Spotify or Apple Music?

I’ve been using Spotify since July, 2011 (when it first became available in the US). It is my go-to streaming service. We’ve had the family plan for years. I use it to work on collaborative playlists with the other musicians with whom I play. I use it when I am learning new songs–being able to hear multiple versions/other artist’s versions of a song is super helpful.

But primarily I use Spotify to discover new music. Spotify’s discovery features are without equal. I’ve become aware of and a fan of more new musicians on Spotify than all the radio or record stores in the world could have ever turned me on to.

From Spotify’s weekly Discover playlist which has an uncanny knack for presenting me with artists I’ve never heard of (though occasionally, too, it is way off base) to its “related” functions that allow you to do really deep dives into obscure genres, Spotify does an amazing job at preventing stagnation in your listening habits.

There are also a bunch of external tools the the Spotify API makes available for discover: Discover Quickly, Smarter Playlists and Organize your Music are all good tools for finding new music.

What this means is that I’m regularly listening to artists who I would have never listened to otherwise. The problem is that Spotify (and, frankly all of the other streaming services) pay these artists squat. That streaming royalties are too low is a given.

But now that Apple seems willing to pay artists more than Spotify, the question is whether or not an unfairly low royalty payment is better than no royalty payment at all? Meaning, if I didn’t discover the artist on Spotify I would never have listened to them at all. I mean, 1% of $1.00 is better than 0% of $10, right?

At issue is the Copyright Royalty Board’s 2018 decision to raise the rate paid to songwriters by 44% over the next five years. Spotify, along with three other streaming services — Amazon, Google and SiriusXM/Pandora — is appealing that decision to the board, a move that has no direct precedent. The four companies have been shellacked with criticism by artists for their action…

Apple, which would also benefit if the rate increase is nullified, is not part of the appeal…

As a sign of how badly the PR war is going, many songwriters are canceling Spotify subscriptions and doing so publicly on social media, where they make sure to note their subscription fees will now be going to Apple Music.

From: Apple Is the Real Winner in Spotify’s Battle Against Songwriters’ Rate Hike

I understand why musicians would want to publicly cancel their Spotify accounts. They are trapped working in an industry that is and always has been horrifically unfair to musicians.

But that said, I’ve been dreading the day that Apple takes off its gloves and reaches into its bottomless pockets in its war with Spotify. I love a lot of Apple’s stuff but, man, Apple Music absolutely sucks. Its interface is shit. Its discovery features are abysmal. I want Spotify to stay around, viable and –importantly–to keep finding new music for me to listen to.

As a musician I’m torn here: go with the company that helps listeners find new music but doesn’t pay those musicians well or go with Apple who pays more but in the end probably pays a smaller universe of musicians because they push the same limited pool of performers to everyone.

For now, I’m sticking with Spotify but will keep exporting my playlists to Apple Music for when Apple drives them out of business.

Turn Amazon Order History into a Markdown Table for Day One

The other day I posted about using Keyboard Maestro to automate the process of getting my monthly Amazon Order history into a Day One Journal entry. That was the first step of the automation of this task.

This has been a bit more challenging to automate than I was first thinking. I’m working towards this 3 step process:

  • Step 1: open up Day One and in Safari open up the URL for Amazon Order History report screen. [Done]
  • Step 2: automatically download this month’s Amazon Order History report [Need to figure this out]
  • Step 3: create a journal entry from a downloaded Amazon Order History .csv file [Now Done]

I am still messing around with Keyboard Maestro for step 2 but was able to hack together a pretty handy Automator workflow for step 3. It’s a python + BASH script that

  • takes a .csv file, strips out the unnecessary columns,
  • totals up the amount spent for the month
  • create a Markdown table of the important columns from the .csv
  • creates a Day One Journal entry and tags it “Money”

Continue reading “Turn Amazon Order History into a Markdown Table for Day One”

Getting Amazon Purchase History into Day One

Keyboard Maestro

Inspired by listening to @ttscoff, @macsparky and @rosemaryorchard on yesterday’s Automators podcast, I made some slow progress but progress nonetheless! Trying to automate as much as possible my monthly entry in Day One of all of my purchases from that month from Amazon. Currently I’ve just got a repeating todo in Things that reminds me to launch this nifty Keyboard Maestro shortcut.

Still requires that I download the .csv file, gussy it up in Numbers and paste it into Day One. Those steps are still a big reach for my automation skills but gives me something to work on.

Streaming Revenue (or, beware Charts w/o Context)

On the heels of some recent coverage about how Streaming Revenue is up I thought it might be useful to put some context around the hockey stick charts that some of these news outlets insist on displaying.

For sure, the music industry sure looks to be on the up and up!

*Overall Revenue Chart from 2016-18*

And streaming is really contributing a lot to the $9.8bil!

*Streaming Revenue Chart*

But in context of an industry that was bringing in $15bil 20 years ago this graph provides some good context:

*Historic Revenue Chart*

How not to overthink iOS shortcuts for Day One Journals

I like to keep notes about the gigs I play with my various bands. Sometimes I log very detailed entries about changes we need to make to our gear or sound settings for the next gig, other times it’s just a few quick words so I can remember who came out to see us or what riff I need to work on in a given song for the next gig.

