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Unigon Plane

Collector's Edition Media Center

We are an Enterprise level Coder and a former Salesman with
a passion for design and music.

We found that media players are wanting. We set out to solve that for ourselves and realied that there is a hole in the market
for something that does things better.

Rethinking the Media Player

Allowing the Collector to enjoy their collection just as much on the computer as in the real world.

The Problem

Computer based media players make it very hard to peruse and find music in the same way that a passionate collector interfaces with their real-world collection. Because everything becomes very “flat”, being displayed on only one arbitrary parameter like Alphabetical or Genre, all sense of depth leaves the collection. Very few true music collectors store in alphabetical order.

In the real world, a collection is generally arranged based on a several “fuzzy” criteria based on the Logical & Emotive connections made by the collector. Most collections are grouped by not only a sense of Genre but also other points of connection like vibe, common players and even personal emotive memories like a teenage lover playing those two records. 

The flat landscape of a typical media player takes none of these connections into account which leaves the collector feeling flat about their passion as it is hard to find what the right record to play/ play next should be as the cover flow is so unlike the 3D map a collector builds in their head. Moving from one album to another is sparked off where things are in their collection and that web of connections that are unique to the collector. Yet any two dedicated collectors can look at another collection and start to feel the connections.

While many media players now try to create some sense of connection that is normally only done from the axis of time and commonly connected artists e.g. a Journey record would offer Foreigner, Styx & maybe REO Speedwagon, simply because they share the MOR/AOR tag as well as years of having hits. While partially useful this doesn’t take into account why a collector may choose to follow that Journey record with a Tangerine Dream or Kraftwerk album; or even a Sex Pistols record.

The other problem is that most media players really see the Song as the core unit of the database whereas a collector will see the Album as the core unit, with songs being the sub-unit. If they get a hankering for a song , most collectors will play the whole album the song is part of rather than just tossing that song on alone, or in a playlist.

A great temptation in the modern media player is to hit Shuffle All Songs, I feel that this greatly diminishes the value of the collection to the collector as songs are spat out completely randomly with no sense of connection at all. Randomness devalues the whole sense of collection and connection that are the very essence of any collection (whether stamps or records). While Shuffle can have some value it should be presented with more care and options.

The Idea

A music collector’s collection is essentially a database in their mind that they lay out as a loose representation in the real world. The connections between albums are like data strings that touch one or many nodes. These things are not difficult to see as a comparison to a standard business database that allows several points of access to the same piece of data.

The tricky thing is that a collector thinks in several dimensions with his emotive choices which also shift the importance of data points based on current events or other data available and active at the time. This can make one record a good choice today but a poor one tomorrow. It can also make one record a good choice from several places that may not seem obvious using only Year and/or Genre.

I have spoken to several collectors who have most Queen records together but The Works (and Hot Space if they bought it) in another location as they feel it better represents another vibe than the classic chunky, bombastic 70’s Rock that Queen is generally known for. A media player fails to allow for those decisions.

When playing Doobie Brothers early Best Of collection I am likely to play something else Rock or Country but when playing Doobie Brothers “Minute By Minute” album the more appropriate options are things like Dragon “Body & The Beat” or Bertie Higgins “Just Another Day in Paradise” album as all three have a subtle summery feel from a similar sense of lyrics and production.

The other thing that happens is a collector will jump from one connection to another so Doobies leads to Dragon (summer) leads to Mi Sex (Oz Rock) leads to Real Life (also Oz Rock and New Romantic/Synth Pop) leads to Duran Duran (New Romantic/Synth Pop) leads to Spandau Ballet (New Romantic)… This can take several leaps within a few seconds of conscious or unconscious connection so Doobie Brothers “Minute By Minute” calls for the seemingly unrelated Human League “Dignity of Labour” EP as the perfect expression of the next moment.

The other often overlooked value of a collection is in the ritual of choosing and playing an album. Media players are usually all about convenience (and this is generally right) but strip away the ritual comforts or finding the right next album, pulling it from the collection, handling the cover and record/CD and returning it after the album has played. This creates space and reverence between each selection that the “Music Non Stop” of the media player demolishes. 

There is a possible solution in using the database combined with a bit of Artificial Intelligence thinking to copy the ways that a collector thinks to build a media player that goes at least some of the way towards acting like a real-world collection.

Mobirise

The Actual Solution

As is so easy to do, you see we started to make the cardinal mistake of thinking that technology could improve on us. Improve on the human brain. The solution was far simpler. 


How we understand, catalog & interface with our collectons is not like doing maths, only faster. If it was, layers of A.I. would have made sense but as the demise of some of the web radio players at the very moment that kids are starting to buy vinyl & even cassettes shows us, the human brain is both more complex & simpler at the same time. People want to feel in control of their collections and how they consume them. 

The actual solution was very simple in the end. I'd love to say that I came up with it first but it was Jane; she said "What if we let people arrange the albums on screen as they like?" 

I kinda liked the idea but it seemed like a nightmare. Some time later Jane said it again only this time just as I'm giving the same response, I thought of Crates. I said, "What if we could drag records to crates instead of having to try to drag across the whole collection?"  

As simple as that, we realized that while the whole A.I. idea sounded uber-cool it was like building forms, the builder loves it but the filler-inner hates it. Collectors already arrange their record collection in the real world based on criteria that is like crates so why not offer exactly that as it is essentially the same solution as albums sit beside other albums that make sense to the collector? 

A Music Player that lets you Arrange Your Collection your way 

Collector's Edition from Unigon Plane Version 1.0 expected late 2018

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