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.

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.

1994 Fender Blues Deluxe (reissue) Amp For Sale

I’ve lost count of how long I’ve been gigging with this amplifier. At least 10 years. Maybe closer to 15. It’s played hundreds of shows, that’s for sure. And it has never let me down. 

I’m thinking about selling it because I am too old to carry it around any more. It’s not that it’s *that* heavy. It’s just not light and I need something light.

It is cosmetically beat up, for sure. But is sounds amazing and is so much more reliable than any of the crazy expensive amps (Victoria, etc.) that other guitarists I’ve played with use.

According to the fender website this amp was manufactured around September 1994. It’s got a 12” speaker and 40watts of tube power. Read more specs here.

Here are some pictures. If you are interested, drop me an email or DM me @sjwillis on twitter.

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Paradigm PDR subwoofer repair

TL;DR, if your paradigm PDR-10 isn’t powering on automatically, check the fuse. It can be easily accessed by removing the back panel of the subwoofer.

Sunday morning and I had the house to myself for a few hours so decided to listen to my favorite recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Firing up the 3rd and 4th movements really loud always serves to restore my faith in humanity. 

paradigm pdr 10

Anyway, a few bars into the 3rd movement and I knew something was up with my hifi. My Vandersteen’s sounded a bit thin and I noticed that my subwoofer power light wasn’t on. The paradigm pdr-10 that I have is not a great subwoofer but the vandersteens towers that I have are such that they only need a tiny bit of reinforcement in the very bottom end so it works for me. It is supposed to power on automatically once it detects a signal from the receiver but for some reason it wasn’t powering on and I couldn’t get the light on the front to come on. 

I hit pause on the symphony and brought the subwoofer over to my kitchen table where a few screws later I determined that a blown fuse was likely my problem. Unfortunately this was not an easy fuse to source. It is a 1 1/2 amp time delay fuse. My local hardware store, which has EVERYTHING didn’t have it but they did test the fuse I brought in and confirmed it was blown so I knew I was on the right track.

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Ultimately I purchased the replacement part from Amazon and finally got around to hearing the 4th movement in all of its bottom-heavy beauty. 

This is the fuse you want to order:

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Charlie Parr – Jaybird

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I like the hypnotic quality of the instrumental (National resonator guitar) that leads up to the very short lyric part (which is great in its own right). Feels like a combination of atmospheric and folk at the same time. Not that they’re mutually exclusive but listen and you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s a live performance of jaybird on YouTube

If you are a dog person, you will almost certainly dig this track, Dog, off of his more recent release… a soul is a soul is a soul is a soul.

Junip/Jose Gonzalez

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FOTO BY MALIN JOHANSSON.

I’ve been having my mind blown for the past few days by musician Jose Gonzalez. Something about the songwriting on his new album Vestiges & Claws – the way the songs are written around the strengths and limitations of the nylon string acoustic guitar – really drew me in and I ended up going down the rabbit hole and discovering Junip, a band he plays in.

The more I listen to both his solo work and the Junip material, the more I appreciate his guitar playing. From Sweden (born in an Argentinian family), there’s a bit of Nick Drake in his songs.

Start with Line of Fire by Junip on KEXP video: 

Here’s a cut off his solo album that will give you a flavor of his picking technique:

You can find his new album on Beats and Spotify or buy it on iTunes. This one, I’m paying for on iTunes even though I can stream it with my Beats subscription. 

Kat Edmonson

Ella Fitzgerald

Many years ago (just before Kelly and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon if I remember correctly), my friend Rich Morris turned me on to a version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most by Ella Fitzgerald.

My wife and I ended up listening to it repeatedly while driving the road to Hana and it’s always been a great favorite of ours, partially because it’s a great melody and lyric but also because listening to Ella execute the vocal acrobatics required to perform the piece is just a joy.

Anyway, I went searching for it on Beats the other day and couldn’t find Ella doing it but came across this version by Kat Edmonson. I’d never heard of her. At times her voice is just a bit too cutesy for my taste but she tackles this one without accompaniment and it’s a real show of vocal dexterity and control.

Check it out for yourself on the Youtube

She also does The Cure’s Just Like Heaven which I didn’t care for too much though some of her other cuts like Lucky are good matches with her voice.

So, anyway, Kat Edmonson. Might be nice to put that on while you’re making dinner this week.

Note that when digging up the link above for Ella Fitzgerald’s version, I listened to both Ella’s version and Kat’s and boy, no one can compare with Ella.