The Mark Ledden Blog

…audio, video, web and general tech ramblings.

Tag Archives: music

Celebrating The Physical Music Format


For those of you who didn’t know it, last Saturday (the 16th April) was Record Store Day. This is celebrated across the world and aims to promote and support the independent record stores so many of us rely on.

The main focus of the day is centred around the special release from participating artists. Last year was the first year I took part and was the first I’d ever heard of the event. Being in Manchester I was well aware of Piccadilly Records, being an essential music hub and also one of the major stores participating in the UK.

On my first Record Store Day in 2010, I was queing up outside Piccadilly Records at 7AM. It was 6:30AM this year, who knows what it’ll be next year and the following year! Fair play to these hardy people below who queued up from as early as midnight and brought sleeping bags and picnics. That’s dedication.

I came down to show my support and bag myself some collectables. For me and I’m sure almost everyone there, it’s purely about the music and more specifically the physical format. The iTunes users are at the other end of the scale here and were presumably absent from the queue. There was even a specially made bag on sale which proves my point. Lovely ūüėČ

I still feel listening to the sound generated from the grooves in a record is one of the best listening experiences you can have. And it’s about the collect-ability, you get to hold your music.¬†Here’s what I managed to grab this year.¬†Luckily, as I was so close to the front of the queue I ¬†managed to get everything I wanted.

Last year there was a huge amount of hype over the new Blur single, with it being the first thing they’d released for over ten years. I managed to bag one of those too ūüôā Here’s some other pieces I picked up.

MP3’s and iPods might hold all the¬†convenience¬†needed for today’s way of life but there’s something about records which is understood by their¬†die-hard¬†fans which will never see them fade away. I’m already looking forward to what next year brings. Keep hold of the physical format, keep those records spinning and support your local independant record store ūüôā

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SoundCloud Mashups From SoundGarage At Music Hack Day


The new official SoundCloud app for Android might look amazing and have one significant feature over the rest (audio recording) but my favourite app of them all is SoundGarage.¬†If you’ve kept up to date with what’s been happening at Music Hack Day you might have already heard about this but if not then you might find them very cool.

Both hacks are clever¬†mash-ups of the SoundCloud API and other API’s, which allow for new ways to interact using the SoundGarage Android app.

SoundBump

The first is SoundBump. This uses the BUMP API which allows users to share information by simply bumping their phones together. In the pictures below you’ll see the option to BUMP with other users and the ability to share a number of things.

This could be a really useful application and helps bring things back into the real world, If only just for a moment.

SoundNest

SoundNest taps into¬†EchoNest’s API to give you artist recommendations. It uses the SoundCloud users you follow to come up with recommendations tailored for you then searches SoundCloud for these users and gives you the option to follow them.

This just makes the whole process of music discovery even easier and pushes it a little closer to being the go-to app when you want to listen to some new music.

 

 

2011 – The Year of Social Audio?


Social Audio is tipped to be a massive trend this year. There’s even been some talk of 2011 being the year of Social Audio! Strange, I thought 2010 was pretty social in terms of audio. We shall see.

One indicator which stirs claims like these is the massive growth we’ve seen from SoundCloud recently. The site is now the place to be for music-makers and leaves MySpace (or My_?) cowering in the corner.

The other platform at the centre of this Social Audio uprising is Audioboo. Put simply, it’s twitter for audio. It’s mobile, it’s instant and it’s¬†universal. This has made it perfect for news gathering and reporting on events as they happen, all you need is the one thing most of us wouldn’t be without: Our phone. The platform is now being used by the likes of The BBC, The Guardian and Channel 4 News.

Getting Social

These two platforms are already both very healthy, with good numbers of users that are continuing to grow. Audioboo is launching great new features by reinventing the voicemail and allowing developers to add AudioBoo functionality to their iPhone apps through a plugin. Surely a good move which could see Audioboo integrate itself as a framework for sharing audio.

