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    ARIA Popular Classical Music

It has been a busy month in March, so much so that we felt the need to share an update halfway through the month (see Now twice as good)!

We’ve taken a giant step forward with a reformat of our website and – at last – getting a decent player app onto the site to allow you to enjoy our music through your phone and computer, wherever you are.  Let’s talk about that first.

Web Player

This has really been a terribly limiting issue and astonishingly more complex to resolve than you might think.  Surely there’s nothing unusual or unique in wanting our streaming music to be able to be played and heard through our website!

The web player we’d been using looks nice and works well, but it was incompatible with all mobile phones!  Oooops!!!  We’ve not managed to persuade the developers to resolve this programming/design limitation on their part, and because this is such an important element of our service, we’ve been slow and cautious in selecting an alternate player that truly will be better in all respects and work with all types of devices.

After many false starts and disappointments, we’ve now happy with what we’ve chosen.  You should find it works, no matter what browser or device you’re using.  If there are remaining challenges, please of course let us know.

Meta Data

Now that we have settled on a web player interface, the need to ensure accurate and understandable meta data has become more pressing.

By meta data we mean information about the composer and composition, and about the performers, with ideally, some sort of relevant image displaying as well.  We have some information displaying but will be working on improving the presentation of this data over the next few months.  Particularly with much of every day having no presenter (we currently have hosted music between 7a – 11a and between 7p – 11p, US central time) it is helpful for you to have somewhere that will tell you what is playing, any time you want to know this.  We’re hoping to add a page with “recently played” songs listed too, but that has not yet had the bugs worked out.

Music Selection and Flow

We continue to add more of our 50,000+ pieces of music into our regular schedules.  This gives us more pieces to choose from every time, and to help us make the best choices from the growing alternates, we’ve also  added over 30 additional programming rules that are considered each time we select a piece of music, in terms of how it fits into the sequence of pieces both before and afterwards.  We have not added the applicable attributes to every piece of music yet, but we are moving slowly forward on that front.

As a result, programming a single hour of music, typically containing about 10 pieces of music, currently involves testing something like 5,000 different potential combinations of pieces of music to get what we feel to be a good fit and flow of pieces.  And – yes – doing this does take a lot of time for us and requires not just one but two high powered computers!

Are we getting into the area of diminishing returns with our music programming, now that we consider something like 100 different attributes for the suitability of piece of music we play and when/where it should play?  Possibly.  But that’s not a reason to stop gently improving the music flow, it just means that we’ve switched from an awkward series of pieces strung together with sometimes painful clashes of style to something that now feels like it belongs together more naturally.

We continue to hear things that could – can be tweaked and improved.  These are things of the nature of “We shouldn’t be hearing this because we heard (some other closely related piece) just a short while ago”, or “Ugh – this piece of music clashes with the piece we played before”, or even more vague and subjective “This flow of songs is starting to sound all the same, we need some more variety here”.

We’re making progress, literally one song at a time.  Please continue to give us your thoughts and suggestions.

Getting Better Known

With these continuing improvements we are starting to expose ourselves slightly more publicly.  We’ve shifted a popular article series from one of our other websites to here, in the hope/expectation that this might bring in a bit of “organic search traffic”, which might then lead to more listeners and a bit more momentum.

Our feeling is that, for some groups of potential listeners, we have only one chance to catch their interest, and so we are hesitating to make a bolder and more public release of our service yet.  But that gets us into a chicken and egg situation – which comes first?  Listeners and support, or the programming to gain both?

Whatever the answer, we are happy for now simply to observe that we leave March with a better “sound” for you than when we started it.  We hope you agree, and – as always – thank you for being a listener and part of our evolution.

Written by: David Rowell

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