Fuzz Wants to be Online Radio by the People, for the People

You know somewhere between Pandora’s steady, old reliable model, Spotify’s have it all, take it anywhere incredible features, and various other stations like SHOUTcast covering some of the most obscure music out there, I guess I once felt content saying that the world of internet radio is pretty well covered.

And yet it seems like there is at least one more site out there that thinks that there is still fresh ground to tread in that particular field by catering to this wild idea that instead of a computer algorithm generating music selection, perhaps it would be preferable for human beings to take a stab at it.

That site is called Fuzz and, if you let them, they’d very much like to rock/rap/alternative/classical your world.

How? Well the entire site is made up of user created stations. Members can upload their personal music and create a radio station set to a theme of the music selection, with the built in system mixing the music together for you. Examples include the standards like classic rock or 90’s hip hop, but a quick search reveals more specific stations like classical dinner music or trendy sushi bar.  A band search option is available to get you started, but the general idea is to start with music you are familiar with, and expand your interests, and favorite playlists, based on people who like those same bands or songs other available selections. It’s an idea that is automatically handled by computers on other sites, but Fuzz treats it much more like each user is the DJ to their own mix, complete with custom station names, backdrops, and comment and feedback features.

The creator of the site, Jeff Yasuda, has tooled around the internet radio scene for a while, and he and his team simply feel that it is more fun, and rewarding, for people to share music with people and not machines. It’s an idea that was encouraged by Yasuda’s other music app Blip.Fm, which allows people to play the music they’re listening to via Twitter and Facebook. The quiet success of that app has instilled Yasuda with the belief that a site that expands that idea into a full radio station could be a hit. Although, he is certainly aware of the long shot that any internet station is, as he reveals via a cryptic quote in an interview with Bloomberg.com when speaking of the internet radio industry:

“The space is crowded and the graveyard is long, deep and wide,”

So how is the site? While I’m personally still inclined to default to Spotify or Pandora for a kickback and let it play listening experience, Fuzz is infinitely more entertaining to just explore, whether it be for new music, or just to see what obscure and awesome stations people dream up. Though the battle for success, much less supremacy, is one that hasn’t even begun, to me it is indisputable that the basic idea behind Fuzz is a winner. Yasuda and co. are right in their idea that it is much more fun to put people in charge of a music selection, and the difference give Fuzz a personality in its beta stage that even the larger, and more established, stations don’t share.

In fact, even if Fuzz doesn’t take off, it’s that idea that I love, and which I hope ultimately influences other stations to implement something similar. Although, as so many other things in the tech business have proven, sometimes all it really does take is a good idea, and the proper amount of momentum to make it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I may have to make a station featuring the music of Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and the soundtrack to the video game “Earthbound.

Review: Castiv Guitar Sidekick

Guitar Sidekick - Hand Shot

I’ve spent my Thursday nights over the past couple weeks enjoying the mild North Carolina autumn on a friend’s porch. A group of us get together, drink whiskey, and play guitar. It’s a good time, and though our musical tastes span a wide variety of genres, we can usually keep up with one another. There are those rare instances, though, where I’m glad to have an iPhone. I can dig up lyrics and tabs on the go. There’s just one problem: where do I put the phone? With the well-documented fragility of the iPhone’s glass, I don’t want to accidentally drop it on a cement porch.

Enter Castiv’s Guitar Sidekick. It’s a slick little gadget designed with this very problem in mind. The Guitar Sidekick consists of a rubber lined clip that grips your strings between the nut and the tuners and provides a cradle for your phone. The cradle is basically a spring-loaded claw with rubberized grips to keep your phone in place. It sounds tenuous, and trust me, it looks tenuous. That’s why I tested it over my bed before taking it for a porch session. I was shocked that it held so well, though if you’re really nervous about stability, just use a case along with the Castiv. The Apple Bumper, for instance, made the grip a rubber to rubber connection. My phone wasn’t going anywhere.

My only real complaint about the Guitar Sidekick is that it can be difficult to get the angle just right. It can be tough to secure a tight lock for the claw part of the device and adjust it to the right angle. It’s not impossible, just a nuisance. The good news is that you can secure a tight lock, which is probably of greater concern.

All in all, I think the Castiv Guitar Sidekick will be great for anyone looking to pick up songs quickly at an impromptu jam session. It’s application will be a little limited elsewhere, at least until there is a wide offering of apps across several mobile platforms.

iTunes Instant delivers instant search results

iTunes Instant

It’s no secret that iTunes is one of the more bloated pieces of software in use by millions of people every day. Ever tried to find an album or song quickly in the iTunes store? I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of oxymoron.

A 15-year-old put together a little web service he’s calling iTunes Instant, which is just about what it sounds like. You type in your search and get treated to instant results, replete with links to pull up each result in iTunes.

Just buy it, Apple. Please.

My experience with subscription music services

MOG logo.I constantly struggle to find new music. Yes, there are a million resources out there – blogs, fan sites, news and reviews, venues, torrents, etc. etc. – but there’s so much music in the world that a lot of it ends up sounding the same, and I don’t want something that always sounds the same.

I decided I was going to try a streaming service for the sheer amount of music available. Pandora isn’t on-demand so that was out. I gave Rdio a shot because it was free and had just launched but their selection was woefully slim (they were missing big names like The Arcade Fire among some lesser stuff I was hoping for). From there I turned to MOG and I’ve been fairly impressed. Their selection is good, the iPhone app is passable, as is their web-based player, but I don’t think I’ve discovered all that much.

MOG does have a feature on the web player that allows you to broaden your horizons by including similar artists to the one at the top of your playlist, but it’s just not diverse. It’s the same thing with Pandora. What I want is some sort of discovery mode, where the player throws a wide selection of stuff at you, based not just on the music you’re listening to, but what other people interested in that selection listen to. I would love if it there was even some sort of blacklist feature so that you wouldn’t get the same old mix.

As a for instance, I’m listening to The Hold Steady right now. The similar artist list is about what you’d expect – Modest Mouse, A.C. Newman, Spoon, White Rabbits – all bands that someone listening to The Hold Steady would probably say, “Hey, you’d like these guys, too.” I don’t need that kind of guarantee, though. I want to hear a mix of stuff I might not like and might like and might be surprised I like, and I haven’t found a music service that provides that.

I probably won’t renew my MOG subscription beyond a month because I’m not getting a whole lot more from it than I can get from a Pandora. The on-demand is nice, but the web-player is a little clunky, and I have plenty of music to get through on my own.

Python code sets any song a-swingin’

Don’t Stop Believin’ (Swing Version) by plamere

This has to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Well, heard, really. Most of the time when you think of audio manipulation, it’s means marring the sound in some awful way. The pitch changes or the sound just goes all to hell. That’s what makes this process so special. It can swing a song, any song. You should recognize the example above.

The code comes courtesy of Music Machinery. Be sure to check out the other examples they’ve got.