Monday, July 16, 2007

I added a few playlists to various posts, via Imeem. I had heard of the service, and seen it on other blogs, but after taking a peek at it, I didn't feel the need to sign up. But when I mentioned Sara Bareilles recently, I had the thought to post a playlist of her stuff and other artists mentioned in that post. And I found plenty of her music available for streaming from Imeem. In fact, she apparently has some sort of promotional deal with Imeem.

For those not familiar, Imeem is a service which offers the ability to post custom music playlists to your website. It actually offers other services as well; they're trying to be a combination of MySpace and some sort of media storage service. But the playlist feature looks to be their most useful feature. Though apparently it was more useful in the past, when you could pretty much upload whatever you want, and let people listen to it on your website. Then lawyers got involved, and now, you can only hear a 30 second sample, unless Imeem has the rights to stream the song (they have a deal giving them access to the Warner Brothers catalog). If you upload a song you own, you can stream it yourself regardless of whether Imeem has rights to the song, but other visitors listening to your playlist will only hear a sample.

Despite the limitations as to which songs can be streamed, Imeem seems like a good service, and offers a lot of freedom to use songs for which they have obtained the rights. You can stream entire albums if they have access. It is actually very similar to the streaming service offered by LaLa, but without requiring the installation of software. The service has a lot of potential, and I was eager to put it into action.

The first playlist I made, added to this post, turned out okay. Like I said, Sara Bareilles has some deal with Imeem, so she has lots of streaming music available. Of the other two artists mentioned, Rodrigo y Gabriela had the most music available, but not their entire album. The Greencards, on the other hand, only had one song available, and it wasn't from the album in question. So that was disappointing, but gave me a chance to try uploading music. So I uploaded the entire album, and added it to the playlist. Unfortunately, Imeem apparently doesn't have rights to the album, as none of the songs stream, save for a 30 second sample.

My next step was to make a Porter Wagoner playlist. I had checked out the site in the past, when I wrote about Porter Wagoner, in the hopes of including a playlist, but only found one song, "The Carroll County Accident," and that only available as a sample. But now that I'd signed up for the site, I decided to upload some Wagoner myself and make a playlist. So I uploaded an old song or two, and the entire new album, and added a playlist to the Porter Wagoner post. Unfortunatley, as I suspected, were you to listen to this playlist, you would only be teased with sample clips. So that's unfortunate.

Making a Pink Martini playlist for this post worked out better, mostly. Most of their music is available on the site, listenable in full. So I made a playlist, with an emphasis on the new album, and enjoyed listening to it at work on Sunday. But while having it play as background music, I gradually noticed something was off. "Tea for Two" was playing, but Jimmy Scott never came in on vocals. It was apparently playing the full song, but it was only the first verse, looped repeatedly. Which was odd. I notice one or two other songs were the same way. Turns out someone uploaded the songs in that format, for some reason, but I was able to find all the songs in complete form elsewhere on the site, save "Tea for Two," which I uploaded myself. But now, my copy of "Tea for Two" only plays as a 30 second sample for other users. Which seems odd. They can play other Pink Martini songs, and they can play a defective version of "Tea for Two," but they can't play the "Tea for Two" I uploaded. My suspicion is that it takes time for Imeem to verify that they are able to play a particular song, so that all songs only play as 30 second samples at first (though subsequent experience would refute that idea). So I harbor a hope that, at some time in the future, "Tea for Two" will play in full on my Pink Martini playlist.

Wondering if all music uploaded is automatically limited to 30 second clips, at first, I decided Lord Buckley would be a good test (I somewhat doubt that Lord Buckley is in their filtering database). Only one work by Lord Buckley was already available on the service, but it was a big one, "The Naz." I went ahead and uploaded some of my Lord Buckley collection, and, sure enough, what I uploaded was immediately available for listening in full. Unfortunately, I encountered another limitation of the service: They only deal with MP3 files. The bulk of my collection is in AAC format (like many people, when I first started ripping my CD collection, I had no idea that iTunes was by default copying them in a non-MP3 format; once I found out, I soon realized AAC sounds better for the file size, and kept the default in place). So to upload my non-MP3 Lord Buckley material, I would have to convert it to MP3 format, resulting in decreased sound quality. Now, the sound quality on these files isn't great to begin with, but I'm not sure if the diminishment of quality wouldn't matter much, or if it would magnify the flaws. Truth be told, I'm too lazy to find out. So the lack of AAC support was disappointing, but I was able to add a decent Lord Buckley playlist to this post.

So, to summarize, I made four playlists, found on the following posts: various iTunes "Next Big Thing" artists I enjoyed, Porter Wagoner, Pink Martini, and Lord Buckley. My experience using Imeem to make those playlists shows that the service isn't flawless: As I mentioned above, a lot of music isn't available, and Imeem doesn't support the AAC format. Also the search function is clumsily implemented, and it would be nicer to be able to add music direct to a playlist from the search results screen, rather then having to navigate to each song's individual page. But, from my first experience with the service, I'm sure I'll be back. After all, they have a deal with Warner Brothers, which controls most of Randy Newman's music. I'd upload my Newman collection...too bad it's in AAC.

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