Reinventing my personal blog

01 Mar 2022

New Beets

In case you have not heard, Spotify sucks. A lot.

Here’s a summary of my post-Spotify exploration of music. I’m still trying to decide how I want to consume music in the future, but what I’m currently thinking about is:

  • Apple Music for ‘all you can eat’ music streaming and music discovery
  • Accompanied by Plex music library and PlexAmp on phone for music that I want to collect and keep

I’m starting to buy interesting music on Bandcamp, especially newer stuff, new music types and collaboration, things that may never get published as a CD or other record.

I’m using the SF Public Library’s incredible music collection (vinyl and CD!) to borrow and listen to older music that I may have missed out on, or music that I want to listen to in higher fidelity, on different equipment.

Moving Spotify playlists to Apple Music or Tidal

Using services like TuneMyMusic, I was able to easily move my playlists to Apple Music and Tidal. I evaluated both services before deciding on Apple Music. Tidal did not do a good job recognizing or having access to some of my non-English music. Apple Music did not miss a beat. I’m very firmly entrenched in the Apple walled garden, so it was also a good reason to get Apple One (so everyone in my family can also have Apple Music). If you don’t use iOS, you may want to evaluate other alternatives.

I decided to pony up the $5 fee on TuneMyMusic to move my music to Apple Music. It was a one-off action that took a few hours to complete. After that, I canceled my subscription as I have no need to keep my playlists in sync.

There are probably ways to do this cheaply or freely with command line tools, but I did not have time to look into it.

Buying music on Bandcamp

I’m lucky to be friends with many music nerds and music lovers who have carefully curated playlists and music collections. Some of them also share their favorite new music on Bandcamp.

I started buying a few albums there. I’m still finding my way around Bandcamp (it looks like I’m buying stuff that I really like, and also experimental stuff I maybe don’t like as much, but find interesting enough to keep).

I don’t like listening to the albums on the Bandcamp website or app, so it’s handy that they let you download lossless files of the music you buy.

Setting up Plex and PlexAmp

Since I already had a Plex media server setup, it was simply a matter of setting up a new folder and library for music files.

I learned that the metadata from Bandcamp files isn’t the best: Plex does best when you can organize files in a hierarchical Artist / Album folder structure, and for music that may not exist that way (like a lot of digital-only music on Bandcamp), Plex just doesn’t pick up the music metadata neatly.

Using Beets, a command line superpower tool for music lovers

I decided to give Beets a go. The project was mature and many people swore by it. Its documentation was also excellent.

First, I had to set up the config.yaml file. Here’s my config file, in case it helps.

Then, I had to install the right plugins. For my use case, the beetcamp, acousticbrainz and discogs plugins were the most useful.

I successfully re-imported all of my music files into my Plex music library like this:

beet import ~/some-path-to-music

After installing the right plugins, I was able to find matches for all of the music, including some very obscure old stuff. You can even set up the PlexUpdate plugin to let Plex know to update the music library every time music gets imported with beets.

I’m very happy with this setup, and will probably continue to grow my music collection in this way.