SoundCloud has had a¬†huge¬†amount of investment and seen signups to it’s service grow tremendously recently. It’s an essential place for music makers looking to spread the word, interact and collaborate. It’s an interactive hub and even if your not musical in any way it’s perfect for music discovery and getting free music.

SoundCloud vs Audioboo?

With these two being at the forefront of social audio naturally people want to compare and contrast the two. Something I’m not convinced with is the notion that the two are in direct competition.

They are aimed at different people with distinctly different uses. Audioboo don’t need to mess with high quality. Well, not uncompressed audio at least. And it’s understandable why SoundCloud are avoiding implementing RSS feeds. Musicians don’t need this feature. I think it would only open the gates to users who are outside of what the aim of SoundCloud is. Which is to share music.

The only instance where I can see these two stepping on each others feed in with the apps. Soundcloud has added recording functionality to it’s app. It’s an experimental feature and something im not convinced was needed but cool nonetheless.

What’s Ahead?

Surely there are more uses for social audio and I imagine we’ll be seeing alot more of them soon if 2011 really is the year of social audio. My tip is to keep an eye on Mixlr. It’s live audio broadcasting for all and something which I find very cool. The radio is dead, long live Social Audio!

For your reading pleasure:
SoundCloud hits 3 Million users, grows by 50% in 100 days
Audioboo gears up to take on SoundCloud in the year of Social Audio
Audioboo Launches Social Voicemail With Help From Stephen Fry
Soundcloud Threatens MySpace As Music Destination For Twitter Era
Audioboo iPhone Plugin

An Idea So Crazy It Might Just Work: The iPod App


Imagine if the world turned up-side-down and Apple made an app, not just any app, but one that emulated their beloved iPod and was able to run on all those unclean Android devices. Think of the horror!

It would be cool though. It’s an iconic design and the touchscreen is perfect for emulating the jogwheel.
It’ll never happen but if there are any Android developers looking to build an app just to facilitate my crazy idea then go ahead!

Don't have an iPod? There's an app for that.

Vinyl Is Still The Music Collectors Dream


The other day I treated myself to a few new editions to my record collection. I don’t have a huge collection but I’d like to and it’s something I’m working on. A good friend of mine has quite an envious collection! This gradual process does mean the records I do spend my money on matter all the more.

The thing that really made me think was what came with one of the records…..a free MP3 download of the album! (and at 320K too!) This was cool but actually didn’t matter all that much to me. Digitisation is all about¬†convenience. Yeah it’s great being able to stick the music on my phone to listen to on the go but it’s the collectability (and subjective superiority in sound quality) which gives vinyl records their appeal.

The whole experience of the cover art and exploring the sleeve while you listen to the record from start to end is what the whole album experience is all about. Immersing yourself and absorbing the album as a concept. Maybe I’m just being traditional. Maybe you can enjoy music in the same way, or even in a better way, with your MP3 player or computer.

You may think differently. How has your experience of listening and enjoying music changed? Has the demise of physical formats had a detrimental effect on music or devalued it in any way?

I don’t have a new post today but…


I don’t have a post today but here’s an awesome clip of one of my favourite musicians who plays in two of my favourite bands with a lovely little Minimoog solo. Enjoy, and if you like it check out The Cat Empire and The Genie.

SoundGarage (previously SoundCloud Mobile) [Android]



Time technology and time seem to move much quicker than I do. And just as I was wrapping up my review of the only available SoundCloud app for Android an update for it appeared in the Android Market which, at first seemed like a major overhaul but was actually only really a renaming. The app was originally called ‘SoundCloud Mobile’ but now appeared as ‘SoundGarage’. I suspected this was due to some influence from Soundcloud themselves, but on keeping up with threads in forums etc, I didn’t get the impression SoundCloud actually had their own app in the pipeline. Then once the flashy iPhone App got it’s release I really was hoping for an Android release and now that wish has just come true. It looks much like the iPhone app but sadly I haven’t managed to get the official app working so in the meantime here’s a review of SoundGarage.

