The Power of SoundCloud As A Podcast Publishing Platform

Podcasting soundcloud 660

Why do I like SoundCloud as a podcast hosting platform? What advantages can SoundCloud offer podcasters? Why should you consider SoundCloud as a place to distribute your podcast?

Last week SoundCloud announced that its podcasting features were now publicly available to everyone [1]. Given that I've been using SoundCloud's podcasting feature in their beta program since May 2012, I want to share some of my reflections on why I think SoundCloud has great potential as a powerful platform for podcast publishing and promotion.

To set the context for my comments below, I started using SoundCloud three years ago to see how it could work for the "rapid creation of audio content". I wanted to just be able to push record in an app and then publish and promote my podcasts. I wanted it to be super easy. The result has been my "The Dan York Report (TDYR)" podcast that I publish now at:

From the start it's been an experiment to try out SoundCloud as a platform because I have several other podcasts I'd like to start. So TDYR has been my testbed to try out ideas and tools. I do pay for their SoundCloud Pro Unlimited plan which at $135/year works out to what I consider a reasonable $11.25/month for the hosting of my audio files.

As a result of all of this, here are 10 reasons I find SoundCloud powerful for podcasters.

1. Speed And Simplicity Of Creating And Sharing Podcasts

Here's all I do to create a new podcast episode:

  • Open up an app on my iPhone.
  • Press "Record" and record whatever I want to say.
  • Press "Share to SoundCloud" (or "Upload"), enter in a title and hit the button to start.


That's it. The podcast is uploaded to SoundCloud and then shared out via the RSS feed to iTunes and also via social media to Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

That's seriously it.

Super fast creation and sharing/promotion of audio podcasts.

Now, of course, you could make the process more complex if you want to. I record my TDYR episodes as just raw audio without any kind of post-production and without an intro, outro or any other kinds of audio segments. In my case, I want the simplicity and rawness. But the beautiful fact is..

2. Many Applications to Create/Record Podcasts

... there are many, many, MANY applications that yet you create audio and share it up to SoundCloud. Applications are available for iOS, Android, Mac OS/X, Microsoft Windows and many other operating systems. SoundCloud has a whole directory of applications that can be used. Although many of them are for consuming/listening, they do have a whole list for creating/recording. Many of these are targeted at music producers, but many can also work for podcasters.

Because I am aiming for speed, I typically record on my iPhone and find that I'm generally using either:

I've been primarily using Opinion for the past while but recently they rolled out their own podcast hosting (competing with SoundCloud) and now give that preference in the export/sharing part of the app. I'm a bit concerned that they may continue to promote that service and make it harder to publish out to other services. On the other hand, the Hindenburg Field Reporter app doesn't seem to be frequently updated... although that may not be necessary, really. It's a rock solid app!

I've also used AudioCopy, a free app that SoundCloud started recommending when they removed recording from their own SoundCloud app. It's fine, but I like the editing capabilities of the other two apps.

The key point is that there are many choices of apps that will connect and share to SoundCloud.

And, of course, SoundCloud just lets you upload an audio file in a variety of different formats. So you can record your episode using any kind of device or application. I've recorded some episodes using one of my Zoom Handy audio recorders and then just copying the MP3 file from the SD card onto my laptop and uploading to SoundCloud through their web interface.

3. Automatic Sharing Out To Social Media

A great part of the simplicity is that when I post an episode to SoundCloud it gets automagically shared out to whatever services I've configured. I've set up a default configuration and then can override that sharing from the apps during the upload process. The beautiful thing is it supports multiple accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+:

Soundcloud connections

And, as noted below, you can use services like IFTTT to distribute podcasts out to even more sites and social networks!

4. Insanely EASY Embedding of Podcasts

Another huge advantage of SoundCloud is that it is incredibly easy to embed podcasts in a blog post or web page. SoundCloud supports "oEmbed" and so very often all you have to do is drop the URL of your SoundCloud episode into your software and... ta da... that's it! This works great for all my WordPress sites. It also works great in chat clients such as Wire.

