Tag Archives: iTunes

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Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night ValeThe above text is from Welcome to Night Vale,” an excellent, surreal podcast. I receive no compensation from there (or Denny’s) for sharing this message; I’ve just really, really been enjoying the show lately. This radio-news-report-style “broadcast” from a mysterious town brings together the quaintness of Mayberry, the weirdness of Twin Peaks, and the spookiness of The X-Files in an chillingly funny, original way, with great writing and performance. Check it out on iTunes for free.

Text of above “ad” from Episode 27,First Date,” at about 17:39 [transcript]
What do you think? Are you into anything you’d describe as surreal? Do you listen to Night Vale? What are some podcasts you enjoy ? Been to Denny’s lately? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Apple Knows Music, but Pandora’s Box is Already Open

Pandora Radio

A photo of my Pandora stations. I shot this with Hipstamatic and added ambience with the LensFlare app.

When it comes to streaming music, Pandora just works.

It appears Apple may be unveiling a “Pandora killer” music product in the near future. I, personally am unfazed. I enjoy Apple products, and I’m a loyal and satisfied Pandora customer. I’ve tried Spotify, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Rdio, 8Tracks… and while they all have their advantages, none to me match the basic, straightforward appeal of good ol’ Pandora.

Here’s a quote from a recent Business Insider article on what Apple may have in the works:

We’ve dubbed it iRadio and from what we’ve heard so far, it sounds like it will be very similar to Pandora. For instance, Apple plans to offer it as a free service, supported by ads, and it will let users create their own radio stations based on a favorite song or artist,

Pandora Passé? Meh.

I realize some may consider Pandora passé, but for me it just works, whether on a computer or mobile. I’m glad there are other trending options these days because competition is what drives free market growth, but I was an early adopter of Pandora and am religious about thumbs-upping or -downing tracks to get my stations the way I like them. And if I want to buy a song through iTunes (or Amazon), the link is always right there with the track.

Why on Earth would I put the effort into rebuilding the experience through iTunes or whatever Apple calls it? I also like sharing my tracks with comments on Twitter or Pinterest, and running an rss of what I’ve liked at my blog – I seriously doubt Apple’s “walled garden” would allow such flexibility. But hey, I’d love to be proven wrong.

Oh, and does anyone miss Ping? Didn’t think so.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a streaming music product from Apple? Are you a user of Pandora or any other streaming products? What do you like about them and why? Let us hear from you in the comments.

8Tracks: Music Curated

8tracks - handcrafted internet radio

8tracks: handcrafted internet radio. Their apps are pretty cool, too.

I’ve become fascinated with the playlist curation site, 8tracks. It allows users to upload songs from their personal libraries as playlists with tags and cover art, then share, browse and comment on playlists of other members. All for free. Think of it as cloud-based mixtapes with social functionality included (comments, tags, profiles, etc.).

I’d been a casual listener of the site for a while (and similar sites like Pandora and Blip.fm), but only when hosting an ’80s-themed party recently did I fully get into the full 8tracks experience.

[8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/640055"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/109389"]

The two above were the perfect soundtracks. Turns out there are scores of ’80s playlists already hand-picked and battle-tested by folks who care enough to share them with the world. And now I’m making my own playlists – which embed beautifully here:

My 8tracks playlists: singles, covers, guitars…

[8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1131093"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1126173"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1127082"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1130745"]

It’s been fun for me to see who likes these and then to check out their playlists myself. As a person who enjoys discovering new music perfectly suited to my tastes, this is rather exciting, as I now have several promising playlists to explore. Heck, TIME magazine even named 8tracks the best site of 2011. If you’re into discovering and sharing music, you should definitely give 8tracks a try.

What do you think? Have you ever used 8tracks? Is there a similar music discovery site that you recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.

A New Way For Music: Eno and Soundcloud

I’m a total news junkie. Always reading, listening, scanning; it’s fun for me. And I’m a music geek — that’s practically a religion. So of course I was interested in this story about Brian Eno reported by MarketPlace Tech Report, available via SoundCloud.

Brian Eno

Photo: Brian Eno | Edit: rsmithing | Click for original

Eno has just launched a musical app, Scape, that gives listeners a new system for interacting with the sounds. Interestingly, Eno & his team developed the concept for this years before we all had smartphones and tablets. He describes it as:

…the move from one type of composer to another: the “let’s push the boat out together & see where it lands” type.

Scape

Scape App

So as listeners, we have the opportunity to be something more, while using an artist’s input to make our own creation. Not unlike Instagram, or audio mashups like those by John Boswell, aka Melodysheep.