Getting Started

To download the app just search for SoundCloud SoundGarage Mobile in the Android Market. On the first launch you will need to authorise the app by signing in to your SoundCloud account. You will be re-directed to your browser and back once this is complete. On the SoundGarage main menu you are presented with five choices:

  • You
  • Tracks
  • People
  • Groups
  • Genre

‘You’

This page gives you a further four choices:

  • Profile
  • Tracks
  • Favorites
  • Groups

When you select ‘profile’ you can view some basic elements of your profile. There are some icons towards the bottom which aren’t immediately clear at first glance, but on closer inspection do make sense. It shows the number of people following you, the number of people you are following and the number of tracks you have.

When you step backwards to the previous screen and select tracks, as you would expect you are confronted with your tracks. When you select a track to listen to the app turns into a nifty music player which also gives you the stats (plays, loves, downloads, comments) for that track. It also allows you to add or view comments while listening. You can also love or share the track you are listening to. While a track is playing you are also free to browse the rest of the app and let it play in the background.

‘Tracks’

This screen gives you a number of options to browse through tracks.

  1. Your Tracks
  2. Hot Tracks
  3. Latest Tracks
  4. By People You Follow
  5. Creative Commons
  6. Search

‘Your Tracks’ and ‘By People You Follow’ are pretty self-explanatory. ‘Hot Tracks’ and ‘Latest Tracks’ are great for music discovery and ‘Creative Commons’ is perfect if your looking for some audio or music free of copyright restrictions.

‘People’

This is pretty basic and doesn’t need explaining.

  1. You Follow
  2. Following you
  3. Search For People

‘Groups’

Now I don’t participate in much of the group stuff on SoundCloud which is shocking, considering it’s a social site, but it’s a really great way to keep up with what’s going on. It also helps kill some time when you’re on the go and is good for some more music discovery. You cant view discussion threads though, only comments of tracks that exist in that group. I’ve also tried to join groups within the app, but it doesn’t seem to be supported.

  1. Your Groups
  2. Active Groups
  3. Latest Groups
  4. Search For groups

‘Genre

  • Easy Listening
  • Electronic
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • Metal
  • Pop
  • R&B/Urban
  • Rap
  • Reggae
  • Rock
  • Soundtracks

Each of these give you huge lists of sub-categories to chose from.

Summing Up

You can see how every functionality has been packed into this app in a sensible way and actually makes for a nice media player. Some nice additions would be the ability to download those tracks that are free to download and back-to-back playback.

Also, Im not sure of the bandwidth eaten up by this app but it’s definitely something to watch out for if you’re on a particularly limited data plan. I don’t think I’ll be worrying too much though.

It’s a bit of a shame that the official SoundCloud app has now overshadowed this one. I think it could be difficult for it to compete, especially with the recordiing functionallity. But it’s great to have the option. I think a great way to go would be to try and offer something different, like the range of web and other apps soundcloud already has. I’d love to see a mobile music player built on SoundCloud, with back-to-back playing, queing, playlists etc and the ability to download and purchase music all through SoundCloud. In terms of a music player think of the Chrome Extension; ExtensionFM, which is a nifty little browser-based music player which allows you to listen to your SoundCloud music (as well as music from other sources). Then if you add the social aspects of SoundCloud; the dashboard, the discussions etc, and have all of this combined and incorporated into one app then you’ve got yourself a truely mobile, social music experience.

SoundCloud & AudioBoo, Part 2: SoundCloud


I know this has been a long time in the making but there’s been loads of news on SoundCloud recently. I even opened an issue of Sound on Sound magazine recently to discover a two page spread coinciding with their podcast moving over to SoundCloud! So I’ve had to re-write a few things. Anyway, here it goes!

The Cloud

In part one of this review I talked through the features of AudioBoo which can be summed up as any/all of the following: audio-for-twitter, automated micro-podcasting etc. Now we’re looking at another relatively new platform with very different features. Both platforms/services store your audio in¬†‘the cloud’ with AudioBoo focused on speech and SoundCloud focusing on music. Read more of this post

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