If your site/application doesn't support oEmbed (such as TypePad, the site I use for this blog), it's trivial to get a snippet of HTML code that you can then drop into your post (as I will do at the end of this post):

Soundcloud embed

This also works with social networks, too. Drop a URL for a SoundCloud episode into Facebook or Ello, for example, and the embedded player will automagically appear so that people can listen right there in their feeds.

5. Comments At Specific Points In The Podcast

Engaging with listeners is always a critical part of building a community around your podcast. Typically you get comments as replies to the blog post about your podcast or as replies on social media.

But what's cool about SoundCloud is that you can get replies AT THE POINT IN TIME within your actual podcast. If someone wants to reply to something specific you said, no longer are you trying to get to the point in the episode where you said whatever it was to remember what you said - the comment can be left right at that point of the episode.

Now, this DOES require a SoundCloud account. And so many of your listeners may not want to register for a (free) SoundCloud account just to be able to leave you comments at specific times. But some of your listeners might, and so for them it becomes a great way to build interaction.

6. Open API Makes Integration Easy

SoundCloud understands the power of becoming a platform for developers and they provide rich support through a SoundCloud developer program and much more. One result is the many applications I pointed out in #2 above, but another result is services such as IFTTT (If This, Then That) that allow you to easily set up actions involving SoundCloud. There are many IFTTT "recipes" for SoundCloud that are already available:

Soundcloud ifttt

As the screen capture shows, the integration can go both ways - in or out of SoundCloud. For instance, I had a recipe for a while that would trigger whenever I published an episode to SoundCloud that would post a link out to my account (until I pretty much stopped using I also plan to set one up that will post to a specific WordPress site every time I publish a new post. Going the opposite direction, you can see that there are recipes that will publish to your SoundCloud account every time you put a file in, say, a Dropbox folder.

Now, IFTTT is just one site. There are many other sites that have their own integration with SoundCloud... all because of this open application programming interface (API).

7. Search and Discovery

SoundCloud as a web site / service is all focused around the consumption and listening to music and audio. Like any social network, people with an account can "follow" you and get all your recent episodes. SoundCloud makes it very easy to search and find episodes. It supports hashtags.

Now obviously this is again using the SoundCloud site, which your listeners may or may not do... but this becomes a way that you can potentially find new users.


Just as the embedding of a podcast is easy, so is the downloading of a podcast IF you enable people to do so. This is a choice. But if you want to allow people to download an episode, all they need to do is to go to the episode page (an example) and the download button is right there.

9. Spotlight

If you create a good number of episode and want to highlight some of the episodes you think are the most important, SoundCloud lets you put up to 5 sounds in the "Spotlight" area of your SoundCloud profile page. A nice way to help people coming to your site to see what you think are your best or most important episodes

10. Statistics

Typically as a podcaster you want to know how many people are listening, right? As I've written about before and we've talked about over on the FIR podcast, statistics are difficult because you can know how many people downloaded a podcast, but not whether they in listened.

SoundCloud has many statistics and can perhaps obviously give more statistics about user behavior when your podcast episode is played from the SoundCloud site or apps. For regular "RSS downloads", you still do get a good bit of information, although, as mentioned above, it's challenging to know what the stats truly mean. Here's the "RSS downloads" of my last week of TDYR stats:

Stats on SoundCloud

Apparently I'm interesting to people (or someone) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Who knew? And then Southbury, CT... (but I have family and friends in that region :-) )

Anyway, a good number of statistics are available


There are other reasons why podcasters may like the platform. For example, it's great that Creative Commons licensing is available for those who want to allow others to share their audio content under a CC license. There are also monetization options available that I, quite frankly, haven't explored yet (since I don't see TDYR as something that people would want to advertise on). The whole "social network" aspect of SoundCloud can be compelling, too, for building an audience. For example, people can "repost" your episodes and share them out with followers.

I'd note, too, that you don't have to use SoundCloud as your exclusive hosting platform. A friend, Donna Papacosta, primarily hosts her podcast on Libsyn[2] and then also uploads it to her SoundCloud account as an additional distribution channel. C.C. Chapman also posts some of his episodes to his SoundCloud account. So it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can experiment!


