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6 posts tagged

iTunes

An easy fix that would make iTunes better

I’m using iTunes for about six years now. It keeps my DJ music collection nice and organized and works as a central hub for all the music and podcasts.

Organizing music library

But it has one major flaw.

In electronic music, very often there are more than one producer stands behind the song, it’s called collaboration. The problem is there is no way to show this properly in iTunes. As the result, the “Artists” view looks like this: 

What does “feat.”, “vs.” and “pres.” means

“Artists” view in iTunes is messed up

Look at the middle column. There are “Ace Ventura & Darma”, “Ace Ventura & Freedom Fighters”, “Ace Ventura & Lifeforms” etc, all as a separate entity in the library. This mean if I would want to listen to the entire collection of tracks I have from Ace Ventura, I can’t just do this from the “Artists” view because half of his tracks are collaborations with other artists. And it pisses me off.

This happens because iTunes has only one “Artist” field with a single string of text:

Currently, “Artist” field is a plain text which doesn’t work for multiple artists

And here is a simple way to fix this: just turn artist names into “tags”. Like this:

Suggestion: make artist names as tags. Excuse my designer’s skills, I know it could be better. This is just a demonstration of the idea.

This way we could add multiple artists and finally browse songs properly in the “Artists” view.

I hope Apple will implement this someday, luckily significant changes in the UI are not required.

2016   Design   iTunes

Organizing music library

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Hi Daniel, I’m an up and coming DJ, and it seems my music library is getting out of control with all those countless songs and folders. Beatport Pro app looks attractive, but I found it more confusing rather than helpful. What is the best way to organize music library?

Eric H.

According to the entropy law, everything in the Universe goes from order to disorder. From structure to chaos. And we need to put some effort to keep things organized. I’m kind of obsessed with music and order, and especially when both things come together.

As a DJ myself too, I have plenty of incoming music: from stores, promo pools, demos, and so on. Also, I like to listen to podcasts and various ‘non-format’ music (the one I didn’t play, but just enjoy listening), so in total, it’s a huge amount of new music every week.

Eric, I don’t know the best way to organize music library, but I’ll share the way how I do it, and it’s works just perfectly.

Basically, I’m using iTunes. This is the essential. It’s flexible, free, cross-platform app, made to be synced with mobile devices (needless to say how important to re-listen your playlists on the go) , and easily integrated with pro-DJ software, like Traktor or Rekordbox.

Apple iTunes.
Free, OS X, Windows

First things off, iTunes organizes entire music library structure for you. No more need to create folders and move files across your hard drive. Let the smart machine do all dirty job.

To make sure it works this way, go to Preferences → Advanced, and turn on the “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” option.

From now on, Just drag-n-drop files to iTunes, and it automatically put files in the right place on your hard drive according to ID tags:

~/Artist Name/Album Name/01 Track Name.wav

Probably, the only thing that missing on iTunes is BPM matching. What is a DJ’s collection without BPM information, right? To solve this, I’m using Mixed In Key software. This app made for harmonic mixing, but it also matches BPM of the tracks. And what’s most important, again, you don’t need to do anything with files on your hard drive, like move or rename it. Just drag-n-drop files right from iTunes to Mixed in Key, and that’s it — you’ve got BPM information for your songs back on iTunes, automatically.

Mixed In Key
$58, OS X, Windows

Now let’s get back to iTunes. Having numerous new tracks on a regular basis, it’s not an easy task to remember all of this. Which track makes you thrill, and which one is decent, but you won’t play it on a peak time? What was its title? Here comes the rating.

