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April 25, 2019

Expand your musical universe in sixty seconds flat

So it’s already April, which somehow scored the three biggest holidays of the year. Seriously, March and August have got to be facepalming themselves with frustration, wondering how April got all the coolness. What other month do you pay the piper, fool the piper, and smoke the piper all within a thirty-day blur?

It also means April happens to be the perfect time to talk about how we’ve added a bit more kick to our already-tasty TIDAL x Plex musical brew with some spicy new enhancements. And to demonstrate exactly how smooth and flavorful this cocktail is, watch as we serve it up to an unsuspecting music aficionado whose universe – and quite possibly his very conception of reality – is about to be completely rocked in sixty seconds flat.

by Hugh Newell

In which we introduce Hector, the hero of our story

Meet my friend Hector. He’s what you call a musician’s musician. As well as a fan’s fan. And of course he’s also a waiter’s waiter because, well, the first two things.

Anyway, Hector has been using Plex for well on three and a half years. And he likes to tell me (in between the amuse bouche and the antipasto courses at the rather delicious Italian restaurant he’s working at) that he loves Plex and has tweaked all of his album art to make his library a living monument to Shag (the artist, not the carpet, though at a certain point in the evening it all kinda becomes one and the same in an ouroboros sorta way). After he sweeps away our garlic-soaked crumbs, Hector declares that he is a huge fan of Steely Dan (the band, not William S. Burrough’s prop that, er, electrifies the masterful Naked Lunch).

And I say to him (YES WITH MY MOUTH FULL BECAUSE THIS POINT IS THAT IMPORTANT) “Sure, right, you’re a big Steely Dan fan. But does your library have ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Movies (Demo Version)’?

And he stares down at his fancy Italian leather shoes and you can see his face turn the slightest shade of primavera red, and being the kinda guy who doesn’t want to embarrass friends and waiters, I said, “Hey Nineteen, don’t feel Deacon blue.” Two quick song title references helped lighten the mood up a Peg. “I can show you how you can complete your collection in like 60 seconds.”

Hector’s all like, “You’re on.” (But he says it with an Italian accent, because you know, this is a really nice Italian restaurant where everyone speaks with an Italian accent). He continues, “I’ve Plexed my van. It’s out back.”

I say “Oh, you mean like now, now?”

“Yup. I’ve got 60 seconds before table 12 gets their spumoni.” And then he drops his voice a whole 12 tone octave, and says in a gravelly Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western sort of way: “Or is your whole ‘Plex is the greatest ultra-hi-fidelity music augmentation experience the world has ever known’ claim just a bunch of marketing bunk?”

A mid-meal wager is placed

Ladies and gentlemen, it was on. And that’s how approximately 22 seconds later, I found myself in Hector’s van betwixt my primo and secondo. I told my dining companion to pick out a nice victory red from the wine list whilst I was away. That’s how real this just got.

Yes, I got into the van

Now, don’t worry – this van was one of those strangely nice Sprinter style vans that had been retrofitted into a #vanlife sort of vibe that you see popping up on the Instagrams of ultra-hip and attractive people who are also seemingly deeply under-employed. Rest assured, Hector had a halfway decent wifi connection, as well as a rather impressively decorated iPad Air.

So, just to be clear, despite the preceding set up, it was not weird. Or at least, not that weird. Now, did Hector have a few pet reptiles in his van? Maybe yes. But putting Hector in jeopardy with US Customs for the unlicensed importation of exotic reptiles is not the point of this post. It’s the transformation of Hector’s Plex music library (and by extension his entire way of life) in a scant 60 seconds – that’s the point of this post. So let’s stop obsessing about the little purple chameleons, okay?

Pulling out a suspiciously placed old-timey stop watch from his trouser pocket, Hector nodded to me, and said, “Do your thing, magic man.” Now to be clear, that’s not my actual name, but given that I was on the clock, I didn’t want to waste time clarifying my bona fides. We had a library to augment and a mind to blow, after all.

Enter an ocean of music

So, first thing we did after Hector started his big nickel-plated stop watch (that looked exactly like the one from 60 MINUTES that you see before Andy Rooney starts to rant about how he can never find a stapler when he’s in the bathroom) was to launch the Plex app on his iPad.

Cool, we’re just 4 seconds in and already halfway there. Then I said, “Okay, show me The Dan.” And he navigated to his Steely Dan collection for me, and if I could just give Hector some props, it was an IMPRESSIVE display of custom album art. He was truly a master curator. Okay, enough with the praise, I got a secondo to start.

His Steely Dan library prior to massive Plex augmentation looked like this:

And then while he was talking about that one time he almost met Shag at a gallery in Silver Lake, I told Hector to go to plex.tv/music and click on the Get 30 Days Free button to activate his TIDAL x Plex trial. He shot me a classic left eyebrow arch and asked the timeless question: “Bro, you sure?”

And I said to him, “Absolument, mon frère.” Which isn’t Italian because I took French in high school, but he got the gist anyway. “First month is free, so if it doesn’t turn you on, you can always turn it off. No harm, no foul.”

Hungry for a FLAC attack

So, on the Plex website, Hector chose the HiFi edition for his free trial, which delivers something like sixty million tracks in FLAC format, plus 250,000 music videos.

