real reason for the decision. Allow me to interpret:

The decision by NBC Universal highlights the escalating tension between Apple and media companies, which are unhappy that Apple will not give them more control over the pricing of songs and videos that are sold on iTunes.

NBC … wants Apple to allow it to bundle videos to increase revenue, the person familiar with the matter said.

means

Remember back when we made you buy an entire CD, with one great song and 12 filler pieces of crap? Oh man, we made so much money with that. Wasn’t that awesome? We think Apple should let us do the same thing with videos! Less consumer choice means more freedom for everyone! And by freedom, I mean money! And by everyone, I mean us!

Apple has shown, by virtue of their success in promoting music, that increasing the choices for consumers is a stronger model for building a distribution channel. People return to points of commerce where they feel empowered and valued. iTunes does that with it’s pricing and non-bundled policies. NBC, apparently, can’t understand that.

The Real Threat

I’m having a really hard time believing that the NBC executives are taking such a short-term view of their relationship with iTunes. The article states that they are limiting their distribution with iTunes out of concern for piracy. They should be concerned about piracy, but not for the reasons they give.

What they seem to not realize is that iTunes is not in competition with Hulu.com, or any other silo solution. The only real competition for iTunes media content is illegal downloads.

This is the brilliance of the iTunes price point, and the reason it has seen such explosive growth: $1.99 per show is exactly the point at which it becomes an easier choice to buy a show from iTunes than to go through the hassle of finding a torrent, loading it into a bit torrent client, waiting for it to download, hoping it’s high quality, and then sitting huddled in the dark hoping the RIAA doesn’t drop a lawsuit on your butt.

If NBC takes away the $1.99 iTunes option, people will not flock back to broadcast TV, they will not go hunt down the show at hulu.com, they will simply download it illegally, for free.

Check out how much of my value as a consumer NBC loses by ending their relationship with iTunes:

  1. The Office: This isn’t a time-sensitive show, so if I can’t get it through iTunes, I’ll wait and download the entire season at The Pirate Bay.
  2. Heroes: If I miss a single episode, I can pop over to isohunt and track it down. Again, the competition for the $1.99 iTunes Media Store is the Free Illegal Downloads Store.
  3. Scrubs: This was always a whim. If I don’t have easy access to previous episodes, I just won’t bother. The alternative to NBC selling me a show for $1.99 is … me doing nothing. Easy.
  4. 30 Rock: if NBC severs ties with iTunes, I don’t even find this show. I never watch a single episode. When it comes on broadcast TV and I’m flipping channels, I flip right past. NBC loses both an online purchaser and a broadcast viewer.

This is an awful, awful business move for NBC. They are alienating themselves from a whole population of potential consumers.

UPDATED: Nov. 25th
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So, I’m #1 on iTunes

I’m kind of a big deal, you know. I’m a sort-of #1.

I have a little piece of #1.

I’m like #.00432 on iTunes right now.

Today, the soundtrack for High School Musical 2 was released, oh… I don’t know… intergalactically. In recent weeks, I have greatly enjoyed the ramp up to this day. A poster here, an article there. The frenzy builds.

Last January or so I wrote two posts about this cool gig I landed. After some consideration, and a good look at the confidentiality agreement and digitally watermarked demo CD, I had Mike pull them down. I don’t know how to repost them. Hopefully the blog fairy will flutter by and fix it, and also leave cookies and a sarcastic barb or seven.

The short version is this: Last December I got a call from this guy named Randy who wrote songs with another guy named Kevin who got my name from this other guy named Scott who does jingles. (This is how all good stories in L.A. begin, FYI.) Randy needs a tenor vocalist to demo up a song. Randy is paying a fair hourly demo session rate, and we book the gig.

I play it cool, I don’t ask too many questions, I sing the tune. Randy loosens up and tells me we’re working on a demo for High School Musical 2. Jackpot! Oh, and he and his partner had a cut on High School Musical… uh… Episode 1. Google confirms! He’s legit! Jackpot, with a bonus round.

The song gets revised, I re-sing it. Revised again, I sing it again. Eventually, it becomes this. Randy’s happy because Disney has just basically bought him a pool, and decides to spread the love. He recommends me to Disney for the ensemble for the whole she-bang. So, I got the gig. :)

So, as of today, the soundtrack that sits at #1 on iTunes, and will sit atop of the Billboard 100 next week, and has a good shot at being the #1 selling record of 2007, features yours truly on 6 of it’s 11 songs. Anytime you hear large ensemble vocals, as you memorize the dance steps in the next two months (Corey and Beth) you’re hearing 4-6 passes of The Chadster. Gotta love stacks.