Naturally I use Day One to record this information. Last year I started using an iOS Shortcut that I wrote that prompts me for the type of information I want to record about each gig. The shortcut presented me with a list of questions and then combined all of my responses to those questions into a nicely-formatted Day One journal entry.

day one prompts for gig journal entry

The problem is that I am not a great Shortcuts writer. I’m lazy so I didn’t add any flow control statements to try to save my responses to the prompt questions as I went along. Meaning, after answering 3 or 4 questions and typing them on my iPhone (which is needless to say tedious) I would occasionally forget about my lame programming skills and try to pause the Shortcut while I go over to facebook or somewhere and download a photo from the gig to add to the entry. Nine times out of 10 I would hit “Done” in the Shortcuts app to do this and in the process I would lose all of the responses I had already typed. Frustrating.

This morning I did just that. Again. I hit Done in Shortcuts while answering the gig prompts in order to go get a photo from facebook and lost all of the details I’d already written last night’s gig. Let me be clear this isn’t Shortcuts fault or Day One’s.

day one journal template

Then I realized I’m totally overthinking this whole need to be prompted bit by Shortcuts and instead trashed my old shortcut and just wrote up this little gem which works just fine and doesn’t have the risk of me screwing it up and losing text. Moral of the story: don’t overthink it! Maybe instead of using Shortcuts to prompt you for a long list of questions, just create a template entry in Shortcuts instead.

2019-03-27 22.28.14

Hey, @brentsimmons release it on the App Store! NetNewsWire will be THE gateway drug for millions of users who have yet to discover that there is an internet outside of facebook and twitter! #controlyourfeed http://inessential.com/2019/03/26/netnewswire_on_mac_app_store_or_not_

Read iOS HRV data (captured during breathing session) via shortcuts

I first started using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to track my recovery from a concussion that I sustained while out mountain biking. HRV is a possibly useful metric to track overall health, stress levels, etc. I have a few years worth of (not entirely consistent) HRV data as a result of using Marco Altini’s fantastic HRV4Training app. If you’re not hip to HRV, here’s a little explainer from Marco’s website:

HRV, in particular rMSSD or a transformation of rMSSD such as HRV4Training’s Recovery Points, are simply a way to capture parasympathetic activity, or in other words, level of physiological stress. As we apply stress to trigger certain adaptations, measuring our body’s response to such stressors, as well as to all other forms of stress we are affected from (e.g. simply life happening, work stress, family, etc.), is very helpful as it can provide objective feedback and help us making meaningful adjustments, the simpler adjustments is probably just being a little more honest with ourselves, and slowing down from time to time, especially when our body is already too stressed.

The difficulty for me has been taking consistent measurements. For HRV data to be useful it ought to be collected at the same time and under similar circumstances each day. For most people, that’s first thing in the morning as they are laying in bed. Unfortunately our domestic situation is such that I do not have the luxury of laying in bed once I am awakened. Additionally there are some added stressors first thing in the AM that make replicating circumstances from one day to the next very difficult. So using HRV has always been hit or miss for me. Stepping way back and looking at long term trends I can always see my HRV going down when I play too many gigs in a given month (and am out late too frequently), but aside from that, there are so many day to day stressors in my life that it is difficult to tease out whether or not the impacts to my HRV are due to workouts or just daily stressors. I’ve had an Apple Watch (v2?) for while now and was hoping that having a measurement device strapped to my wrist might help me get HRV measurements with more consistency — and in turn make better inferences from the data. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make getting at the HRV data easy. Marco has written up a great explainer on how to get accurate and useful HRV measurements out of an Apple Watch

Recently, researchers at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, published a paper showing that RR intervals extracted from the Apple Watch while using the Breathe app, are indeed very accurate (Hernando et al., “Validation of the Apple Watch for Heart Rate Variability Measurements during Relax and Mental Stress in Healthy Subjects”). This is great news as it shows that the basic unit of information (RR intervals) can be trusted.

In other words, if you use the Breathe app on the Watch it will record HRV data for the breathing session which captures good beat-to-beat variability data. You can see from the screenshots that the Apple Watch takes a few HRV snapshots throughout each day. The measurements I’m interested in tracking are the first one from each day as I will try to do an Apple Watch breath session each morning (hopefully before the watch takes its first snapshot HRV reading). Enter iOS Shortcuts. If you’re not hip to iOS shortcuts and you own an iPhone, you should be. If you are hip to iOS shortcuts, I’ve written a proof of concept shortcut that:

  • looks to see when you’ve done the breathing app on your watch today
  • grabs the associated HRV reading from the breathing session
  • writes the value of the HRV to a Day One Journal entry

There are a bunch of directions to go with this but basically I just wanted to prove out the case that:

  • it is possible to query the HealthKit database for all of the breathing sessions (Mindful Minute sessions = 1 min)
  • get the time that the breathing session occurred
  • extract the HRV value that is captured in healthkit for that time period

Get the shortcut from iCloud here.
You need to click this link from your iPhone and need to have Day One installed but if you’re this far along you can likely modify the Day One entry to your text file of choice. The shortcut seems to generally work. While it will never have the functionality of HRV4Training it will be curious to see if deriving the HRV value from my watch makes me record the data any more frequently. Also, this is the first shortcut I’ve written and shared so I’m not sure if I create new versions if I need to post a new link or not. If you’re into this kind of thing and use it/modify it, etc. please drop me a note!

2019-03-15 14.17.53

Safety Dance comes on when I’m out riding and all of a sudden some part of my brain is looking at Casio watches in the Service Merchandise catalog.