Aug 16 2010
To the analog purist, the MP3 has brought the downfall of mankind. Well, not exactly, but it has radically altered the way we purchase and absorb music. Skeptics will tell you, for starters, that the MP3 ruins the song: the fidelity is thin, tinny, too treble-y. And no longer do people buy LPs or CDs in their entirety; now they cherry-pick songs whose 20-second snippet on iTunes sound good.
Then there’s album art. While our digital age makes it difficult to sprawl out on your bed, pouring over liner notes and intensely analyzing that amazingly weird Father Time-dude in the insert of the “untitled” Led Zeppelin LP, there is hope for the analog album-art romantic. And the instrument of this hope is Bliss.
Bliss is a rule based music library management organizer; it downloads and installs missing album art for your digital music collection. It uses reputable and accurate online databases such as MusicBrainz, Discogs and Amazon to discover the correct art for your music and install it automatically. Think about those amazing records from our past that have mysteriously vanished. We seek to re-create that experience by purchasing the version digitally, or download it illicitly in the dark corners of the Net. But the experience isn’t complete without the art and the emotional attachment that comes with it. Bliss completes the circle so that you can add album art to your collection. In fact, Bliss was made specifically for large digital music collections. And not only does it pull up the art for a specific album, it lets you choose among other options, should there be any.
So, a bit more about the site. It’s laid out simply and cleanly, instantly prompting you to download the software- their custom cover art downloader. Once you do so, Bliss continually monitors your music player and instantly applies album art based on your preferences. I use iTunes, and I always wonder why some jams have art and others don’t. This is because iTunes pulls art solely from its (limited) music store. Bliss goes above and beyond, searching multiple sources and adding art that you’ve likely never seen before. But there’s more than just art. Another problem I have with iTunes is around general organization. Many times I have to go in and manually enter names, song titles, and record titles. Bliss makes changes automatically, based on your preferences and specifications.
Every time Bliss adds art for one album, that’s known as a “fix.” And the good news is this: new users get 500 free fixes. That’s 500 album covers. It is only then, should you be satisfied, that you can pay for subsequent fixes. There are two payment options, each equally affordable, and come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Pay As You Go – 1,000 fixes for ten pounds or roughly $15.
- Unlimited Fixes – For 30 pounds or approximately $46.
Speaking of fixes, my primarily navigational comment is thus: introduce the concept of “fixes” on the home page. “Fixes” are cool, but initially, when I saw the “Buy Fixes” tab on the navigation bar, I was confused. To some, “fixes” may have a negative connotation, implying, of course, there’s something screwy going on. It’s Microsoft’s legacy. Of course, I quickly realized that “fixes” were their term for, “get album artwork“, once I read the page. It’d be great if this concept was explained or describe in some of the text on the homepage. Also: at the end of the day, Bliss is more than just album art; it’s a way to organize your music. That is a nifty idea in theory – who doesn’t want to be more organized? – and I think there is room to explicitly show this improved organization on the site, perhaps on the Features page; say, highlight other ways in which you can search for or display album art. Basically, dial up any other ways Bliss further organizes music. It also probably couldn’t hurt to include a tutorial video in a future iteration as well.
At the end of the day, despite my Luddite leanings (I don’t drive a car; I get around using a one-man rickshaw), I must say, the MP3 is pretty cool. But with anything in digital age, a little bit of that analog magic is lost, and the sheer number of MP3s, even more so than a dusty box of records, can get unwieldy. Bliss’ rules-based music organization makes the digital experience less frustrating. And by resurrecting the lost art of album art, it takes you back to the good old days of skipping school, cranking up KISS in an abandoned parking lot, and “hanging out” in the woods. Ahh, I miss the ’70s.