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Thursday 30 October 2003

iTunes [drdave]

So I've been looking for a decent app to use as a library and player for my growing MP3 collection. 6000+ songs at the moment, so finding what I want to listen to is something like fresh hell. I've tried allsorts. Musicmatch, winamp 3, WMP. But to a man they're all a load of toss. I'd long hankered after a version of Apple's vaunted iTunes software - the library program that integrates with the iPod (coming soon to a Dave's Credit Card near you). Well, its finally out and available for us Windows monkeys.
After about a couple of days of fiddling with it, I have to say it is simply brilliant! It imported my tagged up collection of 6000 MP3s in about 5 minutes - compare this with an hour for MusicMatch, 3 hours for WMP. It is easy to navigate, and although it looks way too much like a mac program (so much so that it looks out of place), it is extremely fast. It reorders songs (by artist, album, genre, whatever) without skipping a beat.
It also does smart playlists... now, previously, I hadn't even considered the possibility of smart playlists. Now I'm wondering how I ever did without them. Its so simple that winamp should be kicking itself right about now (if it had legs, and/or was given to bitter self recrimination, which I don't suppose it would be). Just put in a simple pattern ('where Artist contains Marillion'), set some limits ('25, random matching tracks') and Bob's your uncle. Great! Better still, you can conjour up complex rulesets to allow you play your favourite tracks uniformly - tell it to pick all high rated tracks, not played in the last 2 weeks. There you go... you'll never find yourself stuck in a Neil Young rut ever again. Or maybe you're having Pedro Fernandez and his adorable wife around to supper, but you're worried about setting the mood just right... simply create a playlist that picks out all 'latin', 'salsa' or 'mambo' music, and excludes anything with any taste o! r quality.
Potentially best of all (and I hate myself for saying this) is the iTMS. The music store. Though not available in europe at the moment, we're still allowed to browse and listen to samples - like pushing our noses against its metaphorical frosty window and peering longingly at its plump turkey. Its so fast! And nice! Album information, artist discographies, a range of listenable artists that makes eMusic look like a sick faggot.
Simply, it adds value to the internet music shopping experience. Okay, so there's mild DRM involved, but lets be honest, we're not going to get away with the kind of rogueish freedom that eMusic once offered. The RIAA just won't allow it, more's the pity. But Apple seem to have got away with putting in a small amount, but no more - you can still copy to devices, burn to CDs, or even share your playlist over a network. Great stuff. Best of all, they've packed the shopping section with features that are innovative and intriguing, albeit good marketing moves as well.
For example, they've signed up with Pepsi to give away 100 million free songs - find a code in 1-in-3 bottles, enter it into ITMS and download a track - simple, but brilliant. That's going to sell a hell of a lot of fizzy pop, mark my words. Next, they've implemented music allowances - and this is a killer feature! It allows parents to grant their kids, say, $20 a month of music downloads. You can set this to be recurring, automatically charging your CC. Think about it. Done properly, this is the perfect bone to throw the RIAA.
I find myself looking forward to it being rolled out for us lot, and reckon I'll give it a try if they keep the prices right ($9.99 != £9.99 for example).
Give it a go! Its free! Like your first snort of charlie.


  1. Have to say, I'm quite impressed with the direction these lot have taken.
    Great quote from Jobs at the iTunes for Windows launch: 'We're going to fight illegal downloading by competing with it,' said Jobs. 'We're not going to sue it. We're not going to ignore it. We're going to compete with it.'

  2. It's the right attitude, but he's not even close in practice. $0.99 a song, which is as much as a cd for an average album, yet more restricted than a cd with the DRM shit. I can play a cd in any cd player, I can only play itune songs on 3 macs.

  3. it must also be said that eMusic still offer the 'rogueish freedom' that they did before and the RIAA has fuck all to do with it. They're just charging silly money for it and they can't convince publishers to climb on board without the silly money and, possibly, the lack of DRM too.
    It's a ludicrous situation, you're far better off buying a CD and then you can do your own encoding from a lossless uncompressed backup source to whatever system you favor now and then do it again in 5 years time when you're using a new system.
    That's one of the reasons I'm completely uninterested in something like the itunes music store - even if it is the right sort of idea. It just isn't offering the value. It has the convienience, which I applaud but it seems a stiff deal just the same.

  4. I wanted to like iTunes. I really did. But less than a day after installing it, I'm using Winamp 2.8 again and iTunes sits unwanted and gathering dust in my Program Files folder.
    It's not a bad app; it's quite clever actually. But it was woefully inadequate in the same way that so many applications like this are woefully inadequate - namely that it doesn't give ANY credence to your directory structure when it's cataloguing your collection. I have about 26gb of MP3s, arranged into subfolders by genre, artist and album - a filing system which iTunes completely ignored when it imported my Music folder en masse and dumped it into one big screenful of tunes.
    There's some really cute stuff in there that I'd love to use, but for now, Windows Explorer (or preferred file browser) dragging and dropping into a Winamp playlist remains the simplest and most powerful way to organise a large music collection, as far as I can see.

  5. Personally I've also gone back to Winamp already as iTunes really does nothing useful for me that the Albumlist plugin doesn't already do.

  6. The media library in Winamp 2.91 works great for me. Most of all it starts up real fast and I've got my mp3s off my start menu 'my music' folder. What could be easier than that?

  7. Oh yeah sure, its not for everyone. Definitely not, and its not perfect either. It just stands up remarkably well against every other library app I've tried, including Winamp 2.91 (which I found to be too small and fiddly). I also had my MP3 dir as a shortcut on my taskbar, like Spiney I guess. And it worked really well until my collection became so big that the lame Windows UI handling of large menus made it simply unuseable (no scrollbars??).
    As for it presenting a monolithic list of songs and ignoring directory structure, well this isn't an issue when you turn on the browse window (which I'm amazed isn't enabled by default!). For me, this is the quickest way of launching any song or album or combination of genres.
    Other cool things? Well, I found out last night that it can burn a playlist to a CD in the form of MP3s. Cool in itself, but even cooler when you create a playlist with all your songs in and burn that. Backup your entire collection sir? Sure. And it will do DVDs out of the box as well.
    And then you'd create a Smart Playlist that listed everything added after a certain date, so incremental backups are possible. Thats worth the money alone...

  8. Quite frankly all I care about is whether or not it rocks.

  9. Netjuke owns it really. It's staying on Wench though because the folks upstairs have a Mac and like to burn off shit from the collection to CD.

  10. Apparently Mac owners have a patch that lets them share over the net (rather than just your LAN). Its not clear if this shares the list or just lets you stream.

  11. ephPod is quite good Dave, well worth a look for managing the songs on your ipod.

  12. iTunes is the best. makes everything easy. and winamp is so slow.