The iPod Will Make You Want to Buy More CDs

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Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2001, 13:24
Category: Archive

The iPod is a device that interested me on several levels, not the least of which is the music renaissance that I am currently going through. Ever clean up your CD collection and notice an old favorite that you haven’t heard to in a while sitting on the bottom of the pile? Ever hear a new track that absolutely gets you pumped up for the weekend? Well little things like that have been happening to me a lot over the past few months and it is really enhancing my appreciation of music.


The iPod is a device that interested me on several levels, not the least of which is the music renaissance that I am currently going through. Ever clean up your CD collection and notice an old favorite that you haven’t heard to in a while sitting on the bottom of the pile? Ever hear a new track that absolutely gets you pumped up for the weekend? Well little things like that have been happening to me a lot over the past few months and it is really enhancing my appreciation of music.

The most interesting wrinkle in our age-old love of music is the new technology known as MP3 files. Since the discovery of the delicious little morsels I have discovered new artists I would have probably never listened to before and new versions of songs that I would definitely never hear on the radio. Say what you will about the controversial debate, but one thing is certain – the new music format, and the ability to find and trade music on the Internet, has opened my ears to music that I would never otherwise hear. And that is a good thing.

The MP3 revolution is here and you better get used to it. Bringing music on the road is important to me because I am in the car a lot and loathe commercial radio stations due to the absolute crap that they drill into your head. In fact, most of the music they play on the radio would be tolerable if I heard it, maybe once a week. But the music industry thinks that you need to hear the same song three times an hour – enough to make anyone detest any song once it crosses that very fine line of oversaturation.

[Side note: Moby has a very interesting theory on why all of the music on the pop charts is such crud (“the Pearl Jam syndrome”) and yes, it involves MP3s. Check out page 163 of the November 2001 Issue of Details, U2’s Bono is on the cover.]

That said, I have been finding music online and ripping my own CDs for about a year and with the help of my friends we have amassed quite a collection of MP3 files. Each month I rip a CD of my favorite cuts and give a copy to a three or four friends and they will do the same. Each CD captures a snapshot of time and acts like a modern version of a diary – conjuring up distinct pavlovian memories of the time they were burned.

I have been looking for an easy way to carry my tunes around with me for a while as a replacement for burning CDs. The PowerBook was the start, making it easy to DJ a party. Next came the Archos Jukebox 6000 and most recently I have been using the Sony Clié PEG-M760c Palm OS PDA to tote my tunes. When the iPod was announced everything changed, suddenly I had a device that could carry a good selection of my tunes that was small and easily navigable.

The defining feature of the iPod is it’s ease of navigation. A changer full of CDs is only as good as your memory of the songs on them and switching CDs takes 10 or 20 seconds. The Archos Jukebox, at least in its first revision, was almost impossible to navigate to find a song that you wanted to hear. The iPod, on the other hand, is small and incredibly easy to navigate with one hand courtesy of the scroll wheel – not a small issue when using such a device while driving a car.

There is one caveat to iPod’s ease of navigation: it relies on and is only as good as the quality of the ID3 tags embedded in your MP3 files. iPod uses ID3 tags as the basis for its Artists and Songs top-level menus. If you have some tracks tagged with the artist as “REM” while others are “R.E.M.” they will show up as two discreet artists and subsequently not be available if you want to shuffle between all of R.E.M.’s songs. All the way to Reno indeed…

[Aside: REM and Eddie Vedder fans will want to run, not walk, over to Five Horizons to download the MP3s from their recent club show together at the Croc in Seattle. The songs will only be posted for a week. The version of PJ’s “Patriot” and a new song “I Am Mine” are also there.]

There are two types of MP3 files (and users, for that matter): those that are ripped from a CD which usually carry detailed ID3 tags courtesy of the wonderful CDDB database and those that are swapped on any of the number of Internet file sharing services like Gnutella which contain little or inaccurate ID3 tags. Users that are ripping their own CDs and getting ID3 tags automatically will have no trouble getting up an running with iPod. If most of your music is downloaded you will have to invest some time in cleaning up the ID3 tags to make your music more manageable in the iPod. But fear not young Jedi, it is a labor of love.

One of the most amazing things that has happened in the four days since my iPod has arrived: it has made me want to go out and purchase CDs to round out a few of the artists where I am missing a CD or two. All of this is a result of the iPod’s ability to shuffle by Artist. If you load up several CDs from your favorite artist, iPod allows you to shuffle amongst them and find old favorite songs and deep cuts that you otherwise would never listen to. Not to mention the ability to glance down and see the song name and album name of that song you have always wondered about.

The iPod is far from perfect and is missing a few features (more on that tomorrow) but is worth a serious look by any music afficionado. The iPod is a product that is easy to dismiss on paper, but once you get a chance to hold then use one for any period of time you will be converted.

Now excuse me for a bit, I’ve got to go buy a few CDs.

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