I smiled: “Check out your new Dan, man.”

And lo and behold gentle reader, when his Steely Dan page refreshed (remind you, we’re only at 18 seconds into this 60 second challenge), he saw this:

Hector gave me a look that said, “Oh my ever-loving god, what black magic is this?” I shot him back a look that implied, “Oh, I guess you just completed your collection with a single click.”

I casually Venn-diagrammed the concept of awesomeness

And now we’re at 24 seconds, so I decided to do a little showboating. “Scroll past the TIDAL ALBUMS and you’ll see PLEX RECOMMENDATIONS ON TIDAL.” Hector pondered the list. “Wait. That’s not Steely Dan. Who are these guys? ”

By way of response, I held onto his shoulder, stuck my arm in front of both of us, and did that majestic hand-sweeping-thing in front of his face like Howard Hughes introducing the Spruce Goose: “These are all the artists who sound like Steely Dan but…” and this but was so significant i had to say it twice, “… but you don’t have in your library. Yet.” I enunciated the final word in my best movie trailer voice. We both shivered. But it could have been his wicked powerful sub-arctic AC he modded his van with.

Seriously, is he transporting organs in this thing?

Discover musical discovery with our nifty discovering tools

And then at 35 seconds into this process of meta-musical transcendence (it was Easter Sunday after all), I said, “Go ahead and click on Discovery Radio button. This is the music that is guaranteed not to be in your library, but similar to the songs that are already in your library. It’s like discovering a parallel universe of music that you already love.”

He whispered to me like we’ve finally laid eyes on a golden Idol hidden in the far reaches of a spider-infested cave, “So I can get my Dan on without listening to Steely Dan?” And I do that classic move where I create a Venn diagram out of a handy set of tropical mango-scented Sharpies. “Think of Discovery Radio as your favorite band’s favorite tracks – that you’ve never heard of.”

“My favorite’s favorites…” muttered Hector. And I chuckled knowingly to myself: Hombre, we haven’t even begun to explore the cosmos of augmentation possibilities.

Can an augmented music library actually win back your ex-girlfriend? We report, you decide

I continued to take him down the rabbit hole with me. “Now get ready for some brand new features we’re launching this week on Android mobile & TV, Apple TV, iPhone and iPad, according to the details on our support site.” In a burst of anticipation, Hector raised his eyebrows like two fuzzy caterpillars, which immediately caught the attention of his little chameleon friends. It was cute and weird all at the same time – such is #vanlife I suppose.

I continued, “Go to an artist that you’ve only added one album from, probably because your ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend says he was kinda into them that one time you ran into the two love-birds at the Flea Market and you just wanted to see what kinda stuff this new guy was made of.”

And Hector said with grim determination, “Yeah. That’d be The Mars Volta.”

I thought to myself, man you are never winning your ex-girlfriend back from a guy with strong music taste like that, but I kept this insight to myself because that’s not my journey in life, nor my quest in the back of this van. To reiterate: my singular goal is to expand minds and augment libraries. And so that’s what I did.

“Cool. Now look up that Mars Volta in your new augmented Plex, and show me what you got.” And Hector did so and grinned like he’s just made a hole-in-one in the golf course of life. “Instantly add a few of those deep cuts to your library and blast them outside your ex-girlfriend’s house sometime.” And he looked at me and said “Add them?” And I was all like, “Yep. You can now add albums from TIDAL right to your native Plex library.”

And now all eyes turn to thee, Artist TV

And before he could even process that wizardry, I one-upped myself by hitting him with yet another crazy super-power we’re launching this week. “So you know how you got your Artist Radio? Well now you got Artist TV too on Android mobile & TV, Apple TV, iOS devices.”

He was like, what the freak? And even though we only had 12 seconds remaining, I said, “Yep, turn it on and crank it up!” And then boom, he had Steely Dan TV, right there in his van. It’s like Total Request Live from the old days, but instead of being in Times Square with the dangerously low energy Carson Daly, it’s now in the palm of your hand. Or on the wall of your home. Or on the front of your, uh, tablet. Anyway, you get the picture.

You could say Hector’s jaw dropped. Because it did. Which is why you can say that. Because this post, my friends, is 100% fact-based journalism. The features by which Hector’s Steely Dan-loving mind were blown are available to you as well. Just try it out. And might I repeat our mantra? If it doesn’t turn you on, you can always turn it off.

About that victory glass of red wine…

So as I slid back into the restaurant booth, our Branzino arrived (bone-in because it’s that kinda joint) and I smiled at my dining companion. If only she knew the magical worlds Hector and I had just spelunked through in the van.

To be clear, this is not an April Fool’s story, nor is it a tale powered by 420, nor even is it a special top secret government weapons-grade robotic augmentation project that your mighty tax dollars are funding. Nope. It’s just the same awesome Plex you use and love every month of the year. And now especially in April.

Cheers, and as always hit us up in the comments below with your thoughts, tip o’ the hats, shakes o’ the fists, and recommendations on the best Tiramisu joints or camper van rehab Instagram feeds.

no photoshopping was involved in the creation of this photo

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