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All posts tagged "music"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zune Music Pass Launches In Australia

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune News" @ 05:40 PM


Oh, yes, fellow Aussies. You'd better believe it. The Zune Music Pass has finally launched in Australia, which means 13 million songs and unlimited music video streaming are now at your fingertips on the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, PC, and web. You can get started now with a free 14-day trial; then, if it's to your liking, continue your subscription for $11.99 AUD per month, or go all out with an annual pass that nets you twelve months for the price of ten. Happy listening!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Quality: Win a Set of $399 Audioengine A5+ Speakers

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 09:00 AM


I may be selling these sites and working full time for HTC now, but who says I can't have a little more fun giving away a great prize before I go? Last week I posted about the new Audioengine A5+ powered desktop speakers; the generous folks at Audioengine have offered up a set of these new speakers for a contest. With dual inputs (3.5mm and RCA, the latter of which is easily converted to an addition 3.5mm input with a cable) and a USB charging port, the A5+ speakers are a great companion to an endless variety of devices: desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and yes, even the humble Zune. Ringing in at $399 USD, these are high-quality speakers that I guarantee will blow you away.

How do you win this contest? Simply post a comment to this discussion thread (one entry per person) telling me what your current audio solution for speakers is and how the Audioengine A5+ speakers will be better. One winner will be randomly selected from amongst all the entries and they'll get to chose either a set of black or white A5+ speakers. Due to the size and weight of this prize, it will only be shipped within the continental USA. The contest will remain open until Friday the 28th at 12 PM mountain time (GMT -7).

Best of luck everyone, and I look forward to reading some interesting entries. :-)

UPDATE: The contest is now over, and the winner is ITforSmallBiz. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zune Marketplace Semi-Live in Canada, Official soon?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 01:45 PM


"So as you now know, traces of the Canadian music Marketplace have shown up a few times quite late at night. This time though, I was able to pull a digital “stakeout” and dig a bit deeper into the availability. As I had previously posted, purchases and individual artist pages were unavailable and would throw an error message back to me, yielding nothing usable or interesting. Last night at 11:24 pm I tried a search for The Bird and the Bee and to my surprise, it showed up with a picture and the artist’s albums available on the Marketplace. Before the network went back down I clicked on a song that I wanted to purchase and viola! It worked! No error message telling me that those services “are not available in my region.” The song downloaded without error and I have officially purchased my first song through the Zune Marketplace."

While Zune users in the U.S. have had the ability to buy and rent music, movies, and TV shows for as long as they've been offered on the Marketplace, international users (like our own Jason Dunn, from Canada) have generally been treated like second-class citizens, gaining access several years late or not at all. The situation was fixed somewhat in 2009 with the introduction of Movies and TV shows to Canada, U.K., France, Italy, and others, but still no music store. This seems to be changing, as Zunited's Josh Martin noticed that the Marketplace was often live in Canada during the night, an indication of them testing the service for a possible upcoming launch. That he was able to search for and purchase music is definitely a good sign of an international launch, but it seems a bit odd they'd flip the switch to allow public users before making an official announcement. Here's hoping we hear something soon. The Marketplace needs to go international. And fast.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Zune Branding Gone From New Xbox 360 Dashboard

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 07:00 PM


Paul Thurrot called out the elephant in the room: there's no trace of Zune branding anywhere that we can see on the new Xbox 360 dashboard design. It's simply "music" and "video" now. Frankly, that makes sense - it's a bit of nonsense that we need to go into the Zune interface to watch videos...

It seems pretty clear that the Zune as a device is dead, and as a service, it's on the way out. Quite a shame really...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are We All Digitally OCD Now?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 05:30 PM


"We are all OCD now. We do these things not just because digital filing gives us the satisfaction of cleaning without the unpleasant feeling of getting up from our chairs. It's because we're constantly confronting the onslaught of information, and our brains are trying to make patterns out of the randomness. We believe that if we just finish a list of every movie we want to see, we can finish that task, despite the fact that Rob Schneider is going to make more films."

