There is one thing in my life that I will always cherish above even web designing and developing (gasp), and that is music. I was a musician for several years, and that even included being a high school band geek. I totally rocked that saxophone. In the last few years, I have expanded my horizon when it comes to music to encompass just about everything and I have a bit of an addiction to amassing as much of a collection as I can. If you share my love for music, then you will appreciate this post. I’m going to go over some of the applications and services that I use on my computer that helps with all kinds of aspects of dealing with a music collection from managing your library, finding new music, and just getting the most of out the experience.
Soon, Songbird will be the audio player to replace all audio players. For now, it’s still got plenty of updates to go through, but the player has come a long way and it has an incredible amount of features that no other player has to offer, and thanks to it being open source and based off of Mozilla technology its possibilities are endless. And its bird mascot is even more cute than Twitter’s. . . honestly, look at this little guy. The latest version of Songbird 1.0 has accomplished enough that I have done away with both Winamp and Itunes on my main PC. It is available for PC, Mac, and Linux.
Songbird’s add-on management is exactly the same as Mozilla’s Firefox, and it even has a built in browser that uses Gecko as well. It’s quicker and more stable than Winamp or Itunes, and it has less of a memory footprint even on huge music libraries. Songbird does come with several add-ons that you can opt out of during install, but there are a bunch of great ones out there. Some notable plugins: LyricMaster displays and gathers lyrics for your songs, mashTape displays artist info via Last.fm, reviews, album art, news, photos via Flickr, and videos via Youtube, Music Recommendations does what its title suggests, SHOUTcast Radio gives you lots of internet radio streams, and Concerts will let you know every artist from your library that is touring in your area. The interface is awesome, and it can be skinned differently with “feathers”. (It’s a bird, so you can change its feathers. Get it? Get it? Genius!)
Its still got quite a few bugs, but man is Simplify Media sweet. Imagine, being able to access your entire music library quickly and easily with nothing more than an internet connection. Simplify Media (SM) will share your entire library from a computer that is connected to your SM account, allowing you to stream any song from your library through a peer to peer connection from wherever else you have SM installed on. It is available for PC, Mac, Linux, and the iPhone. With the iPhone, you could be rocking out to your favorite Toto tracks wherever you are!
Your library is even searchable from the remote connection, it just installs a plugin for either Itunes or Winamp which then allows all of your libraries and playlists to be displayed. Now, the coolest part about it is the fact that you can add up to 30 friends to your account and play through their library the same exact way! You could increase your library tenfold and have access to all sorts of music instantly. Look me up, my account name is ‘ethereal’, and I’d love to talk and share music with you! It will also give you access to about 30,000 more songs.
I’ve been using Last.fm for a few years now. You can find me on there as ’3thereal’ if you’d like to buddy up. Last.fm took the concept of Pandora a step further, and created a whole social networking website out of it. Using either Last.fm’s web interface or downloadable program, you can create stations out of your favorite artists and listen to recommendations. Last.fm keeps track of what music you are playing from your iPod and your favorite music players (you just have to let it install its plugins), and can then give you more great recommendations based off of what you have in your library and what music you play the most. It also keeps track of all kinds of music statistics for you. Last.fm also acts as a huge database of artist information.
There are many online radio/music finding services like last.fm, but the two most popular are Pandora and Slacker. All 3 take a different approach to finding you new music, so you may actually benefit from trying them all out. Last.fm takes advantage of social networking, Pandora uses a scientific method of analyzing dozens of different audio attributes, and slacker actually has “dj’s” that categorize and build the playlists. Anytime I want to start looking for new music, I just power up Last.fm for about an hour and I’ll have a plethora of new artists to start looking into. I would highly recommend making an account.
Sorry Mac dudes, this is a PC only application for the time being. This is my absolute favorite for managing a media library. The free install of it can do just about everything except convert audio files, which the paid version is capable of converting pretty much any audio I’ve run into. The interface is very well designed and intuitive. One of its most useful functions is the ability for you to select a group of music, hit CTRL+L to bring the Auto-Tag from Web feature which pulls all of the info for that album from Amazon.com. It can automatically update all of the ID3 tags for you, and it also embeds the album artwork from Amazon. Sadly, silly iPods still only recognize the album artwork that iTunes downloads.
MediaMonkey also has a bunch of other management features like burning, file auto-organizing, track volume leveling, and audio player, and many more that I haven’t even began using. If you have a PC, you can find media monkey here, so go ahead and clean up your library! Plus, haven’t you always wanted a monkEY?
I believe this is another PC only application. This only has one purpose, and that is for track volume leveling. I quickly found Media Monkey’s wasn’t that great, so I picked up this handy little guy. It can do a music folder relatively quickly, and is the most accurate that I’ve seen. No more volume changes when you play from song to song!
This is actually a pretty neato idea. Radio Tracker scours the web radio stations for you and downloads any songs in mp3 format that meet the criteria of what you tell it to look for. You can leave it alone for a few hours and come back to a couple hundred songs for you to check out, and it does a pretty good job of cutting off the DJ’s or commercials.
So, there you have it. The morale of the story here is, make the most out of music and share the love! Don’t forget to find me on last.fm or simplify media, I’m always interested in talking music. And, don’t forget to throw up the horns.