Eye of Sound by cpgmattr

Push past the big metal door at Substantial and you’re going to hear music. Maybe it’s a some dream pop from Beach House or maybe it’s some slowly thumping Mark E or some classic David Bowie or Talking Heads. Exactly how do we create that experience? We’ve been asked a few times about this so we figured we’d lay it out for you in case your own office needs some help.

As far as hardware goes, there are three pieces that make everything work. We’ve got a stereo, an AirTunes, and an iMac that we lovingly refer to as The Infinite Jukebox. The stereo’s place in this is obvious. We set up the AirTunes on one of the auxiliary inputs and anyone can share their music with the office. That used to be the primary way of doing things until The Infinite Jukebox arrived, at which point more network-centric software took over, with the quartet of iTunes, Rdio, and Spotify and SoundCloud as our go-to tools. None of them quite do everything we want, so we use them all to keep the music going. Here are details on how we use each.

iTunes is our veteran office music provider; we’ve already mentioned using it as proxy for Airtunes, but with The Infinite Jukebox we’ve shifted to shared libraries. It’s as simple as browsing someone else’s library (or the music local to the machine) and playing what you want. It’s a system that’s always worked well, but even with our vast collections we don’t have everything. That’s where the cloud-based services come in.

Rdio is young but it’s already become a core part of our regular music-listening experience. The web application has a beautiful interface and is truly a joy to use. Plus there are no software updates. It’s got lots of tracks and the social features are neat even if we don’t use them to any degree. We’ve been using them since before Spotify’s US launch and haven’t stopped. It’s not perfect (close the wrong browser window and there goes the music), but it works.

Spotify’s recent foray into our hearts and headphones is simple to explain. They have a lot of songs. 13 million of them. That gets us a lot of Grace Jones (or anyone else for that matter). Shared playsits are fun, but the clunky methods to actually using them is a bit frustrating (Spotify, why should we have to search Google to find playlists for your app?). The interface is achingly similar to iTunes, which made this one incredibly familiar to use even on the first try.

You might be less familiar with SoundCloud, as it’s a service used mostly by electronic music producers. It’s not too dissimilar from Bandcamp (minus the retail aspect), allowing artists to upload their wares for streaming. Because of the audience, there are a lot of DJ sets posted to the service as well, providing a source for all manner of beat-centric fare.

And there you have it. Listening to music at Substantial is an all day, everyday thing, and we’re always on the lookout for something else to help let the music play on. Next up is this installation of our permanent DJ booth. Things are definitely going to get a bit louder around here.

Image from cpgmattr.