I don’t understand why piracy is still a thing in 2016

I know I’ve talked about this before, but after listening to the song “Exposure Bank” by Sunrise Skater Kids, I’ve been thinking about the issue of piracy again. I just don’t understand how piracy is still seen as an acceptable route to obtain media without paying in 2016. With all of the options available today, getting access to a wide variety of media, be it music, movies, tv shows or even magazines, has become easier than ever. Spotify and Apple Music effectively let you download just about any album you can imagine for the price of a single album a month. Downloading music to your phone using Apple Music, for example, is as easy as searching for an artist and tapping a download button next to an album. It’s much faster and more reliable than pirating music, and it’s safer too. So why do people still pirate?

“We have so many loyal fans, It’s good to know our future rests in their hands, We all do this for the thrill, Real musicians don’t need much to pay the bills”

Napster became a thing when I was in middle school and it truly did revolutionize the way I consumed music. Before Napster I had very limited means of accessing music. My exposure to music came from what was played on the radio, what few CD’s I could buy in a year, and the music shared between friends (occasionally by trading ‘burned’ CD’s). Once I discovered Napster essentially the entire history of music became available at the click of a button. I was able to discover music quicker than ever before, and rather than spending hours at FYE using their listening stations, I could just download a song and if I didn’t like it I’d delete it.

“Buying bad music is the worst, Be sure to download every album, piracy comes first. Once you decide you like it, Get some merchandise and we’ll be supported.”

For a while most of my music was acquired via piracy, however the launch of the iPod and eventually the iTunes store changed everything again. All of a sudden it was easier to purchase a digital album than it was to pirate it. You would be guaranteed a certain level of quality for a price that CD’s could never compete with. The iTunes store was the first step in the right direction in an effort to supersede piracy as the default method of acquiring music, however in recent years another revolution has changed the music industry yet again: streaming.

When I first discovered Spotify’s premium service, which allowed you to download entire albums from just about every artist you could think of in a matter of seconds, my mind was blown. Once again an entire world of music became available to millions of users at the tap of a screen. Spotify Premium became the way I consumed music (outside of the car, in which I still enjoy my SiriusXM radio) until I switched to Apple Music upon its release. Apple Music works much the same as Spotify does, however I like the app better.

Apple Music iTunes

I can’t understand how anyone with any sort of appreciation for music could still pirate in 2016. For just $120 a year you can essentially “own” every piece of music that releases that year and all the years past. Not only that, but you have access you your entire music library on all of your devices, without ever having to transfer any files. It’s so easy it boggles my mind why anyone wouldn’t subscribe to a streaming music service.

$10 a month for all the music your ears desire seems too good to be true, and while it’s great for consumers there is some validity to the fears that the services short change artists. That, combined with the fact that I love vinyl, is the reason I still continue to buy music that I really love. For example, I’ve recently become obsessed with The Strumbellas and immediately ordered their “We Still Move on Dance Floors” album, and pre-ordered their upcoming album “Hope” on vinyl (I also bought both on iTunes, as I REALLY love them and want to support them!)

“Yeah, pats on the back, Yeah, live on the streets, You’re entitled to our music, You did so much to deserve it, Yeah, download a car, Yeah, don’t need to eat.”

There are so many options in other forms of media as well. The app Texture offers a sort of ‘Netflix for magazines” where for either $10 or $15 a month you get access to a wide variety of magazines including back issues. The higher priced plan includes weekly publications such as The New Yorker, TIME and Newsweek.

As for movies and TV, Hulu now offers an add on subscription to Showtime for $9 a month, and HBO and Starz both have streaming services that no longer require cable. You can get access to a wide variety of movies for relatively little money by subscribing to these services. If you want the latest and greatest, I still think the iTunes store offers great prices on movies. I’ve grown my library quite a bit lately just by watching out for sales in which popular movies go on sale for $9.99 or less on iTunes. A lot of new releases sell for $14.99 as well, which is cheaper than DVD’s and Blu Rays ever were. It’s cheaper than ever to watch movies legally, for the sake of the entertainment industry I hope that more people start to choose the high road.

 

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Apple Music on Android may be in Beta still, but it’s terrible

The Apple Music experience on Android has not been enjoyable since its release. Granted, it’s been in a perpetual beta status since its launch on Android, but I still expect better. I’ve had a wide variety of issues with the app which make it difficult to use, and I’m often temped to return to Spotify until I get an iPhone.