While I'm obviously rather pleased with SoundCloud, there are still a number of issues I would love to see them address:

  • Support for IPv6 - Given the work I do with the Internet Society, I'm looking for hosting platforms that realize that all the new mobile networks and the efforts to bring the next 4 billion people online are going to need to use IPv6 in their networks. YouTube, Facebook and all of Google's properties all work over IPv6. SoundCloud needs to get there, too.
  • Use HTML5 instead of Flash - Similarly, SoundCloud really needs to ditch their Flash player and use HTML5 audio instead. Flash creates so many issues on my various systems. We now have HTML5 audio support in most modern browsers. SoundCloud has had experimental support for HTML5, but they need to move that out of beta, too, and make it the default.
  • Finish the transition to their new website user experience - SoundCloud has been in this strange transition from their "classic" website to the "new" website for a year or more now and it still provides a strange and bizarre user experience. You click some link in your account settings and... ta da... you are back in an old user experience... and then you have to find your way back to the regular "new" view. They need to just finish this up.

Hopefully those are all things they will continue to work on to make the platform even stronger.

Getting Started with Podcasting On SoundCloud

If after reading all this you want to get started with a podcast on SoundCloud, they provide a very simple guide to begin:

Basically, you create an account, set up the RSS feed settings, get some app that will upload to SoundCloud... and start publishing!

That's it!

If you are already using SoundCloud, all you should need to do is go into your "Settings" and to the "Content" tab where you will see your RSS feed and can set up any specific fields you want to configure:

Soundcloud content settings

As you can see at the bottom of that image you can configure your defaults for all uploads in terms of the license and whether uploads are automatically in the RSS feed.

Again, the Creator Guide for podcasting has more info.

I was admittedly rather skeptical of SoundCloud in the early years of my experimentation. Their "support" of podcasting in their beta program was pretty weak three years ago and it seemed all they wanted to do was build their own "walled garden of audio" and try to get everyone to come onto their platform.

But with this public launch of "podcasting" (which really amounts to exposing RSS feeds!) they've finally opened up those walls and made it so that you can use the SoundCloud platform for hosting your podcast - giving you all the advantages I've outlined above - but then making your content available to everyone out there to consume in whatever applications and systems they choose.

I look forward to hearing many more podcasts on SoundCloud... including yours! Please do feel free to follow me on SoundCloud as I continue with my experimentation. I'd love to hear from you what you think about all of this, either in the comments here or, of course, on the accompanying audio version (TDYR 243) of this post up on SoundCloud.

[1] For more stories about the launch, see Techmeme and Mediagazer.

[2] In full disclosure I also use Libsyn for hosting some of my podcasts (and have since 2005) and find their services very useful, too.

Photo credit: A merger of a Flickr CC-licensed image from Colleen AF Venable and SoundCloud's logo.

What Major Change Is SoundCloud About To Make To Their Mobile Apps?

Soundcloud 250What is SoundCloud planning for their next mobile app release for at least iOS and presumably Android? On Friday (June 6, 2014) I received an email stating this:
We noticed you've used our app to record and upload tracks to SoundCloud. With an upcoming version of the app, we'll be making changes to the way tracks are stored on your phone. If you have tracks that you've recorded but haven't uploaded, please follow the instructions below to save them. You can upload the tracks to your SoundCloud profile, or you can download them to your computer. Please do this as soon as possible to ensure that you don't lose anything you've recorded.

I cringed when I saw this... because I do use the SoundCloud app on my iPhone to record tracks for my "The Dan York Report" podcast and I do keep a number of different unpublished tracks sitting in the SoundCloud app. Often I may record a sound somewhere with the intent of later folding that into a recording (and which, admittedly, I often wind up never getting around to doing).

The key message of the email from SoundCloud is this:


The email points out that all you need to do is upload the tracks to your SoundCloud account - and you can do so and make them "Private" so that they are only visible to you. They also note that you can download your sounds to your computer if you would prefer to do that. I chose to upload my tracks to SoundCloud as private recordings.

