Monday, 7 May 2012

DRM defeated; and a song I waited years for

What a lovely morning - the sunshine has come back! And I've solved the 'music problem' on my Sony tablet.

You must be tired of hearing about it now, but, in a nutshell, I had 100 music tracks that could not be transferred to the tablet. These were all tracks that I badly wanted there. The music collections on my PC, my mobile phone, and my tablet would then all exactly match. But the heavy hand of Digital Rights Management meant that these were all 'protected' tracks in .wma format, and that meant that after purchase they could be installed only onto the PC and one other designated device. I originally bought them from the Nokia Store for my Nokia E71 phone. So the phone had them all. And the tablet would have to do without, unless I repurchased from some other source with the Sony specifically in mind. Prices vary, and Nokia is not a cheap source. I'd paid either 79p or 99p for these tracks. So I was looking at a £99 repurchase cost at worst, maybe only £79, possibly even less, but a substantial outlay in any event.

It was worth an effort to find a way of 'rescuing' the 100 tracks, and avoiding a large spend on buying them all over again.

I tried a solution that involved burning the tracks onto a CD but the labour of adding track information made this impractical, although later research on the Internet unearthed an easier method of copying track information into each file. It was still a chore with drawbacks though. A comment from Samantha on my last post led me to install iTunes with the idea of importing these songs and carrying out a conversion process, to make them tablet-ready. But it didn't work, although having now got iTunes on my PC I'll retain it, in case they have some obscure track that I still want (more on that aspect below!).

So yesterday I looked into a software solution, and eventually found Music Converter by Aimersoft. Music Converter has done the trick. It has stripped away the DRM restriction on each of those 100 tracks, and allowed them to migrate to the Sony, what I wanted. Hurrah! Admittedly this clever bit of software cost me £20.70, but I reckon it's saved me at least three times that in repurchasing costs, so I'm content.

Or I was content when I first posted this. A few hours later, I'm not so happy.

I left the conversion quality on default, and the .mp3 files produced are about half the size of the former .wma files. And what a difference this makes! You don't immediately notice it, and I didn't, but on more extended play the sound from each track definitely has less sparkle, and occasionally it jumps. Damn.

I suppose I could re-run the whole conversion process at higher quality (I've kept copies of the .wma files, and can certainly do it) but converting at bog-standard quality took nearly six hours, and the same thing again at twice the quality will take forever. Well, I suppose I could tackle the bestest most favourite creme de la creme tracks first, and see how it works out. Say five or so. And if that is a great improvement, then the rest in a rolling programme.

Aren't I a slave to music?

You may be a bit puzzled at that remark. I've never claimed to be a music buff, and I say to all my friends that I have no taste or discrimination in music; and indeed have no personal musical ability whatsoever. So why this immense fuss over my music collection? Well, the 1,250 or so tracks in my collection represent part of the background to my life, and they are an important way of reinforcing an overall continuity. I don't go in for 'eras that I'd rather forget'. I got something of value from every decade of my life, and the music collection, which spans all decades from the 1950s, is the soundtrack to many memories. This is quite apart from the merits of each track as an enjoyable audio experience. I do in fact like them all very much.

1,250 tracks doesn't sound a lot, but then I have cherry-picked what I want, and every track is golden as far as I am concerned. I am now down to hunting out the last two dozen or so must-have tracks that the Nokia Store didn't have, which is where iTunes may help, and Google Music may deliver (when available in the UK), although sometimes you just have to wait until negotiations have been concluded and a deal is struck between a label and the online store. I can be patient.

For instance, I waited nearly three years for Nokia to make available a little-known Frank Sinatra song called I Will Drink The Wine. This was was written by Paul Ryan, the song-writing half of the Paul and Barry Ryan partnership. Paul Ryan penned a string of hits for his singing brother Barry around 1969, the most famous probably being Eloise. He eventually came to Frank Sinatra's attention, and Ol' Blue Eyes (who was getting pretty old by then) featured one of his last compositions (this I Will Drink The Wine) in a 1971 filmed cabaret show at one of Frank's usual venues, The Sands perhaps. You can find it on YouTube. Paul Ryan died of cancer not long after. The song was released as a single, but it barely got into the top twenty, so it's a rare item if you collect vinyl. I have a scratched version in my attic. So why do I like it, and was hungry to find it in Nokia's downloadable archive?

Well, first, the melody and lyrics are totally Sinatra. It's absolutely his type of song, and I don't mean a song like New York, New York from his Swing Era, but one of his much later 'look back on a full life' songs, typified I suppose my My Way in 1969. It's the song of a rich and powerful old man who has lost all innocence, can't connect any more with the simple things, but knows that his money, his connections, his personal clout, can get things done. Exactly the position of the Mob-backed Sinatra, who had had a highly successful singing career, in later years boosted by his 2% cut from the Mob's legitimate Las Vegas operation.

The second reason for my liking this song is that nobody else ever liked it. It stated too clearly that money and power must win: and that message was wrong. But I think the song had a deeper meaning, and I saw what it was. And especially as I now enter the last third - maybe the last quarter - of my own life, I am glad that this song is in my collection, and that I can ponder it to my heart's content.

As I can with many other songs and other items in my collection. Most entertain me while I do the ironing, or wash, or drive along, but some make me think.

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