One of the most annoying g problems I have with the app is that my downloaded music seems to somehow get corrupted. The music will show that it is downloaded to my phone, but the songs will not play when I don’t have an Internet connection. They simply appear to load indefinitely. What’s strange is that sometimes music that worked fine offline will suddenly stop working offline for no apparent reason. I’ll have to remove the download and re-download them to get them to work offline again. Nothing is more annoying than downloading something to listen to on the bus ride to work and have it not play once I’m away from WiFi.

Another issue I have that’s just as annoying is that the app crashes often. So often that my phone recommended I remove the app. Crashes happen while clicking on a song, browsing playlist or even when I try to skip a track. When the app doesn’t crash it will start and stop playing songs at random. At the gym I’ll hit play, slip my phone into my pocket and in about five seconds the song will just stop playing. I’ll try to restart the song but the play button disappears, and surprise, the app soon crashes again.

Despite all these problems, I don’t necessarily blame Apple. My entire Android experience has been terrible, and I often find myself contemplating paying off my Galaxy S6 early to get back to the much better platform of the iPhone.

It’s worth noting that Apple Music works perfectly fine on my MacBook and iPad, and overall I enjoy those experiences more than the Spotify experience. That’s the only thing that has kept me from switching back.

Now listening: New albums by Panic! at the Disco and Megadeth

Panic-at-the-Disco-Death-of-a-Bachelor-2016-1200x1200-600x600

Panic! at the Disco recently released their fifth album, “Death of a Bachelor” and I’ve enjoyed everything about it so far. I haven’t really listened to Panic! at the Disco since 2008’s “Pretty. Odd.” (one of my favorite albums of all time), and a lot has changed since then. Brandon Urie is currently the only member of the band, however his voice has always been the signature feature of the band.

The album starts off with a bang on the celebratory and upbeat track “Victorious” that is hard not to want to dance to. The album then wastes no time transitioning into the signature riff from “Rock Lobster” in “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” which features the most addicting chorus of the album celebrating “Champagne, cocaine, gasoline, and most things in between.”

The entire album is one fun time after another, featuring one exuberant track after another until it reaches its conclusion with “Impossible Year”, a slow, brooding song that feels out of place. I think it would’ve made more sense to end the album with ” House of Memories”, which would’ve made for a stronger and more cohesive album. In the end I’ve enjoyed “Death of a Bachelor” quite a bit, and the upbeat tracks never fail to leave me in a good mood.

dystopia

I’ve never really listened to a lot of Megadeth, but when I saw their fifteenth album while browsing Apple Music I couldn’t help but download it. I was pleasantly surprised by how familiar the album sounds compared to my memory of Megadeth. The album sounds like something that could’ve been released in the early nineties, which is awesome, especially as a Metallica fan who has been consistently disappointed with every album released in the last 20 years.

Megadeth’s “Dystopia” features plenty of epic build ups, such as the 1:30 intro on “Poisonous Shadows.” The instrumental track “Conquer… or Die!” is sounds great at max volume, and the incredibly fast “Foreign Policy” ends the album on a high note that left me dying for more.

 

My urBeats by Dre stopped working

urbeats box

It was just a few weeks ago that I picked up a pair of urBeats by Dre to use at the gym, and they’ve already failed on me. Last week while running the right earbud went silent. All of a sudden it was much quieter than the left earbud, and nothing I did was able to fix the problem. I did a search and found that many other users have experienced similar problems with Beats earbuds and I was pretty disappointed. The headphones worked great at drowning out the sounds of the gym while providing excellent bass and wonderful sound, but I never expected a $100 pair of headphones to last only a few weeks.

I didn’t have the receipt and didn’t think I’d be able to exchange them. Despite this doubt, I went over to the Bx this morning and sure enough they allowed me to exchange them for a new pair, but told me if anything else were to happen I’d have to contact the company (a trip to the Beats website refers you to Apple customer support) in the future.

Hopefully my experience was just a rare case and this pair will actually last a while, but my view of the Beats brand has already been slightly tarnished.

urbeats by Dre

First Listen: urbeats (Beats by Dre)

urbeats

I’ve needed a new pair of earbuds for awhile. The Samsung earbuds that came with my Galaxy S6 started acting strangely months ago. After about ten minutes of being plugged into my phone they would somehow cause my phone to do things on its own, such as adjust the volume all the way down and back up again over and over, or pause my music or even open apps. I’d often have to unplug and replug them in while running which was quite annoying. They also weren’t very comfortable and would always fall out of my ears.

