TuneUp: An iTunes Librarian, Archivist and Concierge
Jun 8, 2009 4:00 AM PT
Gabriel Adiv is a music lover.
Like many music lovers who manage their digital music in iTunes, he once bemoaned how labor-intensive that could be.
Unlike many music lovers, though, he decided to do something about it.
Adiv, with his sidekick Raza Zaidi, founded San Francisco-based TuneUp Media in 2007, and a year later, their company introduced an iTunes plug-in by the same name.
The plug-in cleans up an iTunes library, adding missing information to songs stored there, as well as importing absent cover art, making recommendations based on a track you're listening to, and creating customized concert calendars based on the artists in your library and your physical location.
"I had been thinking of the idea on and off for years," Adiv told MacNewsWorld. "The truth is, I was surprised that no one had created an application that works well and addresses those issues."
He sees parallels between the development of the iPod and TuneUp.
"There were MP3 players out for seven years before the iPod came out," he explained, "but until the design and user experience was created by Apple, it didn't really hit mainstream."
By comparison, he continued, there have been developers who have been trying for years to do what TuneUp does through retagging MP3 files.
"In playing with those," he noted, "we quickly realized that either they were really hard to use and super geeky, or they were inaccurate."
Swiss Army Knife for Music
Moreover, the company wanted to forge an application with a broader view of music than that embraced by the retaggers.
"We wanted to create an application for music lovers like ourselves that was going to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts," Adiv asserted.
Building that Swiss Army knife did pose some challenges for the TuneUp team.
"There is so much nuance and detail in regards to identifying songs," Adiv said.
For example, there can be hundreds of releases of an individual song -- a live version, a remastered version, a greatest hits version, an original album version and cover versions.
"The biggest challenge for us was creating an interface that could capture the most accurate identification of the music and present it in a way that wasn't overwhelming," Adiv observed.
"We wanted to shield the user from all the craziness that goes on behind the scenes in identifying tracks," he continued. "We tried to do as much smart filtering at the backend [as possible], so the user doesn't have to monkey with it."
A key component of the new software was the music database that would be used to clean up a user's iTunes library.
"After kicking the tires of a few, we definitely felt that Gracenote was the right [one] to work with," Adiv said.
The company, which was purchased by Sony last year, had not only a large database, but also solid music recognition technology, he explained.
In addition, "its software development kit was much more robust and stable than what some other folks were bringing to the table," he said.
Absence of Metadata Standard
Why is it so difficult to maintain an iTunes library?
Because collectors are getting their files from a number of sources -- CDs, blogs, social networks -- that may have different ways of storing metadata, Adiv maintains.
"You can get the same artist labeled 10 different ways because there's no standard metadata scheme," he noted. "That's as much of an issue as the missing metadata itself."
Once TuneUp was ready for market last year, Adiv wanted to put a human face on the product. That face was "Captain Tuneup," a cartoon figurehead wearing a helmet with lightening bolts emanating from an antenna on top of it.
"If you look at anything from the Jolly Green Giant to Cap'n Crunch, there's something cool about associating a mascot with whatever service or function you're bringing to the table," he said. "We wanted people to think about him as the buddy you go to for cool music."
TuneUp has more than 200,000 registered users and has cleaned up 125 million tracks since its introduction, according to Adiv.
The company will continue to focus its future development efforts on its flagship product, he said, although an iPhone app is on the radar screen.