IMPORTANT: Note that when you upload your tracks to SoundCloud, the original date information will NOT be saved! That track you recorded in December 2012 that has the title "Sounds from Tuesday evening" will be uploaded to SoundCloud with a timestamp of when you upload the track. So if the date of the original recording is important to you, you may want to incorporate that date into the title of the track BEFORE you upload the track.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the email from SoundCloud helpfully provided this image showing tracks that have not been uploaded:


I cringed when I read the email from SoundCloud for a larger reason. This upload of local tracks was no big deal. I was done in maybe 5 minutes. My larger concern though is... what is SoundCloud going to do to the recording experience?

Right now I mostly used the SoundCloud iOS app to record my TDYR podcasts (as I explained in an episode) as my TDYR podcast is all about trying to see how minimally and easily a podcast can be recorded.

However, the SoundCloud app seems to continue to move to being more about music consumption rather than creation. This started a while back when they moved "Record" from the home screen to being under the "..." menu choice. And then we haven't really seen any improvements or changes to the recording capability.

Will they improve the recording experience? Or further de-emphasize it?

We'll see... but in the meantime if you have any local recordings in the app you need to do something if you want to retain any of those recordings.

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A Critical Audio Setting In Live Streaming With Google+ Hangouts On Air (That I Missed!)

Do you have the correct audio stream configured in Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) when you are doing live streaming of an event using a HOA? When we ran our live stream out of ION Krakow on Monday, I mentioned that we hit the undocumented 4-hour maximum time limit, but we actually had a larger issue that for the first 1 hour and 45 minutes -
our live stream's audio was terrible!

Truly un-listenable at times. :-(

It turned out that while I had correctly configured Google+ HOA to use the proper video setting for the "Wirecast Virtual Camera", I didn't realize that I had to separately configure the audio seeting to specifically pull in the audio stream from my capture device:

Googleplus hangouts audio settings 450

I just mistakenly assumed that HOA would pull the audio from the camera... but instead it was getting the "Default microphone", meaning the mic on my laptop.

Interestingly, we didn't discover this in testing because when I was doing the testing with a wireless microphone I was sitting at my laptop and so naturally the audio quality was excellent. I did walk up to the front of the room at one point but even then there was no one in the room and my voice could be heard well.

The good news is that I had a separate recording going from the house mixer into my Zoom H4N, so I have a complete audio track for the event. Now I just have to go back and create a new video recording, stripping out the old bad audio track and syncing the backup recording. Not ideal but will at least give us videos of the sessions that we can upload.

The bad news is, of course, that the experience of the initial viewers was quite poor and I'm sure some of them did not stay around to watch more of the session under the assumption it would remain that way.

Why did it take so long for us to fix it?

Well, I was the one operating the livestream and I was speaking at the beginning and then moderating a panel discussion, so it was purely the case that I wasn't in a position to be able to diagnose and sort out the fix. During the break I finally had a chance to do so.

It was also a valuable lesson in monitoring. To look at the audio levels I was watching the graphical meters in Wirecast but I wasn't watching the level in the Google+ HOA screen! That was ultimately how I realized what was wrong. It also pointed out that we need to be running a second machine that is watching the actual livestream so that we can hear the issues ourselves.

All in all a valuable set of lessons that I'll be adding to my checklist for the next time we do a livestream using Google+ Hangouts On Air.

P.S. The key point of the whole exercise was to prove we could livestream an event out over IPv6, which did in fact prove to be successfu1!

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SoundCloud Rolls Out Auto-Sharing To Google+

Soundcloud iosYesterday SoundCloud released a new version 2.6 of their iOS app that for the first time allows sharing to Google+. This is rather intriguing because right now very few applications are able to share directly into Google+. Google has very tightly controlled access to their Google+ APIs to the dismay of many of us who want to more easily share the content we create into our Google+ accounts.

The new SoundCloud app for iOS provides the following new features related to Google+:

  1. The ability to login to SoundCloud with your Google+ credentials. This is only really useful to people who are new to SoundCloud as it simplifies the account creation process by letting you login with your Google+ ID.

