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The Internet As a Cassette Deck

NMC/Radio and Records eChart main column as published in the 1/12/01 issue of R&R Growing up in Cleveland, listening to WIXY/1260, The Big 1220/WGAR, and G98, I spent a lot of formative years doing part of what I'd end up doing as a career: production and dubbing and dreaming of becoming a star.

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Then, I'd use my GE piano key cassette decks to tape my favorite songs off the radio, pretending I was Mike Ranieri or Tim Byrd or the Real Bob James, dubbing songs and reading DBX literature to figure out how to minimize noise.

If my daughters ever decide to do that, they'll find it a lot easier. In markets from Albany to Youngstown, booting your computer and using software called SongCatcher (http://www.songcatcher.com) will do the trick. On the 1100 stations that are covered by BDS, the SongCatcher software will capture data on songs you like, then grab them from the air, just as you hear them - and that means with the trails of station imaging on top of intros, jocks in and out, etc. It's an exact replica of the taping process of my youth, except it's all automated.

It's a two step process, actually: you hook up a radio to the sound inputs on your PC (no Mac, yet), let it listen to a day's worth of radio, all of which gets stored on your hard drive. Compressed, you'll need about 1.5 gigs to handle 24 hours of taping. Then, you cull the songs you want, chopping out the rest from your haul.

Dave Creagh, VP and GM of Audio Products for Gotuit, SongCatcher's creator, says that a talk version is in the works. How would they do it without BDS-like data available on the human voice? How would they index Rush's or Howard's missives? "We'd actually hire people to listen and make real-time markers with comments on the topic. That becomes our metadata on talk shows." I can't wait just to read NewsCatcher's topic list on Howard.

The software is free for 45 days, after which you can pay about 30 bucks a year for no ads and the ability to save your song selections as MP3s. "Also, there's no peer to peer relationship here with other Songcatcher users," says Creagh, sidestepping the Napster issue completely. Although with any software that allows a file to be created, the company has no plans to allow for any file sharing whatsoever. "We're all about doing what we can to help people time shift their favorite music on the radio, not violate copyright law."

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