January 26, 2006 – 10:39 pm
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the world of mp3 blogs this past week. Trying to pinpoint the drive that makes ordinary music fans risk their legal surefooting, and spend their time and money on making sure that you and I get to hear the music that’s pushing their buttons. And I’ve invented a machine to help me do that.
Mp3 blogs are not a particularly new phenomenon as net trends go. Dan from Said the Gramophone has been posting music files online since November 2003 and has received ‘Cease and Desist’ letters (or ‘Stop and Stop’, as he calls them) but has managed to continue unabated.
I have quite a few favourites – though the jazz ones still aren’t as good or numerous as I’d like them to be…
It’s filesharing, of a sort, but it’s certainly not a means of theft. As Dan puts it,
“This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. please go out and buy the records!”
And the songs are only there for a week or so, and then they’re gone for good. No full albums – just a smattering of individual tracks of music you might otherwise never have heard and a bit of a rant about how good they are.
I’ve found a few mp3 blogs in my research. Actually – there’s a list here. And the trouble is – I like so many of them. I want to download and listen to as many of these tracks as I can in any given day.
Most will be nonsense. Some will be good. A few will be really great. I have a ‘next’ button on the iPod and a delete button on my laptop. I can deal with downloading things I don’t want – especially since the rewards are so high. There’s some fantastic music out there that you’d just otherwise never be introduced to.
But going to each individual blog, downloading a track or two and moving onto the next is time consuming and, well, not what I want to spend my time doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the time and effort that’s gone into these blogs, and eventually I’ll no doubt find a few that I return to, read thoroughly and appreciate properly – but in the meantime, I’m going to hit as many of them as I can as quickly as I can and move on.
Fortunately, today we live in a world of RSS feeds and nifty little bits of software. None of them do exactly what I want – I have to make my own machine to do that – but in the meantime, here’s the easy 10-step process I’ve cobbled together from things that already work.
1. Make sure you’re using Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. It’s a web browser too, only good.
2. Get the Firefox extension called ‘Down Them All‘. There are others you’ll want, but this one will get you started. Just follow the instructions, and it will install itself into your browser.
3. Set up a Bloglines account if you haven’t already. That’s going to be your RSS reader. It’s really easy to do and quite intuitive.
4. Subscribe to The Hype Machine. It’s an mp3 blog aggregator – which means it collects up all the new posts on all the new mp3 blogs it knows about, and lists them all in one place. The easiest way to subscribe is simply click ‘Add’ in Bloglines and copy and paste this RSS feed:
5. Now that you’ve subscribed, in Bloglines, open The Hype Machine’s feed (click its name in the left-hand column). Under each heading, you’ll see the phrase ‘In post name of post from name of blog. More at amazon and itunes.’ Right-click on the name of post bit and select ‘Open in new tab’. Repeat for as many posts as look interesting to you (note: If the posts have the same name, they are the same post. No need to get multiple copies.)
6. Go to the first of the open tabs in your browser (there’ll probably be quite a few). On that page, right-click somewhere that isn’t an image or a link. From the drop-down menu, select ‘Down Them All’.
7. In the ‘Down Them All’ window that opens, enter .mp3 in the ‘Additional filters’ text box near the bottom. This will select all of the links with that extension. Then choose a folder to save your new songs to. Mine go to a folder on the desktop called ‘mp3 blogs’. Click the Start downloads button to start the downloads.
8. Close that tab and go to the next one. Right click again and choose Down Them All. This time, you won’t need to re-enter the filter or the folder. That’ll just happen automatically from now on unless you decide to change it. Repeat for each open tab. You’ll notice you’re now sucking down many new and interesting songs.
9. As an optional step (though I consider it compulsory for my own purposes), I then process the music in a free piece of software called mp3gain, which is very good at making all the songs the same volume. I’ve processed my entire collection and recommend just leaving the presets as they are. It’ll make all your tunes a bit quieter – but they’ll all be the same quiet.
10. My final step before adding my freshly downloaded tunes is to run them through Tag and Rename. That one costs a bit of money (US$24.95) – but it’s a fabulous bit of software to have. I tidy up the id3 tags – track name, song title, etc – and delete the tracks I can’t be bothered with (i.e. those with no tags or information at all. If you don’t tell me what it is, why should I even listen?).
11. Okay, so it’s eleven steps. Add the tunes to your music player and/or portable device. Listen and discover a whole new world of music.
So – where’s this invention? Well, it doesn’t actually exist – but when it does, it will do all of the above, with a few modifications. At present, the above procedure performed in its entirety will net you up to 500 songs per day – which is rather a lot. There’ll also be rather a few blogs that you could do without.
The Blogslurper 9000 will allow you to set genre preferences, specify a daily maximum number of tunes, and choose a set of favoured (and ‘to be avoided’) blog sources. It’ll also be on a timer, so the downloads can happen in the dead of night, compiling a fresh soundtrack of surprises for your day – all ready for your commute in the morning.
Once it’s set up, it’ll check the RSS feeds, follow the links, download the songs and put them on your player. Daily fresh tunage.
Just set your preferences, and click the ‘Make It Go‘ button.
It can’t be too hard – all the technological elements are in place. I really need a tame software coder. Any volunteers?