  2. The ability to share sounds out to Google+ from within the iOS app.

  3. Automatic sharing of new sounds you create to your Google+ account.

The last one is the most interesting to me and the focus of what I'll write about here. I'll note, too, that according to multiple reports, including an article in TheNextWeb, the ability to login to SoundCloud via Google+ is also available in the Android SoundCloud app, although apparently the sharing is not there. The automatic sharing is centrally configured in SoundCloud's web interface and so may not have a dependence on the mobile app.

Automatic Sharing From SoundCloud To Google+

This is again the most important feature of the update to me. SoundCloud has for quite some time had the ability to automatically share any new sound you upload out to Twitter, Facebook (including Facebook Pages) and Tumblr. This new release adds Google+ to the mix.

You need to login to your SoundCloud account and go to Settings -> Connections. Once there you will see a new Google+ button: Sc connections

Selecting the button allows you to go through the standard Google+ process to authorize this application to connect to your Google+ account. Once you do that, you will see a new connection at the bottom of your list of connections: Sc googleplus

Somewhat bizarrely it doesn't use a Google+ icon but rather something that reminds me more of MySpace.

Similarly, over in the iOS app, after you save a recording and are getting ready to post the sound to SoundCloud, the "Sharing Options" now have a Google+ option at the top - but without any icon: Ios app sc 1 In theory, this should all allow the auto-publishing of links to new sounds out to your Google+.

Sounds Great... But Didn't Work :-(

So, after configuring all of this, I recorded a new episode 5 of my The Dan York Report on this topic... and it did NOT auto-post to Google+. When I was in Google+ there was a yellow message that appeared several times at the top of my screen that said something like:

"Oops... there was a problem posting "TYDR #005 ..." Retrying.

Unfortunately it appeared and disappeared too quickly to get a screenshot.

Manually Sharing From SoundCloud Web or iOS App

The good news is that the SoundCloud web also provides a mechanism to manually share a sound out to Google+. If you click on the Share icon on the page for a sound, you can select the Google+ tab: Soundcloud sharing and then write a message about the sound and choose who to share it with: Share on googleplus

Similarly, you can now do this sharing from within the iOS app itself: Ios app sharing

I'm showing these windows for sharing the sound I created, but this could be for ANY sound that you listen to within the SoundCloud app or web interface.

So What About That Auto-Sharing?

Why didn't my first episode after configuring Google+ integration auto-publish out to Google+? I don't know. I'm going to assume this was perhaps a "teething pain" as the folks at SoundCloud get this integration working.

Regardless, it's good to see this integration with Google+ happening (assuming it starts working) and more apps being able to connect into Google+.

An audio commentary about part of this announcement can be found at:

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Finding My "Barriers To Blogging" Apply To Audio Podcasting As Well

In thinking about how I might do more audio podcasting, I found myself hitting many of the same barriers I wrote about with regard to blogging... so I made this recording:


What Is The Future Of The Levelator? (The Podcaster's Ultimate Quick-Fix Audio Tool)

LevalatorWhat does the future hold for the awesome "Levelator®" tool, now that The Conversations Network is shutting down all of its websites at the end of 2012?

That's certainly the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard the word that Doug Kaye was declaring "Mission Accomplished" and shutting down the TCN websites and moving their content to other locations.

The "Levelator," in case you aren't aware, is a truly awesome piece of software for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux that can take an interview recorded with varying audio levels and turn it into something great for listening. As the bottom of the Levelator page says:

Do you believe in magic? You will after using The Levelator® to enhance your podcast. And you'll be amazed that it's free, now even for commercial use.

So what is The Levelator®? It's software that runs on Windows, OS X (universal binary), or Linux (Ubuntu) that adjusts the audio levels within your podcast or other audio file for variations from one speaker to the next, for example. It's not a compressor, normalizer or limiter although it contains all three. It's much more than those tools, and it's much simpler to use. The UI is dirt-simple: Drag-and-drop any WAV or AIFF file onto The Leveler's application window, and a few moments later you'll find a new version which just sounds better.

