From the latest we’ve heard, there are about a billion iPods on the market today. Alright, we are exaggerating, but it is a safe statement that music fans around the world are somewhere on their journey from physical media, such as CDs, to file-based media, such as MP3s. From the late 1990s, when Diamond (formerly S3, then SonicBlue, now DNNA) shipped their first Rio MP3 player (32 megs of RAM, very limited user interface) to today with Apple shipping the new iPod Shuffle (lots more RAM, no user interface), there is tremendous energy behind this shift. By the way, our billion user statement may be outlandish now, but In-Stat predicts almost 2 billion handheld a/v players sold by the end of 2006!While it’s gotten a lot easier to transition MP3s (for the rest of this article, we’ll use the term ‘MP3’ to represent a compressed music file, regardless of specific file format) from computers onto portable music players, the process of getting a music collection into a computer in the first place has not gotten easier. And I’ve got bad news for you: there’s no technology out there that is going to make it better. But two guys named Dan are here, not only to ease the pain, but make it quite a pleasure. They run a new type of music services company, called dmp3, and they are here to help you “rediscover your music.”
What do they do, in 10 words or less? Dmp3 converts your CD library into a perfectly organized MP3 library.
And they do it very, very well.
Our good friend Ron has a vast CD collection. He’s got Dylan and Hancock, Radiohead and Jane’s Addiction. The Police, Radiohead, Morcheeba. Nat King Cole, Miles Davis. Beastie Boys. In previous articles I’ve mocked Ron a bit, but in all honesty, he’s got much better taste in music than me. Not that that will stop future mocking.
Ron owns an iPod, has a couple of laptops, is a big iTunes and Rhapsody fan. He’s a digital media fan. That said, in two years, he’d ripped a grand total of 20 CDs. Ron says his biggest deterrents to ripping his own CDs are that it takes a long time and maintenance, especially including the problem that he typically has to fix up the metadata (artist name, album title, etc) after he’s done. In fact, when asked how long he thinks it would take him to rip his favorite 200 CDs of his collection, Ron said, “At present rates, I’m ripping about 10 CDs a year. If you calculate that out, my 200 CDs would take 20 years!”
Daniel Robins, the Bay Area representative of dmp3 (the founder of the company, Dan McMinn is setting up a new office in the Midwest), coordinated with Ron via phone and email to arrange for “the pickup”. One key differentiator for dmp3 is that they offer full service options to those who are interested. If you live in a different part of the country, or are on a tight budget, you can do all interaction by mail, however if you are able to get the personal touch, as you’ll read below, it’s definitely worth it. dmp3 collected just under 200 of Ron’s favorite CDs, to rip, properly tag and identify, and deliver when done.
In order to most effectively test out the services, we asked Ron to place a few ‘traps’ in his CD collection. He included a few CD cases with no discs, a few cases with the incorrect discs inside, a few custom CD mixes, and some scratched CDs. We, of course, gave dmp3 no warning.
Daniel took the CDs, and within 24 hours sent a follow-up email to Ron. In this email, Daniel clearly identified the various genres of music that comprised Ron’s collection (and even gave Ron the opportunity to make changes, in case Ron preferred to use different or more specific genres than the standard said, such as “Acid Jazz” and “Fusion Jazz” instead of just “Jazz”). He also outlined the next few steps of the process, and asked Ron to have a few things prepped before his return.
Meanwhile, the dmp3 team began the ripping process. They combine some very exciting technology with their own personal interests and passion of music to create compelling results. Using their system, dmp3 was able to rip Ron’s entire CD collection quite rapidly, with no errors.
I’ve personally ripped quite a number of CDs, and the number of error-free rips I’ve done is fairly unimpressive, so I’ll say it again. dmp3 ripped all 200 of Ron’s CDs with absolutely no errors. You don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate listening to your music without glitches.
Next step involved going CD by CD, inspecting every metadata tag for accuracy. There are a few services for this, but thankfully they use Gracenote as their primary source. However, they take the process a little further, and pay special attention to situations such as compilation albums or multi-CD sets. For those of you who use some of the ‘default’ metadata services, such as MusicMatch or Windows Media Player, there is a huge difference between dmp3’s outputs and what the typical consumer is dealing with.
The next day, Daniel returned to Ron’s apartment, with a couple of big boxes…
First, Daniel connected his USB external hard drive to Ron’s laptop to move the MP3 files onto Ron’s computer. This took a little while, as the collection was quite large. During this time, Daniel pulled out a folder with the detailed notes and files. Daniel proceeded to educate Ron about his own music collection. The documents outlined all of the CDs, by artist and by genre. Details on number of converted tracks, file sizes, duplicates, and more.
Daniel’s files clearly indicated all of Ron’s attempts to trick the system had failed.
After the file transfer was completed we started to get a glimpse into how valuable the dmp3 service really is. Ron’s iTunes library was clean and perfect. No messy metadata tags. No need to sort or move files around. It was just… done. And done right.
I asked Ron how valuable he thought the service was, and here’s his response: “Once you have your entire collection perfectly digitized, organized and loaded you can’t go back. I even have backups that I can put in a Safety Deposit Box should my hard-drive crash.” The backups he’s referring to are the DVDs dmp3 provided with all of Ron’s mp3s. All, of course, in alphabetical order.
There are tons of things out there that are easy to do, but rarely worth the effort. Ask anyone who owns a bread machine or ice cream maker how often they use the gadget versus buying a loaf of bread or pint of Ben and Jerry’s (Phish Food, in case you were wondering). Cleaning the toilet is easy, yet many people hire housekeepers. Even making clothes is pretty simple to do, but I don’t know too many people who like wearing home-brand jeans.
Anyone can rip a CD. dmp3 just makes it easier, faster, and better. And it might even be cheaper. Here’s my math:
If it takes you, say 20 minutes to rip a CD, you can do 3 per hour.Say you earn $60,000 per year. This works out to the approximate equivalent of being paid $30 per hour.
This means, using that new math, the cost of your time to rip a CD is about $10.
At the time of writing, dmp3’s fee is $1.25 per CD. Or a savings of $8.75 per CD!
Even if you don’t like my math, or you can rip CDs faster, or you just like to argue, you have to admit there is something very nice about someone else providing you a clean library of your music, with no hassle. Check out dmp3 at www.dmp3music.com, and rediscover your music.
Or you can go back to cleaning the toilet yourself.