It’s About The Music Stupid! Edition

“It’s about the music, stupid!”

Some folks complain that we can’t trust Steve Jobs when he says Apple won’t invade a certain facet of entertainment, communication, or computing. Jobs made the above statement in 2004 when music-only iPods still had great legs and healthy lungs, and music was still the primary media paying customers were interested in. At that time, he was absolutely right, the iPod, and every other person media player of worth, focused on tunes. Video and games were still fairly tough to play on pocketable devices, especially where people wanted to play them, which was typically away from home.

The fact is, it’s still about the music (stupid), and it’s never been about what Steve Jobs says about Apple’s intentions, it’s always has been, and the foreseeable future, will be about what Jobs does with Apple .

It was music that made the iPod popular, but it also made the iPhone, and now the iPad, possible. In fact, iDevices should really be called mDevices because all of them have one major thing in common, that is the ability to play your music how you want it, when you want it, and where you want it.

iDevices have gotten a lot more powerful since the original iPod. My iPhone 4 puts more raw computing power into my pocket than many large businesses had running their entire operation just 20 years ago, so it stands to reason that we would want to do something more with these devices. I have a total of 239 apps for my various iDevices, including games for my 5th gen iPods, and 4th gen iPod nanos. I can read newspapers, check local and national weather, track hurricanes (especially important for us Floridians), frag strangers, chats with friends, watch movies, and get a little pinball action going on, but while I do most of these activities I can listen to music. In fact, music makes most of my other activities more pleasant.

My iPhone is a great iPod, but the iPod has always been about playing the music I currently own, it does not do much for letting me discover new music. Most folks rely on radio to bring them new tunes, but I can’t tolerate most radio stations, the DJs are usually too talkative and the music is not very interesting, and then there are the commercials, which either insult my intelligence or are just plain obnoxious.

Luckily, because most iDevices can run apps, I can find new music without being bombarded with ads for stuff I don’t want. Most of you are already thinking, “Pandora,” and that is an option, but the first app I want to talk about this week is from the “We are not evil” music label, Magnatune. Their app is called (imaginatively enough) Magnatune, and it’s all sorts of free.

You may be wondering what makes Magnatune not evil. I wondered the same thing when I first learned of them several years ago. Back then, as it still is today, most music companies give their artists as well as their customers the staff. They charge exorbitant amount of money for the music the artist creates yet the artist gets pittance for his or her efforts. Unless the artist produces a mega-hit, they may not get the exposure they need to get an audience or, worse, may wind up owing the music company money for “production costs”. I’d say that’s pretty evil.

Artists who sign on with Magnatune get 50% of the money you spend on the music offered, and the prices are very reasonable. The music is not DRM protected so you’ll have no problem playing it on any device, in fact Magnatune encourages you to give copies of you purchased music to friends so that the artists can get a wider audience who may, in turn, buy more music.

What’s cooler, however is that you can listen to anything and everything Magnatune offers, entirely, from first song to last, before you spend a penny. That’s where the Magnatune app come in, it lets you stream music from Magnatune anywhere you happen to be. You can review album art, artist bios, and more while listening, for free! If you find something you like and what to buy it you can by just clicking on the “Buy” button, and, budda-bing, it’s yours, including all of the associated info. Magnatune also offers a subscription service where you can download and keep all the music you want for $15 a month.

Magnatune continually offers up new artists and music too, and in nearly every popular genre, so you are bound to find something you’ll like. The only downside is that the app currently won’t play in the background. I contacted Magnatune and John Buckman, the head honcho, tells me an update should be available soon that fixes that problem.

Check out the Magnatune app, available for both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad. It’s a great way to find new music.

Magnatune caters to those who like music that you just won’t find anyplace else, which is excellent, but sometimes you just wanna hear an old familiar tune, something brings back pleasant memories, something you (think you) know the words to. For that you need radio, or some semblance thereof, so one of the two following apps should find its way onto your iDevice.

First up is Tunemark Radio, an Internet radio app that does a great job doing just one thing; playing Internet radio stations.

Tunemark Radio has a nice clean interface that gives you access to the hundreds of ShoutCast and other stations around the Web. It displays the station and the name of the tune playing. You can also get information about the station, set a nice wallpaper, and there’s even a built in alarm clock that you can set so you can wake to your favorite Romanian rock station.

Tunemark Radio lets you jam to tune in the background so you can check email while mellowing out on Japanese Jazz. Who needs FM when you have Tunemark Radio?

One of the things I like about Apple’s iDevice environment is that there is a lot of choices, if Tunemark Radio doesn’t sit right with you for some reason then you may be happier with AccuRadio. What’s cool with this app is its Wormhole view that lets you review the songs and albums you’ve listened to in the recent past. It works kind of like Apple’s Cover-flow, displaying song and album information, including album cover art. Unfortunately you can’t replay previously played tunes, it is radio after all, but it comes in handy when you are trying to recall that new tune you heard just a bit ago.

You can also customize what AccuRadio plays. Like Classic Rock, but hate Aerosmith (weirdo!)? Turn off the Aerosmith button and nothing from that band gets played. You can also skip the current tune and move ahead to the next song. You can’t do that on regular radio.

AccuRadio is a bit different from other Internet radio app because it doesn’t display discreet stations, instead it offers you genres to pick from. I like it, but it may not be right for everyone.

Check out AccuRadio. It’s free!

That’s a wrap for this week.

More free stuff below with direct links.