Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I don't think I'm their target demographic

I finally gave in and subscribed to Napster. To be honest, the reason I chose them is that I got a free months Napster-to-go coupon in the box with my music player. Pricewise they're not too bad at $14.95 a month unlimited including download to my player.

And, as I've noted before, the idea of all you can eat music for a fairly low monthly sum is quite attractive; they can maintain a much larger library than I ever could. That assumes they have the music I want to listen to of course.

All the usual suspects are there; Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky. If you want the complete symphonies of any of the first three you're catered for; they only have the final three Tchaikovsky symphonies but that's an oversight shared by MSN Music and URGE. Interestingly enough, none of the music services I've checked have Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony either. Or if they do I can't find it! Makes no matter; I have my own copy on CD. And who knows, maybe Yahoo or Rhapsody have Tchaikovsky's 2nd symphony. *shrug*

The Napster search interface sucks! Someone there got the fixed idea that the Artist name is the only search term worth having. That's true enough if you're talking Rock or Pop; if I'm searching for 'While my Guitar Gently Weeps' it's highly likely I want the Beatles performance rather than some obscure cover by a Peruvian band. Hence the focus on artist name.

Unfortunately that doesn't work when you cross genre boundaries. If I'm searching for Elgars Second Symphony I'm going to search on Elgar, not on the name of any of a hundred conductors who may or may not have recorded that symphony in the past fifty years.

I solved that little problem in my own music collection by deciding that, for the most part, Album Artist, Artist and Composer are synonymous terms. Yep, I've skewed the tags in my personal collection in terms of how I think of music but it works for me.

And of course, for the Rock and Pop section of my collection I do differentiate the meanings of Artist, Album Artist and Composer.

Both MSN Music and URGE, whilst not doing it exactly the way I'd do it, seem to be much closer to my ideas of classification.

But that's just the finding of music through their WMP (Windows Media Player) interface!

I have a little over 400 albums (many of them multi-cd). Mixing my permanent rips with downloads that have expiry dates after which they won't play meant I needed a way to separate the two whilst maintaining a single library (because that's the way WMP and my music player want to do it). Easy enough; create a subdirectory called DRM and set that as the download location.

Then select an album and download. What could be easier? What could go wrong? Certainly it downloaded. There it was in WMP but do you imagine Elgars Symphonies were classified under Elgar? Not a bit of it. Nope, they were under Sir Colin Davies. Both in WMP and on the hard disk. It probably doesn't matter what the hard disk classification is; I care about how WMP and my music player find things; not how the filesystem organises em.

A few seconds with MP3Tag[^] (thanks Stuart) and that problem was solved.

All went well and I added maybe 30 albums to my collection and then I discovered 'Sir Adrian Boults Complete Symphonies and Orchestral Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams'. Not, hitherto, a composer I've extensively collected though I've certainly heard of him and had one or two works.

It looked good. 9 new Symphonies and quite a considerable body of other music; I'd be in pig heaven for the rest of the months trial. I downloaded the lot!

In WMP, before doing any editing, it was obvious I had a problem. 6 (count em, 6) tracks all numbered 1. 6 tracks numbered 2. And 6 tracks numbered 3. Yep, you guessed it, someone at Napster imported a 6 CD set and didn't number the tracks sequentially. Perhaps not the end of the world; I could manually renumber them. Well I could, if the track titles identified which symphony each belonged to. They don't! 72 tracks of unfamiliar music that needs to be listened to in particular sets and particular orders and the tags don't help! Nor, unfortunately, does a search of the internet help since not all track titles, containing such time honoured musical terms as 'Sostenuto', 'Allegro' match, unambiguously, with the listings I could find for Vaughan Williams!

In the end I deleted the lot. That way madness lay! I really don't think I'm Napster material and I shall, in all likelihood, cancel at the end of the free trial period!

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