Keynote Speech at Open Rights Group conference in Manchester, UK
A few days ago, I gave the keynote at a conference in Manchester, UK held by the Open Rights Group.
The slides can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF from here.
The title is "Britain under the thumb of...", and I talk about how the USA, EU and Britain itself effect issues such as privacy and piracy in the UK. I also compare the different ways in with the Open Rights Group (UK) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA -- I'm the chairman of the board) differ in their approaches, with some opinions about how each government works differently.
Apple Lossless format now available
All albums on Magnatune are now downloadable in Apple Lossless format, which works and sounds great with iPods and iTunes.
The great features about this format are:
- the audio is a perfect copy of the CD audio master. They sound fantastic!
- full metadata (genre, artist/album, even album art) is embedded in the file
- works perfectly with iTunes and iPods. All our audio files are tagged with "grouping: Magnatune" so you can create a smart playlist to find them.
FLAC and WAV are two other "perfect audio quality" formats that we also support. FLAC, in particular, works well with alternative audio programs as it does support good metadata (which WAV does not).
As part of this rollout, we also completely rebuilt all AAC files to have a tag of "grouping: Magnatune" so you can create a smart playlist to find them.
iPhone app for background music for restaurants and businesses
Our companion company MoodMixes has just released a free and gorgeous iPhone app, which is just the ticket for those of you who want background music in your restaurant, store or business.
Here is what our background music iPhone app does:
- lets you play background music for your business directly from an iPhone or iPod touch
- features a simple flip-through-the-genres interface. Tap the image to play. Simple!
- plays music without needing any permanent connection to the Internet: shows are automatically stored on your iPhone.
- automatically downloads new music daily when the Internet is available, transparently rotating in new music.
- You can subscribe directly from iTunes and have Apple charge you the monthly fee, or you can sign up with MoodMixes and enter your name/password into the iPhone app.
- Has full support for shows that you create for yourself using the MoodMixes web site. These appear as new "Your shows" graphics in the app to the right of the standard genres.
- Automatically supports both "shuffle-play" and "album-at-a-time" versions of our shows.
- Lets you disable genres (shows) you don't want your staff playing (i.e., Hip Hop or Intense Rock), giving them a limited choice of music that's appropriate for your venue.
- full support for Apple's "Airplay" standard, letting you pipe music to remote speakers using inexpensive "Airport Express" devices.
You can click here to install the app using iTunes, or just search for "MoodMixes" in the app store using your iPhone/iPod touch.
Here are two pictures showing the classical and chill out genres, which you access by flipping right or left with your finger:
The currently playing song is automatically displayed:
You can double-tap an genre image if you want to see a list of downloaded episodes, as well as choose to play specific episodes. However, most people won't bother with this and will simply single-tap the genre and let the music play automatically.
Eileen Hadidian passes away, great Christmas music, 100% Magnatune royalties go to Healing Muses
Last week we lost the wonderfully talented flutist/recorder player Eileen Hadidian. Eileen had given many of the last years of her life helping others heal through music through the nonprofit she founded, as well as by recording with the ensembles Healing Muses and In Nova Cantica.
We recently released In Nova Cantica's album of traditional Christmas-time carols and dances, featuring Eileen (with other musicians).
Eileen's "Healing Muses" was founded because of her personal experience in 1999 during her own first battle with cancer, where music had greatly helped. The Healing Muses program grew quickly to include many Northern California hospitals, and in 2002 Eileen incorporated Healing Muses as a nonprofit organization.
The "Healing Muses" program now features numerous other musicians, including harpists Patrice Haan, Maureen Brennan and Diana Rowan, who all also have extensive experience in the healing arts, medical science and social welfare.
In addition to their main passion of providing live music in hospitals, Healing Muses offers lectures, workshops and concerts demonstrating the healing power of music. Interviews have appeared in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, on National Public Radio, and in the Journal of the San Francisco Medical Society. Their three CDs can be found on Magnatune and a playbook of sheet music entitled "Heart's Ease: Music to Uplift the Spirit and Chase Away Pain, Discomfort and Stress" is also available.
Rest in peace Eileen, you'll always be with us and thank you for bringing such musical joy to us all.
