The Big Missing Element on Music Streaming Services

I’m listening to John Coltrane’s extraordinary 1958 album Blue Train. I’ve heard this album many times, and it’s one of those great jazz albums from the time when jazz was great.

Trane

There’s a great pianist on this record; I can’t remember who it is. I could search Google; I’m sure Wikipedia has a page about this album. (Here.) But I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to find this out when I’m listening to the music in iTunes, or on my iPhone. I might want to know the names of the musicians (it’s Kenny Drew on piano), who wrote the songs (all but one are by Coltrane himself), and more. Since release dates are often incorrect – they often list the record’s last release, not the original date – I might want to know that as well.

Tell me who produced it, who the other sidemen are, and all the other information about the disc that I would get if I had the CD. Because CDs come with liner notes; streaming services don’t.

There is one streaming company that claims to offer liner notes: Qobuz. I subscribed to Qobuz for a year when I lived in France; around 2012 or so. They had some liner notes, and I don’t know how many they have now. (They say “millions of digital booklets.”)

But this metadata should be available for every album. Yes, it’s up to the record labels to provide it, and I’m sure there are some labels who would be happy to do this, to make their recordings more attractive. Apple put a lot of time and money into their Mastered for iTunes, which is mostly ignored these days. If they had invested in liner notes, I think a lot of listeners would be happy. (Though this is still a small percentage.)

34 thoughts on “The Big Missing Element on Music Streaming Services

  1. That’s what I miss about vinyl – copious liner notes. And artwork. CDs paled in comparison but at least they were better than nothing.

  2. That’s what I miss about vinyl – copious liner notes. And artwork. CDs paled in comparison but at least they were better than nothing.

  3. Great news: “Au CES 2018 […] Qobuz a nnonce ra son arrivée au x USA à la mi – 2018 au terme d’une profonde réforme de son produit.”

    (At CES 2018, […] Qobuz announced its debut in the USA mid-2018 following a major revision of its product.)

    • Yes, I saw that. I’m in the UK, and they are available here already. But I’m really not that interested in a second streaming service, and iTunes is too important for me, especially because of my writing about Apple products and services.

  4. Great news: “Au CES 2018 […] Qobuz a nnonce ra son arrivée au x USA à la mi – 2018 au terme d’une profonde réforme de son produit.”

    (At CES 2018, […] Qobuz announced its debut in the USA mid-2018 following a major revision of its product.)

    • Yes, I saw that. I’m in the UK, and they are available here already. But I’m really not that interested in a second streaming service, and iTunes is too important for me, especially because of my writing about Apple products and services.

  5. You’re right, we shouldn’t have to work so hard. I have had wonderful success with discogs.com – where we also find out it was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in his Hackensack studio (read parent’s house).

    I find the “best” description and print-to-PDF – almost like reading liner notes 😉

  6. You’re right, we shouldn’t have to work so hard. I have had wonderful success with discogs.com – where we also find out it was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in his Hackensack studio (read parent’s house).

    I find the “best” description and print-to-PDF – almost like reading liner notes 😉

  7. I cannot agree more. Some new classical music releases include a digital booklet and that at least give you the right information that the user can manually include in the album and song information. But not all of them, at all. I wanted to buy the recent Warner Complete Debussy Edition, but I won’t since there is no digital booklet and it seems there is only one release date (2017) for every recording in the edition.

  8. I cannot agree more. Some new classical music releases include a digital booklet and that at least give you the right information that the user can manually include in the album and song information. But not all of them, at all. I wanted to buy the recent Warner Complete Debussy Edition, but I won’t since there is no digital booklet and it seems there is only one release date (2017) for every recording in the edition.

  9. Typical of Apple. It creates a nice, decent thing (product, service or otherwise), but that’s it. Apple never seems to flesh out other benefits or uses. For example, I haven’t used QuickTime in years, but I know I am not missing anything. I recently clean-installed 10.13.3, but couldn’t figure out how to move the Apple dictionary associated with Pages. I used to complain every month about songs I purchased from iTunes, wondering why the writers / composers of the songs couldn’t be included in the metadata. That has mostly changed, but it took a long while.