I was going to pick up a pair of Apple’s EarPods for $29 at the Bx here, however I started looking at the Beats by Dre urbeats, which were priced at $79. Beats headphones tend to have a mixed reputation. Most people who own a pair swear by them, but almost everyone else will tell you that they’re popular only because of their brand. Each position is probably true in some sense, and I’m glad I bought my Bose SoundTrue headphones over a pair of Beats last year, but I’ve never really been opposed to the brand like so many are.

I figured the discounted price (down from $99) was enough to give the urbeats a shot. I’ve put them in a few minutes ago and so far I’m quite impressed. The packaging is wonderfully designed, which is always a plus. Opening the box was enjoyable, and everything was neatly positioned within.

urbeats box

urbeats packaging

Once I selected the best fitting eartips and inserted the earbuds into my ear I found them to fit better than any earbuds I’ve ever owned. They do a great job of isolating outside noise and the sound is much richer than anything I’ve experienced from an earbud. They don’t have the same quality is my Bose SoundTrue headphones, but they seem to have more bass which should make running to a beat more enjoyable. I’m fairly certain they’ll filter out the sound of treadmill quite well, however I won’t know for sure until I put them to the test at the gym tomorrow morning.

I can tell that they’ll stay in my ears better not only while running, but also while listening to music while falling asleep. Every night I’d have to struggle to keep my Samsung earbuds in my ears while lying down, but the urbeats should fix that issue. They not only fit well, but they’re extremely comfortable and it feels as if I don’t even have anything in my ears which is a plus. I’m certainly a fan so far and am glad I made the purchase.

 

Now listening to… Redman’s ‘Mudface’ and PSY’s ‘7TH Album’

There have been plenty of great albums released in the last month or so, and I wanted to share some of my favorites that have been in heavy rotation on my Spotify account.

Last month the rapper Redman released his first album in five years, ‘Mudface.’

Mudface

The album is bass heavy and features melodic, smooth and intelligent lyrics. ‘Mudface’ sounds like it came from the late 90’s or early 2000’s when compared to the Auto-Tuned club hip hop that has been popular in recent years. Like on 1996’s ‘Muddy Waters’ Redman’s lyrics float over slow, methodically crafted beats with incredible precision that is almost hypnotic. The track “Gettin’ Inside” is comparable to 1996’s “Rock Da Spot” and it’s incredible how Redman has resisted mimicking modern hip hop. Redman’s first album released 23 years ago, and although he may not be a household name like he was in the late 90’s, he proves on ‘Mudface’ (his eighth album) that he hasn’t lost his edge.

psy-7th-album-ecb9a0eca791ec8bb8ec9db4eb8ba4-2015-1000x1000-300x300

PSY, of “Gangnam Style” fame, recently released his seventh album, featuring his latest hit “Daddy.” The music video for “Daddy” currently has over 32 million views on YouTube and has been creating a lot of buzz, as some have forecasted the hit to become the next “Gangnam Style”, the most viewed video on YouTube with over 2.4 billion views (while “Gentleman” is closing in on a billion with over 900 million views). The song is certainly hard to stop listening to, and the video is wildly entertaining.

The album has many other catchy songs as well, and the upbeat tracks make for a great running soundtrack. The album’s lead song, “Dance Jockey” is just as catchy as PSY’s other hits, with an irresistible chorus and PSY’s signature emphasis at the end of every phrase. Things slow down with “The Day Will Come”, and yet it’s still catchy to the point I want to speak along even if I don’t understand the language.

PSY may be most famous for his eccentric music videos, but his seventh album proves he has the ability to craft addictively pleasant music that is hard to stop playing over and over again.

A Playlist of great alternative

Hey there, I’ve made it to week two of this deployment, and one thing keeping going has been some amazing music. I’ve missed driving around in my car listening to Sirius XMU or Alt Nation, but fortunately I have their online service and can listen as I fall asleep (though I hate trying to sleep with headphones in!)

I just wanted to share some of my favorite songs right now. Check them out and let me know if you know of any similar songs or artists I should check out!