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Author David Luebbert
Posted 4/15/08; 12:43:24 AM
Msg# 5454 (top msg in thread)
Prev/Next 5453/5455
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New SongTrellis Playlist Department

There's a new department of SongTrellis that I've worked on recently: Playlists. Playlists are named sequences of musical tracks that can be performed on your computer by issuing one Play command to start the playlist.

Playlists are really great ways to present new music for the listening pleasure of others. It can be like having a friend over to your house so you can play your latest musical discoveries for them.

Anyone who knew me as a young man, knew that I took a lot of pleasure in doing this kind of thing. That behavior eventually lead me to join the effort to found and run the KZUM-FM radio station in Lincoln, Nebraska, a listener supported station, in the late 1970's.

I did jazz programs for the station because I knew a lot about that musical form, but made use of the station music libary to do programs that played world music, especially music from India, Africa, the Caribean and Brazil, the blues and bluegrass. We had amazing classical programmers on the station and after I learned what I liked by listening to their work, I could be a substitute broadcaster for their programs also.

When I started work on SongTrellis, I hoped that technology and copyright law for the web would develop in a way that would allow me to do those kinds of things again on my site. after my forays into hardcore software development (13 years developing Microsoft Word) had interfered with my radio work.

Unfortunately, royalty rates for broadcasting music on websites were set impossibly high by the Library of Congress, which made it too costly to do the experiments I wanted to do.

Waiting for a workaround

The Internet seems to eventually work around blockages that hamstring new creative technology development efforts. After 10 years time waiting, there's nearly an equivalent to my own personal music library, and the library KZUM provied for me that is available to the entire World Wide Web. Better still, it is not a violation of copyright law to use it.

The Rhapsody music site has a music library that has grown to more than 2.5 million tracks. Rhapsody prefers to serve folks who subscribe to their service (for around $12 per month for folks in the US), but they allow any particular computer connected to the web to play 25 complete tracks per month for free. If you've exhausted your monthly quota, or live outside of the US, the service plays 30 second excerpts of tracks.

When you run a Windows system in a virtual machine on a Mac, that looks to Rhapsody's accounting routines as two separate machines so you are allowed 25 complete track plays on each system.

Rhapsody does this free sampling of their library as a way for you to gain enough favorable experience with the site, so that someday you'll subscribe to their service, I have subscribed because I've found that it's a great way to audition music I haven't heard before. For the cost of downloading one entire album, online, I can listen to as much music as I can find and decide whether I want to buy it.

There actually is an incentive to buy tracks online or buy CD and rip them yourself because the streaming audio Rhapsody provides is a little degraded in sound quality. It seems similar ro the sound quality of FM radio, but not as good as playing a CD on your home stereo system.

Rhapsody responds to links that specify a particular track in their library. If you click on a link to one of their tracks, they ask permission to load a Rhapsody Player app that your web browser can start to play a track. The download for this takes about 30 seconds. I've found that the Player app behaves well on both Windows and Mac systems.

Have added Rhapsody performance links to pages in The Changes

I've started to add Rhapsody links to pages listed in The Changes section of SongTrellis, so that vistors can click on a link and hear one or more great performances of a particular tune. About 10% of the tunes listed have these links now and I'll add 50 or so more each week as I have time to do the work.

Rhapsody Playlists are easy to create but hard to find

Rhapsody also allowed its subscribers to prepare Playlists for their own use that are recorded in their own personal profile. The site also has a department called Playlist Central where users can share their better playlists.

Rhapsody's online tools for creating Playlists are very good. Playlist Central,though, works in an odd way so that it's hard to discover a subscriber's playlists when they're first submitted.

To begin with, you can't do a Playlist Central submission directly from the Rhapsody website. You have to have a special Rhapsody application running on a Windows system to do that.

A new submission is recorded in the bowels of the Rhapsody system that is accessible only via this standalone application. The submission has to endure an incubation period of some unspecified length of time before a URL is created for it, that makes it accessible via the Rhapsody website.

It took that system several weeks to create a web accessible repository of my submissions, which listed them under my Rhapsody ID, DLuebbert.

It has taken as much as three weeks for Rhapsody Online to assign URLs to playlists that I've submitted. It would be fascinating to know how it's possible that publicizing a link to the web can be such a time consuming operation in the way that Rhapsody runs it site.

Rob Glaser, you've got to ask your developers what they're doing here and get them to improve this. Something that instantaneously produces a playlist URL would be the correct solution, I'd think.

I despaired that my lists were going to fall into a black hole on Rhapsody, since they only seemed to be registered on a list of the most recent 100 submissions in a genre category. It looked as though my submissions would fall off of this list in a few week's time, as new lists were added to it by other subscribers.

I was suprised to find that a few days before my lists would be expected to disappear, my submissions started to appear on pages linked to the profiles for artists whose work I played in my playlists.

Deficiencies with Playlist Central made recognize a need for a separate playlist index

Rhapsody's playlist publication scheme is glacial by Web standards. Playlists need to be run over like an Iceman by the Rhapsody glacier and then be melted out later so they can be seen on the web.

Since I wanted to point at new Playlists as soon as I've posted them and also as soon as I discover good work that others have done, I created this new Playlist department. I hope SongTrellis members will make submissions also to document their own discoveries.

Playlist department demoed by Screencasts

I've created screencasts that explain how the SongTrellis Playlist Index works and how you can submit your own Playlists and submit good lists that you've found to the index. You can find links to the screencasts I've done at the bottom of the Playllist index page.

Google videos and index outline documents

The screencasts I'm doing now, are recorded and produced by a great Mac app called ScreenFlow. Along with my screencasts to explain how the Playlist department can work, I created one that describes a new feature that Google has introduced on their website and shows how its possible to create index documents in an outline format that allow you to navigate through a long video performance.

In the screen cast, I demonstrate an index outline document that points to the individual solos played during the tune Dat Dere which is one tune in a music video performance by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Dat Dere is recorded between minutes 6 and 13 of the 48 minute long performance video. I show that clicking on an subheading in my index document takes you directly to the moment in the performance that is described by the subheading.

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Last update: Friday, April 18, 2008 at 2:21 AM.