Who is Brian Eno?

I’ve never listened to much Brian Eno music, but I thought I’d give this interview a chance. Wow, am I glad I did. Eno is a deep musical thinker, which makes for a highly interesting listen, especially considering his perspective, having worked on such a breadth of projects. Many of my favorite artists have either worked with or referenced him regularly (Depeche Mode, NIN, Devo).

The guy is quite eloquent. Here are some quips from the full interview:

  • On his new album: “A closely-guarded secret launched onto an ocean of indifference.”
  • On using Scape: “You’re making an ecosystem of sounds. You’ve got quite a few creatures you can put into this little garden here.”
  • On curation: “We’re going to have to come up with this type of system to short circuit the vast amount of material that’s out there for us to look at now.”

Putting curation into practice, Eno has a friend whose taste he admires send him a mix CD of new music each month… but doesn’t get the list of artists and songs until one month later, in order to “listen without prejudice,” since as a professional musician, he isn’t necessarily listening to as much music as he might be creating. It’s an interesting concept, especially to hear Eno himself describe it (at about 15:32)…

 

SoundCloud: I Like It

Besides the content, what really motivated me to blog about this interview was the opportunity to explore SoundCloud at the same time. SoundCloud is a site I’m becoming more pleased with every time I interact with it.

I started listening to the interview on my iPhone through iTunes, having subscribed to the podcast previously. In the brief 4-minute story from the podcast, the host referred listeners to the extended version at the MarketplaceTech.org site. I keyed that in and found a link to the full interview, which played on my phone effortlessly over 3G, streaming through SoundCloud. Having previously registered at the site, I was able to add it to my list of “likes,” and embed a clip here on the blog afterward, since I emailed myself a link and tweeted about it from the site’s mobile page:

[tweet https://twitter.com/rsmithing/status/266211918778363904]

It’s great to discover and interact with something new — successfully, enjoyably and consistently like SoundCloud.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Brian Eno’s music? What other collaborative art examples does this bring to your mind? Do you have any experience with SoundCloud or similar sites? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Beats Antique in Photos

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique in Sihlouette, backlit in front of a screen onstage.

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique – silhouette

This weekend I caught one of my favorite bands these days, Beats Antique, in concert for the second time this year at the Orange Peel in Asheville, NC.

Flyer, ticket and marquee of Beats Antique gig at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC

Flyer, ticket and marquee of Beats Antique gig at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC

As I’ve mentioned previously, their music is a perfect blend of exotic Eastern sounds, modern electronica, and of course… killer beats.

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique Dancing at the beginning of a performance

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique dancing at the beginning of the show.

These are some choice photos from the gig I took and edited via iPhone, using apps like Photoforge2 and Hipstamatic to boost the atmosphere.

Beats Antique performing onstage, in black & white.

Beats Antique: Sidecar Tommy Cappel (left), Zoe Jakes (center), David Satori (right)

Full disclosure: their PR team, The Confluence Group, emailed me asking if I’d be willing to post something about the show, which I probably would have done anyway. I’m just flattered to have been asked and am happy to promote a great act.

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique in atmospheric lighting

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique in atmospheric lighting

Click on any of these to see at full size, along with more Beats Antique photos I’ve taken.

Zoe in costume with antlers and flowing dress

Zoe in costume with antlers and flowing dress

Pick up the band’s music at iTunesAmazon or direct from the group on their Bandcamp page.

Chandelier at Beats Antique Gig

This chandelier was part of the band’s stage gear. I like chandeliers.

See also: Beats Antique tour dates. Definitely a fun show worth checking out if they come near your town.

David Satori in a duck mask

David Satori, in the spirit of duck, in full duck mask gear. Things get crazy toward gig’s end.

Beats Antique links: Official Site | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud | YouTube Store
Either a Kracken, or a giant squid

Always in touch with the animal world, the band unleashed the Kraken for an encore.

What do you think? Do you take photos at concerts & edit them later? What do you think of Beats Antique? Is there a similar band worth checking out? Let us hear from you in the comments.

iPhoneArt.com – the Next Level of Mobile Photo Sharing

As a fan and avid user of several photo sharing websites for years, I’ve been around the block when it comes to quality of work, features, and ease of use of these online communities, especially as of late with my interest in the area of mobile photography growing into a full-blown obsession (in a good way). Sites and apps I’m most familiar with are Instagram, Statigr.am, Flickr, DeviantArt, Fotki, and now I’m happy to add to that list with iPhoneArt.com.

