TMEA Session Notes - “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores”

I am thrilled to be presenting at TMEA again this year. Both of my sessions, “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores” will be taking place on February 17th, at 8 am and 11 am, respectively.

Here are the session notes:

Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers

Working with Digital Scores

Apple improves iCloud Music Library matching, ditches copy-protected matched files for Apple Music users

Apple improves iCloud Music Library matching, ditches copy-protected matched files for Apple Music users:

When Apple Music was released just over a year ago, Apple also debuted iCloud Music Library, a way of storing your iTunes library in the cloud. There were two ways to seed the cloud, either with iTunes Match or Apple Music. If you were an iTunes Match subscriber, matching your songs in your local library to your cloud library was done one way, and if you were just an Apple Music subscriber, matching was done differently.

This created some confusion about the way tracks were matched and stored in iCloud Music Library. Now, Apple is changing this, and will use the same matching method for both services. The company said in a briefing that Apple Music now uses acoustic fingerprinting and provides matched files without digital rights management (DRM), or copy protection, just like iTunes Match.

It seriously blows my mind that this isn't the way it worked from the start. Even after reading this article, I am still unsure if it is safe to cancel my iTunes Match subscription or not.

Subscribing to Apple Music is a huge risk on my part. For the record, I keep two local back ups and one cloud back up of music files in addition to my iTunes Match/Apple Music subscriptions. I of all people want Apple Music to succeed but things like this make me wonder why Apple isn't doing more to secure their footing as a musically relevant tech company.

For the times that Apple Music works as I want it to, it is still worth the experiment. More often than not, it syncs my iTunes Library across all of my Macs and iOS devices. But there are still frequent syncing bugs, in particular, the accuracy of metadata like album art and song titles. And don't get me started on how my MacBook frequently logs me out of my account. At the end of the day though, Apple Music shows potential to be much more than other streaming services..

If you are looking for a music subscription service like Spotify or Google Music, I think Apple Music is getting close enough to complete. But if you are more like me, and you keep a vast library of rare and live albums, personally created and uploaded mp3s, and rely on iTunes to get your job done, it might not be worth the headache.

Announcing My First Book ---> Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers!

I am excited to announce that I am writing a book!

Actually, I already wrote it. Oxford University Press will publish the book, "Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers," this Fall. It will be the first title in the series, "Essential Music Technology: The Prestissimo Series" with series editor, Richard McCready.

The book will focus on how technology can help rather than stifle productivity in the music teaching profession. It will address such topics as: minimizing paper, managing tasks, taking good notes, organizing iTunes playlists, understanding music streaming services, working in the cloud, and managing scores. The book will provide an overview of the apps and services I have found most useful in my teaching experience. It will include sample workflows for using these technologies in music teaching contexts.

Stay tuned to this site for more information. The blog has been quiet this year as I have spent more time writing the book. Upon release, I plan to write posts of a supplementary nature. I also plan to do a miniseries on my podcast that offers commentary on the book. I will be inviting many insightful guests on the show to discuss a different chapter each episode.

I also have a really fun video trailer in the works featuring some brilliant acting talent from my colleagues in the Howard County Public School System and some awesome editing work from the guys over at Four/Ten Media.

I hope you will pick up a copy when it is released.

Limitations streaming iTunes music in the cloud with third party apps

Couldn't agree more with this post from MacStories. The original story they are covering is this post from the app developer Steamclock about limitations that third party apps have when accessing iTunes tracks stored in the cloud.

From Steamclock's blog post:

According to our latest stats, 17% of Party Monster users have been unable to play a song in their iTunes library, and 22% of WeddingDJ users have tried to cue a playlist that has so many unplayable tracks that we need to display a warning. While it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to maintain a 4 star rating through all of this, it’s not going to last if we stay the course.

Given all of this, we have a couple options. We could double down and go pro, catering to serious DJs who can load DRM-free music into our sandbox. Pro DJs who use our apps often have a large licensed library of songs, and won’t rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music.

Alternatively, we could steer towards the mass market, drop crossfading support, and regain full iTunes compatibility. We could also put in the work to add support for Spotify or other competing streaming services, and focus our apps less on playback features and more on having a great UI for queueing.

I am glad this problem is getting some publicity. I have been frustrated with the fact that iTunes tracks can't stream from third party apps for years.

The Tragedy of iTunes and Classical Music

Robinson Meyer's The Tragedy of iTunes and Classical Music is the best thing I have read all week. It is a perfect overview of the problems haunting serious music geeks when it comes to archiving large and complex music collections in iTunes.

When the developer Erik Kemp designed the first metadata system for MP3s in 1996, he provided only three options for attaching text to the music. Every audio file could be labeled with only an artist, song name, and album title.

Kemp’s system has since been augmented and improved upon, but never replaced. Which makes sense: Like the web itself, his schema was shipped, good enough, and an improvement on the vacuum which preceded it. Those three big tags, as they’re called, work well with pop and rock written between 1960 and 1995. This didn’t prevent rampant mislabeling in the early days of the web, though, as anyone who remembers Napster can tell you. His system stumbles even more, though, when it needs to capture hip hop’s tradition of guest MCs or jazz’s vibrant culture of studio musicianship.

And they really, really fall apart when they need to classify classical music.

Read the whole thing, it's great! File this under "things I wish I had written myself."