Entertainment in Review: Random Bits and Pieces

Audio / Entertainment / Music / Pop Culture
Entertainment in review

It’s time for some entertainment in review. Here are some random bits and pieces regarding what’s going on in entertainment in tech.

Songza Bought by Google

songza“The times, they are achanging.” says the song.  In this case, it’s streamed music that’s changing.  If you’ve missed the news in about 9,000 different places, the music streaming service provided by Songza will stop from on Jan. 31. They’ve been bought by Google Play Music.  In theory, everything Songza will get folded into Google’s music service.

That will be good, if it happens. But we’ve all seen good companies and ideas bought by another company, then changed by the new company to put their own personality stamp on it. In the case of Songza’s music concierge service, that would take away from a good thing.

We’ve all been on hold on the phone or waiting in a reception room with supposedly unnoticeable background music.  Except, every once in awhile that music invades our consciousness and we realize how insipid, inane, and just downright bad. If bad music could make us ill, we’d be in real trouble. And that’s where Songza’s music concierge service comes in.

If we select Songza’s music concierge service, the first thing we see is 6-8 labeled blocks.  The labels are activities normally appropriate for that time of day.  When we select an activity, we then get a choice of music types to go with that activity.  Select one and we’re ready to go.

What has been unique to Songza’s music concierge service is the music itself.  There aren’t necessarily a ton of songs where you’ll recognize both the tune and the performance.  But they do really well at balancing music that won’t intrude on what you’re doing, yet is pleasant to listen to if you stop to pay attention.  It’s good stuff.  And, if Google messes with it, that will be a real disappointment.  If Google keeps that intact, everyone wins.

Live365 On The Edge

live365I’ve been a Live365 paid VIP subscriber for years.  In its latest email to me says they’ve been streaming music for 17 years, now.  And they fill an interesting niche.  Most of their broadcasters are small.  Many going for specialty chunks of the market that many others ignore.  Live365 introduced me to Thievery Corporation before Chill music was cool.  The jazz channels I listen to have the usual names and tunes. But they include really good lesser known artists, who seem to be ignored by mainstream stations.

Part of what allowed Live365 to do what it did was the artist royalty agreement.  Until recently, small broadcasters had a different, lower royalty payment schedule.  This allowed the little guys who have little or no advertising to be more competitive.  In some cases, it’s the only thing that allowed them to exist.  Very recently, that part of the royalty agreement was eliminated.  Now, Joe Local pays the same rate as NBC or CBS, even though they have a smaller and, most likely, more niche audience.  It’s a rate increase many can’t handle.

The change scared off some of the investors, forcing a downsizing of staff.  Live365 is actively looking for new investors.  But, if they don’t regain more backing, Live365 streaming could be totally offline on January 31.  Live365 is one of the music streaming pioneers.  Songza’s music concierge service has become very popular.  I might not have paid as much attention to what’s happening to either, except that both possibly disappearing on the same day as individual music streaming entities will change the music streaming landscape.

Altec Lansing Won’t Get Lost

Altec Lansing's True Wireless Earphones (PRNewsFoto/Altec Lansing)

Altec Lansing’s True Wireless Earphones (PRNewsFoto/Altec Lansing)

Not the company, the latest version of their Freedom bluetooth earbuds.  These have been in the recent CES news.  And they’re pretty cool.  The three things that stood out for me are the fact there’s no cable running between the earbuds (making them far more comfortable), the companion app allows setting the equalizer and then storing the settings in the earphone (so they stay that way), and these triple the distance between device and earbuds.  Plus, of course, the fact you can use the app to find the earbuds if one or both have disappeared.  All really neat features, even at $180 price tag.

It wasn’t the features or the price that got my attention.  It was the ability to find the lost earbud(s). Because that got me thinking about our growing reliance on technology.  I’m as happy to have life easier because of it.  At the same time, there are some downsides.

Books are one of the great treasures of society.  But how often do we catch ourselves thinking “I’ll wait till the movie comes out.”?  Yet, according to a story this morning on CBS This Morning, books regularly get better reviews than the movies made from them.  I was in the middle of doing something while listening, so I’m not sure who said it.  And the larger news items of the day seem to have crowded it out of their website.  But it’s definitely an interesting piece of news.

We can walk along any street and see lots of people with earphones or earbuds jammed in their ears.  I like music as much as the next guy, but most of those headsets block out external noise.  Which means that the person listening to the music can’t hear someone shout a warning or the car horn of some irate driver as the person walks into the street without looking, absorbed in their own world.  Personally, I prefer to be able to hear what’s going on around me, for safety sake.  But it highlights what just might be a growing dependency problem.

We watch the movie instead of reading the book.  We listen to our favorite music for long periods and in ways that seem to indicate we’re taking a page from the movies and seem to think our life needs a soundtrack.  And then there’s the things we lose.

There are those earbuds and our phones that can be located via an app on some other device, our car will chirp if we press the button on our keyfob, put special tags on things like our keyring and an app can locate those, too.  How dependent are we on that instead of our own memory?

All of that makes me wonder if there isn’t some point where we become too dependent on technology.  What do you think?

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