As a gesture of respect for Eileen's life and contribution, Magnatune is giving its entire share of Healing Muses' royalties (usually, Magnatune gets 50%, the musician gets 50%) for 2012 directly to Healing Muses, which is a registered non-profit company, and which continues now.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If you like the music that Eileen made with Healing Muses and In Nova Cantica, please download their albums, so that your monthly membership royalties go to them. If you're not a member yet, think about joining Magnatune and then downloading her music.
iTunes: filtering only Magnatune music in your music collection
A few weeks ago, Magnatune member Casey D asked me via email:
- Do you folks add any tag I can use to just say "hey, grab some random magnatune stuff, it's all pretty darn good" to my iTunes setup?
Well yes! We do add an id3 "description" that gives the musician's home page at Magnatune. You can see it--for instance--in the VLC media player:
Unfortunately iTunes doesn't recognize it, so the quick answer to Casey's request to make a playlist of only Magnatune music was "no, sorry, I don't see how to do that in iTunes".
I thought his request was very reasonable, however, so I went about fixing the situation.
As of today, all our MP3s have an id3 "grouping" tag of "magnatune", which you can verify in iTunes:
You can use iTunes' "smart playlist" feature to create a playlist that only shows you music you've downloaded from Magnatune, by looking for this "grouping" tag:
which then gives you a view of just your Magnatune songs.
and if you choose "view - show column browser" you can easily select artists and albums from Magnatune.
Thanks, Casey, for pointing out something really useful that should have worked, and thus prodding me to make it work!
New Android App for Magnatune
A new, official Android App for Magnatune is now available, and is free for anyone to use.
Be sure to look for "Magnatune (official app)" when you download it from your favorite Android store. Don't accidentally install the much older "Magnatune (beta)" app that was done by a fan many years ago, and which doesn't work at all any more.
The Magnatune (official app) works well on a variety of Android phones, including large format tablets, in portrait and landscape mode. I've tested it on Android version 2.2, 2.3 and 3.0, at both low resolutions and high. The app has a clean and minimal interface, features browsing by genres, artists, albums as well as full text search. It works both for free (non member) and in member mode, just like the Magnatune web site does.
For this app, I hired veteran Android developer Paul Yago, who did an outstanding job working with me to get a lot of functionality in a clean, non intrusive interface.
Note about logging in: some members with long and complicated passwords have had problems logging in with the Android app. I've seen problems like this with the iPhone app and long passwords, but I'm not sure if the problem is that they're very hard to type, or there's a problem with Apache and long passwords. At any rate, if you change your password on Magnatune to something shorter, that seems to solve the Android-logging-in problem.
Long filenames on Windows cause troubles
A few weeks ago, I was forwarded a tech support email from a Windows XP user who couldn't unzip a few of our albums.
After way too much research, I found that Windows XP and Windows 7 both have problems (in different ways) with long filename paths. Not the file's length, mind you, but the total name of the entire path to get to a file, i.e.:
C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop\Artistname\Albumname\MP3name.mp3
Specifically, there is a concept in Windows of the MAX_PATH variable, which is 260 characters, and which causes problems in different places.
- In Windows XP, you can't drag-and-drop files from a zip file to your desktop if the total filename length is over 260 characters. No problem unzipping though, if you right-click and choose "extract" or use winzip or 7zip. Just drag-and-drop doesn't work.
- In Windows 7, if you drop long filenames onto the recycle bin, you'll be told you can't because they're too long, and do you want to skip those files or cancel the drag-and-drop.
So... a new test at Magnatune now identifies if the total likely size of an unzipped file will be over 240 characters (I'm building 20 characters of safety margin in).
The two most common places to drop audio files is:
C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop
Your iTunes music directory:
Since the iTunes music directory is the longer name of the two, I'm adding up the total filename length of:
iTunes Directory \ + Artist name \ + Album name \ + MP3 name = total
and making sure that never goes over 240 characters.
There were about a dozen albums at Magnatune that had files that went over this limit. I've gone ahead and "fixed" those.
So... if you ever had trouble drag and dropping files out of a ZIP file on Windows, hopefully now you won't!
Very high quality iTunes AAC files now at Magnatune
All the AAC audio files at Magnatune are now downloadable at very high quality.
