Designing a game soundtrack – kind of like we first got to pick the fonts in our documents

Can you compose crappy music? I had a field day today ‘designing’ a bit of music for my “Game Of Life” Android game. In the old old days, when computers for the first time allowed you to choose a font for your text. we all became bad amateur typographers and book designers. Do you remember the “ransom note” font in the original Macintosh (yeah, that was 1984?) It looked like this:

Ransom note

We loved it and everyone played with it. And there were lots of other ugly fonts but how did we love them.

Well now (for me) the same thing is happening with music. Yeah I am an amateur piano and guitar player but designing a sound track is not something I have a clue about. So I went digging through tools and toys and, more or less like those early days of customizable fonts, here’s what the tools allowed me to create for my video game.

I have to say it’s awful and makes me want to bash my head in but, for your listening pleasure:

GOLsoundtrack.mp3

Rhapsody vs. iTunes

I think I might be entering a new phase in my music listening. I listen to a ton of music, on my iPhone, on my computer, in my car, all the time. And up to now it’s always been downloaded (purchased) music that I organize manually within iTunes. ¬†From time to time I’ve had subscriptions to eMusic and similar services.

As a result I have a huge number of tracks on my computer and on my iPhone. And as my music taste develops, and I discover new artists and composers, lots of those tracks are listened to rarely.

The alternative services like Rhapsody, which has been around for a while. But I didn’t like the idea of paying $10 per month to ‘rent’ music to listen to. Without owning it I would ‘lose’ the music if I ever cancelled the subscription. I would be tied to this $10 subscription forever.

Lately I’ve been trying the various streaming products like Rhapsody, Rdio, Mog, and various others. From those that I’ve tried I still like Rhapsody the best. Rhapsody is the only one that organizes music into genres so that I can browse through for example, 20th Century Classical. The other ones seem to be focused more on current popular music, which I don’t really listen to.

And I feel a sea-change coming in my own listening. I am really liking Rhapsody. I am playing more variety. Yes, even among my 10,000 or so tracks on my disk I was finding myself repeating the stuff I liked best. With Rhapsody I can go spelunking through a category I don’t know that well (e.g. Jazz Blues) and discover new music. I can have a playlist playing all afternoon of music that I like that I never heard before.

And who cares about ‘owning’ a track anyway?

Subscribe to Pandora!

I’ve known about Pandora for ages, and the last month or so have been using it again, a lot. It’s quite amazing: constant, free, music. Based on your interests.

How does it work? Well just go to Pandora, set up a free account, and indicate, for example, an artist or style you like. It begins playing songs, one after another which people who’ve liked what you like have also liked. You hear a song or artist you don’t know, indicate with a thumb up or down how you like it. That’s it.

I have discovered artists I didn’t know, rediscovered some that I knew, or music that I loved and had not heard before. All for free.

One might ask, in a favorite theme of mine, how do they survive? Here is Pandora one of the most popular sites and applications on the web and on iPhones, giving it all away. And the artists, how are they surviving? It’s a mystery isn’t it.

Well not so much of a mystery. Apparently Pandora came close to having to shut itself down. No money:

Founder Tim Westergren has stated that the service is approaching a “pull-the-plug kind of decision” for the service. Why is this happening? Last year, web radio giants were hit with outrageously ridiculous fees by a federal panel for every song that would be played on their stations. This caused a lot of services to either shutdown, or go through what Pandora has been experiencing for the past year. In doing so, it seems the financial problems the music industry has set out to create in order to win the constant battle between rights, piracy, and copyrighted music, are working. (from Read Write Web)

I just did what I knew I should do.

I signed up for an annual subscription.

Yes it cost $36, not that cheap. About what perhaps you might contribute to a public radio station.

We can’t expect that valuable stuff (newspapers? music? software?) continue to be created by passionate talented people without the prospect of being able get paid for it.