I’m using star rating system to measure such parameters as production quality, a richness of musical content, and energy level. These matters are subjective, but what’s most important — it helps to sort out the tracks. To give an example:

Read also: Production quality vs. musical content

Rating system

Another great feature that helps to sort out music is Smart playlists. In fact, it’s dynamic playlists that updates automatically when it match the criteria you’ve set. Think about it as a filter. For instance, you would like to find Psy-Progressive tracks, in tempo range of 135–138 BPM, rated as 4-stars and above, and added to your collection in the last 4 weeks? Easy:

At last but not least — instant search. This is not a marketing trick, it’s really instant. The secret is following: all information about your entire music library is just a small text file. So once you type a search request, iTunes search inside this text file — not across all your hard drive — so you get search results in a blink of an eye. Do you looking for tracks from a specific label, let’s say, Digital Om Productions? Here we go, 33 releases found even before I finished typing:

Instant search

I tend to agree that iTunes isn’t perfect, there are plenty of room for improvements. But I’m using iTunes for nearly 5 years, and it solves the task excellent.

Dear readers, if you know viable alternatives, feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

2015   Advice   iTunes   Management

Setting up a podcast on iTunes

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I’m starting my radio show next month I am thinking to make a podcast for it as well on iTunes. After many tutorials and articles, I failed to know how to connect my podcast to iTunes. Can you help me and guide me on how to do so?

Brad Ashtar

Apple has written a guide called Making a Podcast. Although it very detailed and specific, I think it doesn’t give enough understanding of how things work in a simple way. So I’ll try to explain things easier, and share my experience how to avoid stumbling blocks.

First things off, iTunes is nothing but a distributor, the platform to deliver your content to end-users. It means you have to produce and host content by yourself. Assuming you already have a content to deliver, getting web hosting is the first step. You need to have some web space, so you could upload your files and get direct links to it, for instance, www.yourdomain.com/episode001.mp3.

When I started a podcast, basically I thought that file-sharing service like Dropbox can handle it. I thought, it’s easier to upload files this way, and it generates direct file links, thus I don’t need web hosting at all, right? But soon later I figured out that such services have very small bandwidth daily limits, even with paid plans. Here comes the first advice: don’t rely on file-sharing services, get proper web hosting instead.

Requirements for web hosting are quite simple: it has to have enough disk space for your files (I would say, 5 GB is enough if you just getting started), and most important, it has to have a large bandwidth, otherwise you will be billed for extra traffic usage. Don’t fall into a trap of “unlimited bandwidth” that some web hosting companies offer on cheapest plans — most likely, it’s nothing but a marketing trick. So make sure to dig deeper intro hosting plan specifications.

Once you get a hosting, it’s time to upload your media files. Apple supports the following file formats: M4A, MP3, MOV, MP4, M4V, PDF, and EPUB file formats. MP3 seems to be the most popular audio format, although, I very recommend to use M4A instead. It has much better compression, while audio quality is equal or even greater. For instance, 192 kbps M4A sounds nearly as good as MP3 256~320 kbps, but the file size is about 40% less. Less file size means you need less disk space on your hosting, less bandwidth usage, and listeners download it faster.

Advanced Audio Coding

Also, M4A has another cool feature. As a container, it can include additional information, such as chapters. You can split each episode into chapters, so listeners can navigate by tracks throughout the episode. I found this feature very handy, especially when listening to a podcast on-the-go.

Episode tracklistings — chapters on desktop iTunes

Okay, you have a hosting and audio files. Next step — create an RSS feed. Basically, this feed is a simple text file with XML extension, where XML is a markup language. It’s great if you familiar with HTML as they are similar at some point, but no worry if you are not.

XML RSS specifications

XML file is made of tags. Tags define structure of the file, and most of them should be written two times, so-called opening tag and closing tag. It looks like this:

<tag>Content</tag>

You can find description of all tags in the Apple’s “Making a Podcast” guide — this is when it’s actually useful.