Oh, and some of my demo vocals made it through to the final mix of Work This Out. The BGV stacks on every chorus is me. Hey… those stabs in the bridge and crazy vocal into the keychange sure sound familiar. Wow… I’m actually listening to it for the first time right now (I wonder how much of the $.99 goes back in my pocket? $.0000000023 is a safe bet.) and I am quite pleased with how much of the original vocal is still there! Yay!

Sorry.

It’s not curing cancer, but it sure feels nifty.

Demo-lition Derby

I need a little help from my friends. Remember this class that I’m teaching?

It’s the one where the students produce a short album over the course of a semester.

Well, I’m meeting with the students for the first time on Monday night, to talk through the details of the class, and to get them headed in the right direction on the project. I’m going to hand them a sample packet of what a final project should look like, to give them something to shoot for, and I decided to use a song from The Dailies’ record as the model (totally violating the sanctity of Chad and Erica’s intellectual property of course. Suck it up. It’s for the children). I’ll put together a microphone input list, a budget, a timeline, a recording schedule, everything they need to do for the course, around that one song. The cool thing about this is that I have actual demos tracking the progress of all of these songs from The Dailies record, so the students will get to hear everything from first demos all the way through to final masters.

So, here’s what I need from you – which song should I use? Picture yourself as a 21-year-old music student. Then, go here and listen to the 30-second clips (or better yet, buy the album!). Then, tell me which song you think would most capture the interest and creative attention of the students in the class.

One Thousand Sets of Ears, Pt. 2

Yesterday was story time. Today is the technical study. I thought it might be cool to look at some of the things that helped propel The Bible Podcast forward, presented in no particular order, as a guide to anyone else who might think about launching a podcast.

The Title

This has got to be the single biggest factor in moving the site up through search engine rankings. The name of the site is the name of the podcast is the 3-word description of exactly what it’s all about. If you launch a podcast about how awesome bunny slippers are, and title it “The Mr. T Show”, and host it at www.crazy4u.net/mrtpodshow, people have no idea what it is you’re doing. There are packs of raving bunny slipper fans out there searching Google for a podcast that meets their needs, but all they can tell from your page hit is that you’re a confused, possible psychopathic teenage girl. This doesn’t work to your advantage.

Promote One Distribution Channels

Since the very beginning, The Bible Podcast committed to iTunes as its primary distribution channel. I started with the assumption that most of my listeners wouldn’t be podcast people – they would be people venturing out into the world looking for this specific sort of thing (in the same way that most Addison Road readers aren’t really blog people, they’re people who come to this one specific blog). I assumed that most of our listeners would find our blog either through a Google search, or by flipping open iTunes and using the podcast directory search function. The iTunes search results are weighted in favor of popularity (number of subscribers).

podcast openingArmed with this knowledge, I push iTunes as the sole distribution channel for the podcast. If you look at the first page of the site, you’ll see what I mean. I stole this idea from Scribe Music Show (thanks, Trevor), and about 40% of the first-time visitors go directly to iTunes without ever having to visit the site itself. If they do click through to the website, they’ll see a link to iTunes prominently displayed, should they decide to subscribe. If they poke around the site a bit, they’ll find a “How do I listen?” page which, again, directs them to use iTunes to subscribe.

There are many, many good podcast aggregators out there, like Odeo.com, and the podcast is listen in most of these, but these sites are still, by and large, only used by the Nerd Herd. If you walk up to 100 people on the street and ask them about podcasting, they’ll beat you up and take your iPod away. This is LA, after all. But if you were to do it in someplace nice, like Boise, most people, if they knew anything at all about it, would say, “Oh yeah, that’s the button on my iTunes where I can listen to shows people do.”

By committing early to a distribution channel that would be most popular with my average listener, I made my popularity within iTunes artificially high. Instead of a few hundred subscribers scattered across dozens of distribution channels, I had a few hundred subscribers all listening through iTunes. Within the first 6 months, The Bible Podcast was in the top 4 results for the search term “Bible”, which in iTunes means getting banner placement on the search results page.

OurMedia.org

So, you’ve signed up for a fancy new hosting plan with Jim’s Big House of Web Hosting, and you’ve started to do the math. You realize pretty quickly that by the time you hit 100 daily subscribers, at 20 MB per podcast episode, you’re going to rip through your bandwidth in about 8 seconds. What do you do? Well, don’t host the files! OurMedia.org will host your audio and video files for free, and you can directly link them into your site. In other words, your listeners don’t have to click through to Our Media to listen, the files can be embedded directly into your site. There are two advantages to hosting your files off-site. The first is that you don’t have to pay for as much bandwidth. The second, you will pick up some drive-by traffic from people searching through the Our Media site looking for the things your podcast is about. I get about 20 hits a day from people who searched Our Media for the title of a specific book of the bible, and then following the links over to the podcast site.