I'm a Featured Artist of The Day at iPhoneArt.com

I’m a Featured Artist of The Day at iPhoneArt.com – A great site, and not just because they feature moi.

Full Disclosure: They Have Excellent Taste

It so happens that I have been a featured iPhoneArtist of the day on the site :) which is a total honor for me, considering the quality and vastness of most iPA featured artists. I do this for my own enjoyment and expression, so that someone of some authority sees fit to recognize it as exemplary or interesting to others — well, that’s a huge compliment I’m very grateful for.

That said, I was a fan of the site well before being featured. The site recently released a companion app for the iPhone, which I find more enjoyable the more I use it. Here’s what I wrote to that effect in my second-ever app review:

Makes Instagram look like MySpace
Click for larger view - text is at leftDon’t get me wrong; I absolutely love IG (and loved MySpace back in the day), but I’m digging iPhoneArt as an alternative experience. There are no filters, so it’s up to you to create something artistic either with a solid photo or though editing via other apps. The “popular” page content here is considerably more art-based. And the interface is bare-bones, elegant, just enough. There’s also a fully functional website interface with organization through sets and such. Altogether, I see IPA as a relevant, enjoyable evolution in the mobile art sharing experience.

Is the app perfect? No. Is the site as feature-rich as it possibly could be? Of course not. But that’s to be expected with any new platform. The features and enhancements will come. But what about the art? Well, now… this is where iPhoneArt.com really shines. It lives up to the name wonderfully.

For one thing, it was designed by artists for artists, so there’s an inherent elegance to the interface, both on the site and the app. Also, you can only upload five photos per day. So they’d better be good. You won’t find the deluge of mediocre snapshots all over the place and highlighted for their popularity the way you might on, say, other sites. And the whole community there is indeed very creative. Just browse the site and you’ll see.

Seriously, don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at these screenshots from the app and then go download it and visit the site for yourself.

iPhoneArt.com app available for free at iTunes

Galleries, faves, & searches — oh, my! Search in iTunes for “ipa: the mobile art network” to download for iPhone.

Again, I’ll state: I still love Instagram. I’ll still use and endorse it for general sharing and discovery. And I’ll still use Flickr for mass-scale storage and organization of the bulk of my images. And along with those sites, I now I have a home for the arty shots I’m most happy with, and a growing community of like-minded folk to discover and share with.

My sincerest thanks to the folks at iPhoneArt.com for featuring me, and for developing such an enjoyable site and app. I am truly honored.

What do you think? Do you have a preferred photo sharing platform? Do you use different photo sharing sites differently? Is this just a fad, or is this truly opening up a creative world to more people with the rise of smart phones and apps? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Podcast Time! Make Your Own Website, Mobile Photos & More: The Less Desirables

Behind the Mic with The Less Desirables

Behind the Mic with The Less Desirables in Studio 2A

Busy days at rsmithing.com! I’m a featured “guru” of graphic and web design on this week’s podcast of Winston-Salem, NC-based The Less Desirables.

Click to Download & Listen (.mp3)

TheLessDesirables.com

The Less Desirables Site

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with these fellas to design their logo and website (among other projects), and they invited me over to Studio 2A for a chat about graphic design, websites, social media, and what goes into developing all of this (and more) for a business, for a blog, or just for personal enjoyment.

I manage to ramble on about WordPress, apps, Instagram, photography, blogging, and how to use PowerPoint with MS Paint to give your website a professional look (seriously, not kidding). We also review some coffee, Paraguayan heavy metal …and even beer. What’s not to like? This show has everything!

The Less Desirables, In Their Own Words:

The Less Desirables is a weekly podcast by Tim Beeman and Brian Attridge recorded every Wednesday. We cover an expansive array of topics, ranging from current and non-current movies to new music to the latest sports news to doses of pop culture, complete with a “Beer of the Week.” The idea is to give our audience a recap of the previous week’s news, while simultaneously previewing the upcoming week. We have a local, North Carolina flavor geared towards a national audience, but we never lose sight of our community.

You can download the podcast directly from the TLD site, from iTunes, and from a few other places, too. My sincere thanks to Brian and Tim, and to Mr. Eugene Sims, for having me over. It was a great discussion and I recommend the show to anyone seeking a dose of pop-culture, sports, tech, movies, music and a plethora of other fine distractions.

What do you think? Do you listen to any podcasts regularly? Have you ever been on a podcast, and what was that like? If not, what topics would you consider if you were to be invited? What’s your take on the topics covered in this broadcast? Let us hear from you in the comments!