XML file consist of two parts: the “header” with general information about your podcast, and the “body” with list of episodes. Here is example of the header part:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<rss xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd" version="2.0" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom">
<channel>
<atom:link rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" href="http://yourdomain.com/feed.xml" />
<title>Your Podcast Title</title>
<link>http://yourpodcastwebsite.com/</link>
<language>en-us</language>
<copyright>&#xA9; 2015 Brad</copyright>
<itunes:subtitle>Your Podcast Subtitle</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:author>Your Name</itunes:author>
<description>Your Podcast Description</description>
<itunes:summary>Your Podcast Summary</itunes:summary>
<itunes:owner>
<itunes:name>Your Name</itunes:name>
<itunes:email>youremail@domain.com</itunes:email>
</itunes:owner>
<itunes:image href="http://yourdomain.com/podcast_image.jpg" />
<itunes:category text="Music" />

And here is example of the specific episode. As you can see below, all information about the episode goes between the item tag.

<item>
<title>Episode Title</title>
<itunes:author>Your Name</itunes:author>
<itunes:subtitle>Episode Subtitle</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>Episode Summary</itunes:summary>
<itunes:image href="http://yourdomain.com/episode_image.jpg" />
<enclosure url="http://yourdomain.com/episode001.m4a" length="182072111" type="audio/x-m4a" />
<pubDate>Wed, 14 Oct 2015 01:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
<itunes:duration>120:00</itunes:duration>
<itunes:keywords>tags, of your, podcast, separated, by commas</itunes:keywords>
<itunes:explicit>no</itunes:explicit>
</item>

Feel free to use my XML file as a reference for your feed. Also, I recommend to check your feed by typo and errors every time you update the file.

Feed Validator

Once you filled up the XML file, it’s time to submit your feed to iTunes. This a one-time procedure. Just go to submit link (it should open your iTunes application) and follow the on-screen instructions. The validation by Apple may take some time, I would say a week. After that, your podcast will be available on iTunes and accessable via search.

Rave Podcast on iTunes

And the last advice: if you do it, then do it. Don’t stop. I know plenty of good shows that no longer exists. Seems not many people realize that having podcast on a schedule is hard work, but it is so. Podcast is like workouts in a gym: it requires time, efforts, and discipline, but eventually it pays off.

Getting audience

Once you set it up, drop a link to your podcast in the comments below, I’ll subscribe :-)

Cover image © apple.com

2015   Advice   iTunes   Marketing

iTunes search fix

I noticed that iTunes search become working painfully slow after one of the recent OS X updates. That spinning icon and freezes for a few seconds was annoying to death. I’m a DJ basically you know, so having a thousands tracks in the library makes search the key function. Luckily, I found a very easy way to fix it.

In the search field box, you can find a small arrow opening a dropdown menu.
From now by default it search by entire library:

Turn it off!

Just set “Filter by: All” option instead:

In fact, that “All” option will display absolutely the same all results as “Entire library”, but as fast as previous iTunes version.  

See also: § 02 Managing music

2014   iTunes

Podcast stats

As you know, my monthly show Rave Podcast is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Basically iTunes do not provide any statistics of use, so for that purpose recently I started to use Google’s Feedburner as an interlayer.

How I was surprised when seen a stats. Actually, people downloading from iTunes for five times more than from Soundcloud!

For instance, Rave Podcast 048.

Soundcloud:

Nice play count, but lack of downloads — only 230 times so far.

Same episode on iTunes:

Almost x9 times more, wow. And unless of plays, download counts are unique since no one downloading same episode twice, usually. Which means specifically episode has been downloaded by almost 2000 unique people across the globe!

Conclusion: iTunes rocks! If you’re a DJ and uploading your stuff to Soundcloud and/or Mixcloud only, you definitely should consider your appearance on iTunes as well as it the easiest way for listeners to download your mixes.

2014   Behind the scenes   iTunes   Rave Podcast

Podcasts on iTunes to subscribe

I really love to to the podcasts on iTunes. I think it’s the easiest way to stay up to dates with your favorite shows.

Currently I subscribed to:

There was another few nice podcasts, but they are no longer updated unfortunately.

And yeah, of course I subscribed to Rave Podcast too.

What shows you are subscribed guys? Which one you could recommend?
Post your favorite ones in comments below, while I gonna update my list above.

2013   iTunes   Question   Rave Podcast