This is my cyberhome!

May 12, 2005

Why iTunes worked and why Yahoo music would work too!

Filed under: Audio,Opinions — Manish Bansal @ 11:27 am

Yahoo annoucnes it’s music store.

Way back in 1998, when I started collecting digital music, I used to use Windows Explorer to organize my music and Winamp to play it. It was not the best of setups but I didn’t know any better; Until i got an iBook.

The organization scheme used by iTunes completely blew me away. I actually spent 3 days cleaning up all my ID3 tags just so that I could use iTunes. It was that good. Just type a few letters and the song is there. No more mucking around with folders here and there and remembering where you put what. When iTunes for Windows was released, I made it my default player. Even though Winamp 5 has it’s own media library which works similarly, it’s no match for iTunes’ interface.

Now, iTunes for windows is a 20 MB download but I didn’t mind in the least. I just had to have it. The fact that I could buy songs through it was last thing on my mind. And that’s exactly why iTunes music store is such a success and so would be Yahoo music. If you want to buy songs from any online music store, you need a special software, which is different for each store! Imagine and each asking you to download 20 MB big software just so that you could buy books from them! Whereas you can buy books online using just your browser, you can’t buy music that way. No special software, no music. So how do you get people to download your special software? You do it the Apple way.

You make it so damn good that they start using it for their personal use, without any obligation to buy any stuff from you. The keyword here is “good”. I didn’t download iTunes to buy music. I downloaded it to organize the music that I already had. And that’s where Real and other stores fail. Their software is designed to make it easy for you to buy music, not to organize your existing collection. You can, of course, use it for that purpose but it is torturous to use. And this is where Yahoo gets it right (as did Apple). Infact, their music player is almost a copy of iTunes but with certain new features. It can play and encode OGG and FLAC, in addition to AAC and MP3. It has a UNIX-style shell. It supports open XSPF playlist format. How much more geeky can you get? It lets you share music through Yahoo Messanger and burn CDs. It even supports iPod for non-DRM files.

Being a beta release, it is missing a few things like an Equalizer and is quite slow to load. The best thing that I personally like about Yahoo music engine is that it supports FLAC format (playing and encoding) right out of the box. Since I rip all my CDs in FLAC and iTunes does not support it, I an switching over to YME. But I’ll keep Winamp around just in case and, of course, my trusty foobar2000.

Update 1:
I just ripped a few CDs using YME to FLAC format and the tags it fetched for those songs were the best I had ever seen. All the fields (song title, singer, album etc) were nicely formatted, with proper cases. I tried the ripping the same CDs in EAC and the freedb tags just made me cringe. All CAPS, wrong titles, and incomplete information. I guess YME fetches the tags from its own database instead of freedb. Well, one more reason to use YME.

Update 2:
I am really disappointed at the pace at which YME is being developed. There is still no equalizer, there are hardly any plugins, and there are some weird bugs in it. It cannot “see” an audio CD unless I login as Administrator. iTunes can read the same CDs just fine with a normal user account. It also shows Nero CD burning plugin as a removable device!

The weirdness does not end here. Turns out that YME uses Windows Media Player (or a part of it) in the background to play music. I think it is limited to just protected WMA files but I am not sure. The problem is that it even uses the graphic equalizer settings of Windows Media Player! So if you are not happy with the sound, YME help pages recommend to turn graphic equalizer off in WMP. How much more un-intuitive can you get?

Update 3:
Even though there is no built-in equalizer for YME, you can still use the equalizer on your soundcard. Some on-board soundcards (mostly found in corporate PCs) may not have one but otherwise every decent soundcard should have it. My Creative Soundblaster has a really good 10-band equalizer. And the nice thing about using soundcard EQ is that it is not limited to a particular player. It would work the same whether you use Winamp or Yahoo Music Engine.

Update 4: (Feb 13, 2005)
A new version of YME is out. Still no luck with CDs. Still no equalizer. It is now taking 77 MB of memory even if I am not playing anything! It does have some new features but nothing of interest to me (I do not buy songs from them). Disappointment again.



  1. […] Enter Web Media Browser plugin for Yahoo Music Engine by YMediaShare. It allows you to browse, queue, and download the Magnatune music directly from YME. No more hunting on Google. You can even queue up all the files you want and it will keep on downloading them in the background. And after downloading, the new music automatically gets added to your media library. Sweet. I was just about to swear off YME for good but this plugin has made me change my mind. […]

    Pingback by This is my cyberhome! » A really really sweet plugin for Yahoo Music Engine. — February 14, 2006 @ 6:55 am | Reply

  2. hey man – thanks for the web media browser shoutout… I understand your frustrations regarding YME, but the performance in 1.1 is better (did you see what the footprint was in 1.0?) and IMHO – access to download over a million tunes for $5/m is far better than paying $.99 to “own” a restricted copy of a single track… I will never go back. I’m happy to buy tracks from smaller bands but for popular stuff, subscription is a much better deal for the consumer. YMU has really shown me the light in that sense… and the YME client will only get better over time…

    wrt equalizers… I’ve actually built a couple flaky DSP plugins for YME, which go beyond what I imagine you are looking for in a traditional equalizer… the problem though is that YMU tracks use DRM… and DRM sucks, basically. to perform signal analysis (to do filtering/equalization) you need access to the bitstream… (or do it after the fact as you propose) but if you have access to the bitstream within the player, then rendering a DRM free version is trivial, basically a “feature” of your plugin – which causes the entire subscription model to collapse down upon itself. it’s a shame – and the reason why plugins like are more like little toys rather than really cool, useful audio tools…

    Comment by William — February 21, 2006 @ 6:28 am | Reply

  3. Hi William, thanks for clarifying the deal on equalizers. But that applies only when a third-party developer tries to create a plug-in. The guys at Yahoo Music can certainly create one if they want. iTunes has one in spite of the DRM. I mean, you really have to look at the competetion and do something better, instead of just trying to catch up. Same thing with playing CDs. Why does it need admin rights to play a CD?

    Regarding subscriptions, I am not comfortable with just renting my music. And I believe not many people are either. People want to own a ton of music but at a much lower price. Kind of a mix of subscription and ownership. That way, the overall music market gets much bigger and piracy goes down. You don’t expect college kids to fill their 30 GB iPods with $30k worth of music. That is the reason music download market is still a fraction of the overall music sales and piracy combined.

    Comment by manishbansal — February 21, 2006 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  4. WOW, I was surprised )

    Comment by FredderiK — November 8, 2008 @ 7:22 am | Reply

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