For those wanting the gory details, the site contains a detailed description of the "Levelator Loudness Algorithms" that explains how it does its magic. The FAQ, also, includes some helpful information.

Normally, when I'm recording podcasts in my home office with my podcasting rig, I'm able to control all the audio levels, even if I'm interviewing someone over Skype. So in those cases I don't need the power of the Levelator.

But... if I'm recording an interview with multiple people over Skype, I only have one feed for Skype into my mixer and so I can't control the varying audio levels for the different speakers.

Similarly, if I am recording a panel session typically speakers are sitting at different distances from their microphones and they naturally have different levels of their voices.

In either of those cases, the Levelator has been a HUGE help in making my recordings sound that much better.

It's also insanely easy to use - just drag a file onto the interface and drop it. That's it.

Now it's now always on target. A time or two I've actually liked the original better, but that's often because I've got noisy backgrounds or other issues. But probably 95% of the time it does a truly wonderful job making the audio sound better.

So what is its future?

I don't know.

Doug Kaye's post about the future of TCN says only that they intend to continue to make the existing content available. It's not clear from reading that what will happen to the Levelator. Will it be updated? Will someone continue to maintain the software? Will it be open-sourced so that the community could maintain it? Or will it just fade away?

The @levelator Twitter account did provide some hope in an October 3 tweet saying plans are still being discussed:

Levelator future

I do hope Doug and his team are able to find a way to keep the Levelator around. It truly is an awesome tool and it is and was a tremendously generous gift to the Internet community to make it available for free.

I look forward to learning its future... and meanwhile, I've made sure I've downloaded the most recent version so that I'll have my own copy around for a while.

Have you used the Levelator before? Has it helped you? What would you like to see the TCN team do with the Levelator?

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Using iRecorder on the iPhone For Quick Podcasts - With WiFi Transfer

Ever needed to record a quick audio recording on your iPhone and then rapidly transfer it to a computer? There are many recording applications out there for the iPhone, but one I've found helpful is the aptly named "iRecorder".

On Friday I read an email from Shel Holtz that he and Neville had to record this coming week's FIR episode on Sunday morning and they needed our reports by then.

Knowing that today was going to be crazy and also knowing I had a number of tasks to do yesterday that kept me away from my office where my podcast rig is located, I whipped out my iPhone and used iRecorder to record my report. The interface itself is super-simple to use - just one button to push to start recording.


The reason why I like iRecorder, though, is that it has an extremely simple WiFi interface for transferring the recording. I just tap the down-arrow icon in the upper left corner and... ta da... it gives me a URL to hit in my browser:

Irecorder wifi

A quick trip to that URL in my browser shows me all the audio files I can download:

IRecorder browser

A click on the link and the audio file is down on my computer. Now all I did was bring the audio into Audacity, do a minor bit of trimming and then export it to MP3 to send to Shel and Neville.

Simple. Easy. Fast.

Now, I don't feel the audio quality is as good as what I get on my podcasting rig, but that's understandable... this was an iPhone being used as a field recorder. It was a bit too "hot" for me with some clipping going on. But it enabled me to get a report quickly together and submitted when I didn't expect to have time to do so.

It's a cool little tool... and you can find it in the iPhone AppStore.

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Experimenting With SoundCloud For Audio Podcasting

SoundcloudAs I've mentioned on my last several reports into the For Immediate Release podcast, I've been experimenting over the past few weeks with SoundCloud as a platform for posting and sharing audio recordings.  If you are a SoundCloud user, you are welcome to follow along with my experiments at:

So far I have been mostly posting my weekly FIR reports and a few other samples... but over the next bit I'm intending to post some more audio recordings as I try out a number of different applications.

I was toying with using SoundCloud for a bit... and then was inspired by what C.C. Chapman did with the platform for his audio reports from his recent trip to Ghana.

I've been looking for a bit for a place to just post random audio commentary that didn't fit into FIR or other sites. We'll see what precisely I do with it over the weeks and months ahead.