I should mention that the Our Media servers have been pretty bloaty since the very beginning, and if an episode hasn’t been downloaded in a while, it seems to take forever for the server to actually find it. I eventually switched back over to hosting the audio files myself, instead of using Our Media. Still, I think they were an important part of getting up off the ground.

Content

So, those are some of the early choices that I made with the podcast, that I think contributed to it getting up off the ground. I don’t think they were the biggest factor in the podcast’s success, though. The inescapable truth is that “Content is King”. People come because they want the content. They want to hear the bible read by someone with a clear speaking voice, recorded with good equipment. Everything else is just lipstick, pointing people in the right direction.

I’m curious – anybody else out there in The Roadhouse running a podcast, or thinking of starting one? I’d love to hear your experiences.

One Thousand Sets of Ears

In September of 2005, I started a little side project called The Bible Podcast. The idea is pretty simple. I flip on a microphone, and record myself reading a chapter a day from the bible. Then, I upload it to a website where people can download it and listen. Then, sometimes, other people record themselves reading chapters, and I upload them. The website is www.thebiblepodcast.org, if you want to check it out.

Today, this little side project passed a major milestone. It passed 1,000 daily subscribers – people who set iTunes to go fetch the podcasts every single day. In fact, it pretty much blew right through that number, from 800 or so on Monday, to 900 on Tuesday, and today, I logged on to see this:

1216

I’m a numbers guy. I love seeing the numbers creep higher and higher, and to break them down in as many ways as possible. Things like:

25hits9minutes

get me all fancy up with my bad self. I go to the site and refresh the statistics every few hours to see how much bandwidth people are burning through. In December, the server spit out 300 gigs of data. In January, it’s been burning at a rate of about 30 gigs per day. Matthew 11, which was just posted yesterday, has been downloaded 1500 times.

I know that these kinds of numbers are hardly a blip on the radar for the big dogs in the new media, but in the little world of podcasts about the bible, it’s a pretty big deal.

If you search for the words “Bible” and “Podcast”, the site comes up as #1 on Yahoo, and #3 on Google. It you search the iTunes podcast directory for the word “bible”, it’s the first podcast listed.

Gretchen has a theory about the rapid acceleration of subscribers. She thinks everybody got an iPod for Christmas, and then they made a New Year’s resolution to read the bible more. So, they go poking around in iTunes for a way to get their daily bread in tastee little no-hassle packages, like a Twinkee. I think Gretchen is pretty smart.

So, I’m a numbers guy, but I love reading emails from people who listen. There’s a Catholic priest who lives in the northern most tip of Japan, who sat around listening to the Gospel of John with a family who had just lost their young wife and mother. They just put it on repeat and listened over and over again.

There are students in South America who get together to listen to the podcast, and read along with the text, in order to improve their English. Thing about how scary that is, for just a second. You might be walking through Brazil someday and bump into some kid who speaks English with a Mike Lee accent.

There’s a guy who is fairly agnostic about God, but was curious about the bible, so he subscribed to see what all the fuss was about. His email was hilarious. He just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed it, and concluded by saying, “Please don’t send me any tracts or religious crap.” I was tempted to forward him every Chick tract in one ginormous email, but I restrained myself.

tbp_logoThere are the people who want to argue about the translation that I’m using (New English Translation, pretty good, in my humble opinion), or they take issue with the fact that I let Catholics into the club (sheesh), or they are upset that I’m reading the Bible “Out of Order” (I’m guessing they think the thing was handed down out of Heaven in a neatly stacked set of galleys, ready for publishing). I get an equal number of emails from people who love the bumper music, and can’t stand the bumper music. I smile a little bit, because I think there are people who just love to pick a fight, and they like it even more if they can call it “contending for the faith once delivered”. Mostly, I just hit “delete” on those. Life’s too short.

A few have just floored me. There are people in countries that block access to sites having anything to do with the bible, but they are able to subscribe to a podcast feed. They listen. Two people have approached me about expanding the podcast into other languages that will reach areas where it is dangerous to distribute bibles. One wants to do a version in Farsi, the language spoken in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. Another wants to do a version in Mandarin Chinese. We’re still working through the logistics, but I’m hopeful that this will come together.

So, the Story of God advances. 500 years ago, they burned the bones of those who suggested that the Bible could be read and understood by the common people in their own language. Today, a 12-year-old kid in Taiwan can log on to iTunes, and download it.

