Monday, September 18, 2006

iTunes 7 - Mind The Gaps

As previously mentioned, I've been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to the full potential of how iTunes can take over your life. With my lovely Lacie hard drive rapidly filling up with nonsense I spent a large chunk of Friday night getting to grips with the new iTunes 7. I was, I admit, seduced by a colleague in the T&D dept at work showing me the swanky new album art display/interface thingy. The joy of seeing my albums displayed properly (and with rather nifty glossy reflections, natch) was too much to resist. What I didn't pay attention to was the issue of GAPS.
Already, last week, the word 'gaps' had entered the lingua franca of the big brains who know about such things and write blogs about Ruby Rails (or some such woman). Oh yes, iTunes 7. It's got gaps-aplenty.
For an old-timer the issue of metadata within the digital age is key. Frankly a 4x4 crappy reproduction of what we used to call 'sleeve art' is rubbish. I won't go on - just read this. It tells you all you need to know and more. For anyone with a background in the graphic arts this is distressing enough. (cf: my interview with God-king of 'sleeve art', Mr Roger Dean!) But add this to the need to KNOW who/when/what/why about the music I'm consuming and, were it not for my inherited knowledge attained by 40-odd years of listening, I'd be in the dark. There are analogies here in the visual arts. ie: what changes when we know the context within which a piece of art was created, and how does that affect our perception..blah, blah, yada yada...In other words, the old chestnuts.
Returning to iTunes 7; it sucks. After an hour of registering and running the consolidation process I had a motley connection of sleeve art examples, many of which were incorrect. Now, I know my tastes can tend to the (very slightly) arcane, but I was appalled at how Steve Jobs and his crew, within an hour, had made me feel like I'm just plain weird. No artwork for Led Zeppelin? (in fact it gave me a Dread Zeppelin sleeve 20 times) None for King Crimson. Wow...those are obscure. With Greatest Hits packages it gave me a different sleeve for each track (ie: Donovan) and as for tracks culled from free CDs...don't even go there. I was REMOVING more than it had found. And I'd put the success rate at about 10%.
So much for the so-called 'long tail'. If a mega-corporation can't do better, and seems to regard mainstream acts as too wilfully obscure (by dint of them just being OLD) then we're frankly fucked. Maybe the long tail is only long because of a lazy attitude to cultural heritage?
I tried resorting to Apple's new widget that sucks the sleeves of 'currently playing' tracks from Amazon. But in the face of 4000 albums I'm kinda guessing I may not have the time. Anyone out there got a better solution?
On top of this I found the fact that displaying the fancy 'hit parade' (as I'm calling it in my head) stops certain functionality on the keyboard; and the whole thing seems more intent in getting us all to consume 'video' and after 2 hours of fannying about I'd gone back to the old skool settings and wished I'd never bothered.

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