Previously, we'd been using a quality=3 settings, which yielded audio files that were about 150 kb/second in audio quality. Here is a typical file:
Now, all Magnatune files are available at quality=7, which yields a file around 260 kb/second, and a significant boost in audio quality. These files are pretty hard to distinguish from lossless.
Now, the ZIP files of the albums encoded at this higher quality are larger, but with disk space being plentiful these days, and the stack of emails I have from people asking for high quality iTunes AAC files, I thought this move made sense.
LOSSLESS? Speaking of lossless, I just recently figured out how to make "Apple Lossless" files, with full metadata, so this will be an alternative download format in a few months, as part of the new rewrite of Magnatune.
US storm affecting download speeds
The serious storm on the East Coast of America is affecting the download speed for some people.
From Europe, some customers are seeing very slow download speeds. Others (such as in Asia) are not having any problems.
The problem appears to be that almost half the major Internet switches (monitored by the Internet Traffic Report) in the USA are down (see below), and rerouting traffic through the West Coast, causing them to overload and slow down.
So... my apologies if you're currently having trouble using Magnatune ... hopefully the storm will end soon and the Internet will heal itself.
You can see the problem at the Internet Traffic Report, which reports a large number of major switches as RED - DOWN.
iLicenseMusic - subscription music licensing - our newest Magnatune business
Please Blog, Link to and Like us, if you want to support this idea. We could use the Googlejuice!
We're also at facebook.com/iLicenseMusic.
-> We've been licensing music like mad for 10 years...
At Magnatune, we've licensed our music to over 5000 projects, of which almost 3500 were indie films! Two of these films have won "best film music" awards. I'm really proud of this, and part of what made this possible was being way out ahead of everyone else with what was (for many, many years) a one-of-a-kind model. Our success helped inspire the CCPlus license at Creative Commons as well has 3 copy-cat businesses.
10 years ago, there was no online music licensing : I grafted the stock photo licensing idea from Getty Images onto the music business. There had been one famous attempt by Gerd Leonhard (who is now a good friend, and who tried the idea with his licensemusic.com), that crashed and burned rather spectacularly.
Magnatune's licensing model has been to sell each different use of our music separately, so people only pay for the rights they need. Ask a musician for all rights, forever vs 30 seconds in a film for a festival and you'll get a very different idea of what the price should be. For many years, this unbundling worked well, and it got rid of the dreaded "music lawyers crafting a custom agreement" which has killed music licensing revenue for so many labels (well, the lawyers liked that arrangement).
But... in recent years we've found that almost all videos go on the Internet, and they also go global. The notions of restricting media types and distribution territories no longer make any sense.
Film festival organizers have been asking for complete clearance of the music, for all uses forever, in order to simply submit a film for consideration at a festival. Our unbundled approach no longer works.
In recent years I've also provided music to the same film makers year after year, as they're a very committed bunch, and keep making movies one after another.
Finally, and unexpectedly, I always thought that Magnatune would be a money-losing idea, and that the real profit would be working with businesses. Much to my (happy) surprise, Magnatune as a consumer business has done just fine. We're just about to work on a total rewrite of Magnatune, and a good part of that is having it only be a consumer-music-service, and not do double duty as a business-to-business service.
These thoughts and more were going through my mind, as I came up with the idea for ...
--> The new idea
So... what if we were to change Magnatune's music licensing approach to encourage repeat customers to stick with us, to use more of our music (and of course, less music from the competition), by having a low-cost subscription service? They pay a monthly fee, and all their music problems go away.
Magnatune and its musicians win, since we get a dependable income stream.
Film makers win by lowering their music costs, not having to negotiate, and having all the rights cleared so there aren't any troubles later on.
So... that's how iLicenseMusic works -- for $89 per month, a film maker (or anyone else who needs a music license) can use our music in their projects and products, and there are no other fees. They can cancel at any time: after which they can't use our music in new projects or products. Seems fair, no?
Nobody else is trying this business model with music licensing. I thought it'd be interesting to be the first, and to see how it works out. Our old way of doing things worked great for many years, but now it's time for something new.
As of this week, all music licensing goes to either:
1) iLicenseMusic: film, video, internet, games, presentations, etc...
2) MoodMixes: background music for restaurants, stores, offices, etc...
I'll let you know how it all works out!