Welcome to the New Media

So, I’ve been mulling over the results from the blog survey, and thinking about how many people come here who don’t normally travel in the circles of the blogosphere. I thought about writing a thesis sized overview of what the New Media is all about, and how participation in content creation and remix is irreversibly changing the roles of media producers and consumers. After all, I have to do something while I procrastinate on writing that sermon and designing that new APU course. But, I got bored with that almost as soon as I finished writing that introductory sentence.

I don’t want to explain it. I think you should just jump in and experience it for yourself. Let me give you some tools to get started.

Feed Me!

First, let’s get you something that will let you grab information more quickly, without having to go to a million pages first thing in the morning. We’re going to use two pieces of software to do this: one for text (blogs), and one for media (podcasts, vidcasts). Again, I’m just going to ignore the fact that some of you use Windows, because I don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior. I think most new media stuff works on PC’s, I just don’t know how. And, also, the content creators can see what system you logged on with, and they kind of laugh at you behind your back.

NewsGator / NetNewsWire

It’s a website and a piece of software. The website is free, and you can use it without the software. It works like this: you type in the address of a website you like …

newsgator input

and it goes there every morning to check for new content. Then, instead of you going to all 50 websites you like, you go instead to the NewsGator site, and all the updated stuff is there waiting for you.

newsgator agg

The software option lets you sync to the website, repost your own blog, and do a bunch of other cool stuff. It looks like this:

nnw

Show Me the Content!

So, now that you have that all dialed in, what should you feed into it? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. The sites are linked, and the feed address is in parenthesis. This is the thing you should copy into your aggregator.

jesuscreed.org (http://www.jesuscreed.org/wp-rss2_full.php) – the blog of Scot McKnight. Great writing, great ideas, great links out to other blogs. Pretty much daily updates of serious content.

Dilbert (http://www.tapestrycomics.com/dilbert.xml) I like the comic Dilbert. I don’t like buying a newspaper. Instead, I use this link to have the daily comic strip delivered to my feed aggregator. Actually, there are a ton of comic strips that I like, so I’ve grabbed a lot of feeds from this site: tapestrycomics.com. Enjoy!

Free in LA (http://freeinla.blogspot.com/atom.xml). I like Los Angeles. There’s like, culture and stuff. This blog lists free things happening in this beautiful city, daily.

Google News custom search. Ok, this one is a bit tweaky, and a bit cool. You all know about the site Google News. You probably also know that you can do a custom search at Google News. What you might not know is that you can get an RSS feed of that custom search, and load it into your aggregator. After you’ve done your seach, check the left sidebar, where is says “RSS Feed”. Grab that link, add it to your aggregator, and you’re off to go!

googlenews

With my custom search RSS feed, I can follow the news of how my LA Angels are crushing the rest of the league. Hoozah!

Podcasts

Text is great, but what if we want sound, or even moving pictures? Let me recommend to you the fabulous iTunes. Yes, you can use it to rip and download a lifetimes worth of music, but it’s also a very simple-to-use feed aggregator for podcasts. Since it’s Apple, it’s pretty intuitively obvious how to subscribe to podcasts that they have in their directory, but you can also use it to grab feeds that may not be in their vast library. All you need to do is go to the “Advanced” menu, hit “Subscribe to podcast”, and put in that fancy RSS feed we’ve been so hot on lately.

Picture 8.png

So … what should you subscribe to? Here are some of my favorites. If you have itunes installed, the links should open the podcast in itunes for you.

TEDTalks. These are pretty much all amazing. You especially need to watch Majora Carter. These are video, so you’ll need a fat pipe before you start to download them. If you want some background on what TED is all about, here’s the site.

The Bible Podcast. Almost 1,000 daily subscribers. Get a little bit o’ word with your daily intake.

Ask a Ninja. There are no words for how funny this is. It’s the New Jersey Jewish accent that kills me. I love this kind of “Theatre of the Absurd”, and the Ninja is the master of it. I AM NINJA!

Center for Internet and Society. Got a long commute? These shows range from 45 minutes to an hour, and are produced by Stanford Law School. This is the kind of thing that you would normally pay $5,000 per unit to be a part of, but you get to listen in for free because of the internets.

rocketboom. Do you like your news delivered with poor production, awkward pauses, and unfathomable nonsequiters? You’ll love Joanne Colan and Rocketboom.

And now …

So, those are some things to get you started. Jump in … the water’s warm, mainly because Chad keeps letting his kids pee in the pool. I know several of our regular readers have their favorites, sites that they keep up with on a daily basis. Feel free to list them in the comments. Don’t just dump your list on us, but give us two or three that you think are gems, and make the case for us.

Up the Revolution!