If you'd like to try it yourself, signing up for an account is free - there is just a limit on how much audio you can post with the free account.

And as to how SoundCloud is different from Audioboo or the many other similar services, I would direct you to my latest report into FIR #651 where I covered this precise question!

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Why Apple's move to take iTunes DRM-free matters...

After tweeting this in response to the MacWorld keynote today:

I had a couple of people ask me what DRM is all about and why it matters. So here's my take on why DRM for music matters to me.

"DRM" is "Digital Rights Management" and if you want the gory details Wikipedia has a lengthy article but essentially DRM is "copy protection" in either software or hardware form that restricts your access to some digital media to only "authorized" devices/programs/computers/etc.

In the context of iTunes, it is the software that restricts you to only being able to play purchased music on specific computers or devices. When you buy a song from the iTunes Music Store (that has DRM), you can play that song only on computers that are authorized through your iTunes Music Store account. If I recall correctly, you are limited to 5 computers. If I have a new laptop or iPod or whatever, I have to authorize that device before it can download and play the music.

Proponents of DRM for digital music files, primarily the music companies, promote DRM as a way to ensure that artists (and those companies) get paid. Their fear is that without DRM people will just wildly copy music all over the place and the companies and the artists won't be paid. And to a certain degree this is probably a valid fear.

The problem is that to a user DRM is often a royal pain-in-the-neck.

If I have a physical CD that I rip into online music files on my system, I can then move those files to any other server, to another disk, to another music player, to another laptop. There is no DRM and I can just move those digital files around the same way that I could a physical CD. It makes it trivial when you find that all your music is filling up one system and you want to move it to another and have music play out of that system instead of the one you are using now.

With DRM-restricted music, you can't always do this. You have to authorize the new system. When I went to sync a new iPod to one of my systems, I had issues where it couldn't download the music because it wasn't authorized, etc., etc.

It makes me not want to buy music online.

Or, at least, DRM-restricted music. After having so many headaches recently with moving some music around when I was trying to free up room on a system, I decided that for a future purchase I was going to find DRM-free versions, even if it meant going out and purchasing the physical CD and ripping the CD into MP3s. Then, of course, I discovered the Amazon MP3 Downloads. Same basic prices as iTunes (cheaper in many cases) and without any DRM.

I own the digital music files and I can do with them whatever I want to do.

I can move them around. I can put them on different music players in my house.... basically everything that I can do with a physical media like a CD (or tape or album for those who remember such things). And yes, those who are unethical can of course copy them and give them to other people. But the point is that the digital media is now mine to do with as I wish exactly like the physical media is. I am in control.

I have therefore almost no incentive to purchase from the iTunes Music Store when I can get it from Amazon (unless, of course, the music is exclusively available in iTunes).

Steve Jobs wrote about this back in February 2007 when he wrote this:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Today, it seems, Apple has reached that state... they said that 8,000,000 songs will be available DRM-free now and all 10,000,000 songs will be available soon. You will need to pay a bit more (and that extra 30 cents probably goes to the record companies) but at least it is mine and I can play it wherever and whenever I want.

That is why I was so pleased with the Apple announcement.

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Marantz video demonstrating their new PMD620 portable recorder

As listeners to FIR may know (or longtime readers of this blog), I'm a big fan of the Marantz PMD660 and have been using it now for recording interviews in the field for most of 2 years, if not longer. It's a great unit and I've been very happy with it.

However, it's rather on the large side (looks like an old tape recorder!) and I've always been looking at the smaller units like the Edirol R9, Zoom H4, m-Audio MicroTrack, etc. Out at the New Media Expo last fall, I saw the preview of Marantz's new PMD620 and was quite intrigued. Not enough yet to buy one, but after my last trip where the PMD660 took up so much room in my travel bag, I am starting to think about it again.

Anyway, the folks at Marantz have now put up a YouTube video talking about the product:

FYI, I found it on their Education Blog after receiving an email from them announcing the video being on their blog. The comments are amusing because predictably someone was asking if the video was an example of the audio quality (or lack thereof) of the PMD620 (it wasn't).

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