Photo Credit: Gizmodo

This is a humour column, but there's some truth to the idea that sometimes we spend more time organizing and fretting away over the details of our digital collections than actually enjoying them. However, unlike the author of this column, I've always been detail-oriented and I appreciate creating digital order from digital chaos...it's almost soothing to me to see things organized properly. I don't think I could ever embrace digital chaos the way the author is suggesting - could you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Music Metadata: It's Here to Stay

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 01:00 PM

On a private mailing list I'm a part of, the issue of music metadata was brought up - specifically, that the Zune desktop and device software relies on metadata for everything, and if you're the kind of person who has a collection of digital music stretching back 10+ years, there's a good chance it's missing proper metadata. Many people have worked around that by organizing and playing back their music like they would a Word document; via the file system. This is a habit that you should seriously consider breaking, and I'll tell you why. Read more...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CNet Matches Up Zune Pass and Spotify

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 08:50 PM


"If you're not ensnared in the bear trap that is iTunes, and you own a phone that doesn't have a lower case 'i' at the start, you might be wondering what to do about music. With Windows Phone 7 launching this week, Microsoft has finally brought its Zune store to the UK, and with it, the streaming and download service Zune Pass. Spotify is well established in the UK, with a multi-tier service that offers music for free -- ad supported -- and extra services if you're prepared to cough up £10 per month for its most feature-packed option. It's £1 more than Zune, and you don't get ten free downloads like you do with Microsoft's version, which is a shame. Let's have a look at both offerings and try to determine which one is worthy of your monthly subscription."

CNet's Crave UK is an awesome source for music tech news, and they always bring flair to their reviews and writeups. This time they're comparing subscription services Zune, Spotify, and Napster. If that second name looks unfamiliar to those in the US, it's because at the moment Spotify is strictly limited to customers in Europe. My friends who have used the service swear by it, and it's easy to see why the free/cheap unlimited streaming service is easy to love. At the same time, the Zune pass has made strides with web access, smart DJ, and of course the Zune Social over the last few years. If you happen to live in the UK and are looking for a subscription service, definitely give the article a read.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MSN Music Still Existed? It's now Zune in the UK

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 10:00 AM


"Microsoft, fresh from the news that it will be bringing its Zune music and video service to the UK, has announced plans to integrate MSN Music into the software. What this means is Zune content will be accessible via MSN Music, with the Zune Marketplace easily accessible after replacing the current MSN download store."

I didn't even realize that MSN Music still existed anywhere in the world - if you recall, back in 2008, MSN Music shut down and announced they'd decommission their DRM servers - which would effectively kill all the music that people had bought if they ever needed to re-authenticate it (moving to a new PC, hard drive crash, etc.). They relented and announced they'd leave their servers active until 2011. Has MSN Music in the UK been selling DRM-poisoned tracks all this time? Or did they switch to MP3s back when the rest of the online music stores did? Regardless, it's now going to be Zune. I wonder if MSN Music will do one to one conversions of DRM'd MSN Music tracks to DRM-free Zune tracks? Nah, probably not...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Aspiring Musicians Piggyback on Popular Artist Names

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 10:56 AM


Clever stunt or flagrant abuse? A hip hop group calling itself "Sign Us" has invaded the Zune Marketplace, naming each of their songs on their only (debut?) album "Eminem" after popular hip hop artists, and adding "(Sign Us!!!)" possibly to attract A&R attention. This keyword inflation has been common in search engines for years, but is this a start of a similar practice on the Marketplace?

Neither iTunes nor Rhapsody seems to have been graced by these budding entrepreneurs, who seem to have taken their name from the recent Drake song (or the Johnson & Johnson song, or possibly any number of other references). So the question is, why Zune?

It's no question that the strategy seems to be working. At least, searching for Eminem returns the Sign Us LP as the first result in albums section, as well as several tracks when searching for artist titles. The music seems to be of questionable quality, and the musical style of each track seems to have a tenuous connection to their namesake artists. Maybe a smaller label will reward the group's creativity, and have the good graces to pull the album or re-release it with proper titles. Until then, hopefully some of the mystery behind these odd search results will be solved.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zune Pass Heading Across the Pond?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 05:30 AM


"Thanks to tipster Greg, who has managed to sign up for a trial subscription to Zune Pass in the UK (although it doesn’t work yet), it looks like the “all you can eat” service may be coming soon to the UK. Along with the Trial Pass option, it looks like Zune Pass in the UK will cost £8.99/mo, with a 3 mo. subscription costing £26.97/mo."

An intrepid reader of LiveSide discovered a tantalizing yet inevitable detail on the UK Zune Pass website; It looks like Zune Pass will be coming to the UK sooner than we thought. This is an important first step for laying the groundwork of an actual strategy for WinPhone7 in the UK and overseas, and hopefully we'll begin to see more progress in the coming months. It's important to note that while the site allowed the tipster to register for a free trial, he wasn't able to log in and download music just yet. Though commenter Greg brought up Rafael Rivera's Zune Features Unlocker script to re-enable Marketplace, Channels, and Apps within the Zune software, which may have helped.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bing Spring 2010 Update: New Features Galore

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 02:30 PM


"Moving to the updated Bing web site, we see the biggest changes. And the most important of these, I think, is a rethinking of the overall Bing user experience, with Microsoft moving to more of a dialog-driven model. (Where "dialog" here means a conversation with the user, not a PC-type dialog window.) The impetus for this was the way the Bing user interface had evolved and become somewhat cluttered over the past year, with the left column, or "rail" in Bing-speak, losing its focus and becoming, on many pages, too long to be useful. (Microsoft has found that once the navigational pane extends past the "fold," or the bottom of the initial screen height, that many users simply stop paying attention.)"

