the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: music

spotify

rekkids

I come from the age of vinyl. I love my physical formats. Mix tapes, not playlists. I never really considered paid streaming services, mainly because I own all the music I listen to. But things change… When we purchased our new vehicle, we were presented with the convenience of bluetooth. My daughters had been using Spotify for years, albeit with “free” accounts. They’re really not into music that much, so I guess not being able to skip songs and having to listen to ads are no big deal – much like when I was younger, back in the days of FM radio.

Anyway, we purchased a Spotify “Premium Family” plan for $15/month (with the first three (3) months free). It allows up to six (6) family members the ability to play any song ad-free, any time, with the added convenience of offline listening. The last item is key, because it avoids data charges when not on wifi or ethernet – like in the car. So, at the cost of roughly one (1) new CD per month, Spotify is not only inexpensive, it’s good for everyone in my family.

So how’s Spotify?

1. Foremost, the vast majority of artists don’t earn much by having their music streamed on Spotify. Why? Spotify pays out their revenue “pro-rata” vs “user-centric” – the more streams one has, the bigger piece of the total Spotify revenue pie one earns, as opposed to the latter method, where my $15 would be split among what my family listened to that month. There are a lot of arguments, moral and otherwise, around this, and I’ll save that for another post. But make no mistake, if you want to support musicians, go see them live and buy their merchandise with cash. Period.

2. The Spotify app for Android is the worst app of all time. I can’t say anything good about it, other than it works. You’d think being the single point of contact between the company and its consumers, that Spotify would put some effort into the app, you know, a better user interface, personalization options, alternate layouts, etc. Nothing. Total crap.

3. Spotify works with bluetooth. I don’t really listen to music directly on my phone or my computer(s), but I can stream to the car’s radio, my Google Nest Mini, my kid’s Google Home Mini’s (if I really want to pester them) and my Hifiberry. I imagine there’s no need for a portable MP3 player either with Spotify, phones have plenty of storage these days. Also, Spotify does not integrate with Roon, the music management software I use in my house. Why? My guess is the terrible sound quality Spotify serves would be even more terrible on a great hifi. But there are other services that offer high-quality streaming.

4. It’s all about selection. As an aficionado of a rather specialized genre of music, I am astounded at what’s available on Spotify. Japan’s Flower Travellin’ Band, Wales’ Man, Finland’s Tasavallan Presidentti are right beside the catalog favorites (Yes, Genesis, Renaissance) and classic rock I would expect to find. But what’s most frightening, is that it’s all there – there’s no need to buy anything. For a guy that spent decades hunting dusty record bins for every rarity he could find, just about everything, right there, instantly, for $15 a month. Wow.

5. Whatever your take on it, paid streaming services are the future. That’s the big curve of technology – from recording, to physical format, the internet, data files, wireless and now streaming – all the part of one big continuously evolving arc. And in addition to Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, I Heart Radio, Pandora, Qobuz, and Tidal are ready for you to sign up.

The future now. A big, endless plate of all you can eat music.

Spotify

discogs.com

I have a few passions in life: technology, food (both eating and cooking) and music. I’ve been collecting records since the early 70s and have amassed a man-cave full of them, along with CDs, DVDs, boxsets, cassettes, singles, etc. After doing this for decades, I find slimmer pickings at the shops these days; mainly, because I already own most of the records that I want, and well, people’s taste in music doesn’t really change that much over the years, does it? But I still love collecting, and I still love record shopping.

In 2005, I discovered discogs.com. It’s a website built around a user-contributed database with just about every music release ever, you know, released. Think of it as Wikipedia, but for albums. The coolest feature is the implementation of master release and subsequent pressings. For the collector, one can find the exact pressing in their collection, or the copy that they are looking for, as there’s also a marketplace attached to the site — I guess that’s how they keep the bills paid for running the website.

As with any “user-contributed” sites, discogs.com has its pluses and minuses (the minuses being users that take it upon themselves to police every last change to a listing), but overall, it’s very accurate and very robust. As a marketplace, it’s effortless to drill down to the *exact* release I want; as well as creating a want list for those that I cannot afford! Anyway…

I have a lot of records; to the point of I don’t even know what I have! On a recent record-run, I bought five records that I already owned. Not a lot of money, but it pushed me into action. Discogs.com also has a feature that allows one to catalog their collection to the website, as well as a phone app that lets one access that collection wherever they go. The trick is, you have to enter that collection into the website. Luckily, the phone app has a built-in barcode reader, so adding items to your collection is as easy as scanning them (just keep the app rotation fixed to portrait)! For records, unfortunately, this doesn’t work, as ones prior to 1980 never had barcodes. But it’s easy enough to enter the catalog number from a computer.

It’s a time consuming process, but not one without reward – revisiting items I didn’t know I had – nor one without an end. Figuring out which specific pressing I have (Monarch, Presswell, etc.) can be arduous, even to the point of who cares; but it’s a solution to a very real need, and a damn good one at that. Give me a year and I’ll have most everything cataloged.

Until then, enjoy the music.

raspberry pi and the squeezebox server

Here's something that's really easy to setup – streaming music from your Slimserver/Squeezebox Server/Logitech Media Server to your Raspberry Pi. Not a lot of assumptions here; my Squeezebox Server is at home, and I'm at work; I've opened the necessary ports at on my home computer and router (22 tcp, 9000 tcp, 3483 tcp/udp), and I know it's WAN and LAN addresses. I'm also going to assume that you know the drill about opening ports on computers, your work's security policies and all that jazz.

Please note that all this can be done using your remote computer's host name; just open a stream to yourhomecomputer.com:9000/stream.mp3 in just about any media player, play it, then open a browser to yourhomecomputer.com:9000, select the remote player, queue up some music and press play! All this assumes that your Squeezebox Server is set to use port 9000.

But for security's sake, I'm going to use ssh port forwarding to send all the traffic through a tunnel. This not only secures the stream by using ssh, but allows you to load the stream and view the web interface using the localhost interface on your RPi.

Okay, first setup a port forward from your Squeezebox Server at home on your RPi using the terminal. Note that all addresses are for your Squeezebox Server computer.

ssh -L <local port>:<lan address>:<lan port> <username>@<wan address>

Next, just add the music stream to mpc and play it:

mpc add http://localhost:9000/stream.mp3
mpc play

Now, point your browser to http://localhost:9000 (or whatever local port you are forwarding to), select the appropriate player (mpd on your RPi), queue up some music, and viola, you can enjoy all the music from your Slimserver/Squeezebox Server/Logitech Media Server wherever your Raspberry Pi is connected!