  10. Typical of Apple. It creates a nice, decent thing (product, service or otherwise), but that’s it. Apple never seems to flesh out other benefits or uses. For example, I haven’t used QuickTime in years, but I know I am not missing anything. I recently clean-installed 10.13.3, but couldn’t figure out how to move the Apple dictionary associated with Pages. I used to complain every month about songs I purchased from iTunes, wondering why the writers / composers of the songs couldn’t be included in the metadata. That has mostly changed, but it took a long while.

  11. Absolutely. The Get info field has comments, though I believe that is character limited. You can also put information in a lyric field. I think Kirk suggested that to me sometime ago. But still, the lack of deep info and personal need for granular genres kept me from streaming services.

    Also, jazz is still great. It is a different time, that is for sure.

  12. Absolutely. The Get info field has comments, though I believe that is character limited. You can also put information in a lyric field. I think Kirk suggested that to me sometime ago. But still, the lack of deep info and personal need for granular genres kept me from streaming services.

    Also, jazz is still great. It is a different time, that is for sure.

  13. If you like to grab album info from the web as PDF, as I often do, remember that iTunes can manage PDF files as tracks. You can easily import a PDF to iTunes and edit its tags such that it sorts with the album’s tracks.

    Here’s a script which can be launched from any Print dialog that assists with that:
    https://dougscripts.com/300

  14. If you like to grab album info from the web as PDF, as I often do, remember that iTunes can manage PDF files as tracks. You can easily import a PDF to iTunes and edit its tags such that it sorts with the album’s tracks.

    Here’s a script which can be launched from any Print dialog that assists with that:
    https://dougscripts.com/300

  15. and the missing link appears! The hard part (for me) was getting the iTunes metadata properly placed on the PDF notes. discogs doesn’t have “Reader View” but it’s a perfectly fine way to get the track details added…thanks, Doug.

  16. and the missing link appears! The hard part (for me) was getting the iTunes metadata properly placed on the PDF notes. discogs doesn’t have “Reader View” but it’s a perfectly fine way to get the track details added…thanks, Doug.

  17. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I feel sold slightly short every time I download an album. It’s like “What’s in the the box? Well, not everything that should be”. Last night I was listening to a Bach aria and wanted to look up who the soloist was. So I watched the scrolling track information for a few minutes, like you watch paint dry: Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata #75, John Eliot Gardiner, Moneverdi Choir and Soloists…and so on and on. Did the name of the singer ever come up? I’ll never know. It would be great to just link to a sleeve note, be it in PDF format or whatever; such a simple thing – such a overlooked opportunity. Or the fact that we are not getting the complete product should be reflected in the price.

    • I know exactly how you feel, and specifically with recordings like that.

      I bought those recordings when they were released, on subscription, over a period of years; it’s some of my favorite music. I eventually sold the entire set when they released a box set, more to save space, because I didn’t really go back to the original CDs to read anything. The box set comes with a CD containing PDFs with info and sung texts.

      I strongly recommend the box set, as it has the entire Bach cantatas pilgrimage; not just the discs that Gardiner released, but also the four DG discs to complete the set. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

  18. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I feel sold slightly short every time I download an album. It’s like “What’s in the the box? Well, not everything that should be”. Last night I was listening to a Bach aria and wanted to look up who the soloist was. So I watched the scrolling track information for a few minutes, like you watch paint dry: Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata #75, John Eliot Gardiner, Moneverdi Choir and Soloists…and so on and on. Did the name of the singer ever come up? I’ll never know. It would be great to just link to a sleeve note, be it in PDF format or whatever; such a simple thing – such a overlooked opportunity. Or the fact that we are not getting the complete product should be reflected in the price.

    • I know exactly how you feel, and specifically with recordings like that.

      I bought those recordings when they were released, on subscription, over a period of years; it’s some of my favorite music. I eventually sold the entire set when they released a box set, more to save space, because I didn’t really go back to the original CDs to read anything. The box set comes with a CD containing PDFs with info and sung texts.

      I strongly recommend the box set, as it has the entire Bach cantatas pilgrimage; not just the discs that Gardiner released, but also the four DG discs to complete the set. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

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