The new Bing update is out, there's lots to like - of particular interest is the entertainment/media options. When you look up an artist and flip over to the music tab, you'll have an option to hear a full version of the track - as in, the entire song, once - after that, you'll get a 30 second preview. Zune Pass subscribers will get to hear the whole song as many times as they want. I haven't been able to see/test this feature, even when I manually go to the US version of Bing. Anyone else had any luck with this?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zune HD vs. Kin Two: A Comparison

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Software" @ 04:08 PM

Adam Lien from pocketnow has put together an interesting video that will interest anyone in the Zune or Windows Phone camp; how exactly does the Kin - which is a precursor to the Zune experience on Windows Phone 7. All in all, there aren't that many big differences between the two - but it's interesting to see the way the Zune experience evolves when you have an always-connected device.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The State of Subscription Services, As Outlined by a Seattlite

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 08:00 PM


"Months later, I was sitting at Café Presse reading an article that compared the songwriter Holly Miranda to Nina Simone. Normally, I would have added Miranda to my [LP] look-for list. Since I was in a wi-fi hot spot, I turned to my Zune, browsed the collection, and downloaded records from Miranda's former band, the Jealous Girlfriends, and a refresher course on Nina Simone. The albums—and any subsequent tracks I picked up that month—were all covered through Zune Pass."

Seattle Weekly's Chris Kornelis shares a recent anecdote with his positive Zune Pass experience and an overview of the subscription landscape. If you can wade through the thick hipster smarm on the first page, it's actually a decent read. And while not heaping praise on the Zune device, he seems to come away with a generally good attitude about the experience. He also discusses the competition from fellow Seattle company Rhapsody and what the future holds with Android and iPhone apps. Like Kornelis, more and more I'm realizing that "owning" music (downloading a la carte) isn't as important as I once thought. Tastes change, collections get too large, and computers get upgraded. Having access to thousands of songs on-demand is definitely the direction of the market. The question remains which company will lead us there.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Zimbalam: Letting Artists Fly Solo

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 01:00 PM


“When Stian, a friend of mine, came to me a few days ago and told me I could now find his music on various online music services I just had to find out how. It's no secret that record companies are becoming more and more uselss with most of them being sadistic about both stealing the artist's money and chase pirates, but I was unaware of just how easy it had become to publish music on your own.”

I don’t necessarily entirely agree with this statement over at AnythingButIpod but I think that most of us can agree that the music industry is a dinosaur that does as much to hold back artists today as it does to promote them. For a few years now I’ve wondered why many artists would really want to go the route of a big record company. For every successful artist that shows up on the radio there are hundreds of failures.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's Happening to Zune Pass Music?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 09:57 PM


"Zune Pass is just such a subscription service, and it's a pretty good one… but lately, Zune Pass subscribers have been seeing their music collections just disappear into thin air. This can be a single song, an entire album or even whole artists' collections. Disappearing acts included, but weren't limited to, popular artists like Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Spoon. Now, when stuff like this happens, the usual culprit is that the record industry has re-negotiated its licensing deals with the service… which seems to be exactly what occurred. Microsoft has responded to customers' complaints by saying that their music has disappeared because record labels have pulled them."

This story's been making the rounds on the internet as of late. It appears that music from a number of artists is no longer available for Zune Pass download in the marketpace, and has been subsequently stopped working in Zune Pass holders' collections. Though Microsoft has stated that this decision is left up to the labels, there seems to be no larger reasoning behind what content has been pulled. For their part Microsoft has acknowledged the issue and promised to investigate. They are asking affected users to report missing music in the Zune.net forum thread.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zune HD Stays True To Its Seattle Roots

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 08:30 AM


"The upcoming version of the Zune not only maintains the cute "Hello from Seattle" message, it gives it more prominence, moving the phrase from the back of the case to the side."

Ever since the first generation Zune, Microsoft has included a three word salute on the back of their music players, "Hello from Seattle." Perhaps as a dig at Apple's "Designed by Apple in California," and also likely a reference to Seattle's famed underground music scene, the sentence pays tribute to Microsoft's Washington state roots. What does it mean that the words have moved from the back of the device to the side in the latest hardware update? Probably nothing, but it does make the text slightly more noticeable on its own.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Get 1,000 Free MP3s from Microsoft and ReverbNation!

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 03:30 PM


"In partnership with ReverbNation, they're giving away more than 1,000 free MP3 / M4A audio tracks. The goodies are all available at www.reverbnation.com/windows, and unlike a lot of massive audio giveaways there are plenty of good tracks to be had. I was excited to find tracks from Skindred, Bif Naked, Fishbone, and Reverend Horton Heat (among others). While my taste in music might not jive with yours, don't fret - there's plenty to choose from. You can view the whole catalog or browse by genre - Alternative, Electronic/Dance, Hip Hop, Jazz, Latin, Pop, and Rock."

Check it out: there's a bunch of really cool, free MP3s and M4As for your downloading pleasure. If you find something you particularly enjoy, let us know in the comments!

Tags: music

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Microsoft, Yahoo, RealNetworks Sued Over Music Copyrights

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Digital Home News" @ 10:46 PM


"The suit appears to have been initiated by Music Copyright Solutions (MCS), which claims to administer copyrights for more than 45,000 compositions. MCS is named as the lead plaintiff, along with a number of songwriters including Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad fame. These folks allege that Microsoft, Yahoo, and RealNetworks improperly licensed the rights to more than 200 compositions that they offered as on-demand streams or limited downloads via the Zune Marketplace, Yahoo Music, and Rhapsody. Surely these companies paid somebody for the rights to offer these songs. But there's a catch, which TechDirt pointed out earlier Tuesday: these companies may have licensed the rights to the recordings, but that doesn't mean they licensed the rights to the compositions (also known as publishing rights)."

Credit: ars technica

Chalk this one up to another ridiculous abuse of broken music copyright system. The plaintiffs are demanding $150,000 for each violation (for each recorded song - the six Greatest Hits versions of Conway Twitty's "Fifteen Years Ago" would consitute $900,000 in damages alone) or the amount the companies earned from streaming these songs, whichevever is more. This sets a disturbing precident in downloadable music, where none of these companies can afford to lose the case. If all damages are awarded, the 200 violations could end up costing somewhere in the range of billions of dollars, which is why a settlement for far less money is likely to occur. But this case, and the similar trial against Jammie Thomas-Rasset (where the defendant was ordered to pay $80,000 in damages per song) raises the point: if the penalties are so outrageously high that they aren't going to be enforced, why bother having them on the lawbooks in the first place? Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, but today's broken copyright system clearly misses the point in many ways. It's time to get with the 21st century and abandon the sheet music-based system of years past.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chester French in the Green Room

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 08:30 AM


"Chester French, the hotly tipped dynamic pop act who recently released their debut album, have just released an exclusive performance as part of Zune’s “Green Room” video series. The behind-the-scenes and performance footage gives an intimate and no holds barred look at the band on stage and in their tour bus."

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Zune Green Room podcast yet, you might be seriously missing out. The lineup so far has been awesome, with Adele, Mastadon, Janelle Monae, Duran Duran, Travis Barker and DJ AM, T.I., and Peter, Bjorn and John. Each series features some really cool answers and provides a bit more insight into the minds of your favorite artists (my personal favorites were the episode with Adele and Janelle Monae). Check out ZuneInsider for the lineup to the upcoming podcasts.

Tags: music

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Zune Launches Class Is In Session 2009 Summer Tour With DJ Class

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Events" @ 01:00 PM


"Microsoft Zune teams up with Universal Republic and UnRuly Productions to present the 2009 "Class Is in Session" Summer Tour featuring the Billboard recording artist, DJ Class. The tour is scheduled to kick off on May 15th and includes stops in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Canada, Baltimore, Phoenix, Houston, Tampa, and more. Class' infectious single, Im the Ish, has recently hit the Hip Hop, R&B, and Top 40 Billboard charts and is projected to be this summers smash hit."

Source: http://www.differentrecordstm.com/images/people/DJClass1.jpg

It looks like Zune's at it again with a fresh round of summer concerts. After the successes of N.E.R.D., Bun B, Common, and Wale (who put on a great show when I went to see him last month), DJ Class is on tour to promote his latest single. The track, called Im The Ish, is as catchy as it is obnoxious and for a limited time available for free from the Zune Marketplace. I disagree that it'll be the hit of the summer—check out the list at Statik Selektah's Soundtrack to the Summer or the Black Eyed Peas ear-bleedingly bad Boom Boom Pow for a more likely candidate—but if you're a fan of Baltimore Club Music or techno-tinged hip hop and you live near one of these major metro areas it can't hurt to check him out.

We'll try to keep you updated with Zune-sponsored shows throughout the summer as we hear about them.

Tags: music, concerts

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