capsule review

iConcertCal 1.1

With Daylight Saving Time in effect so early this year, music lovers can be forgiven for thinking ahead to a favorite summer-evening tradition: concerts. Chances are, at least a few of your favorite musical acts are coming to your area to perform live under the stars (or the stage lights). But how to you find out when? One clever way is iConcertCal’s eponymous iTunes plug-in, iConcertCal 1.1 (   ).

After installing iConcertCal and then relaunching iTunes, you go to iTunes’ View menu and choose Visualizer: iConcertCal. Then turn on iTunes’ Visualizer (by choosing View: Turn On Visualizer or pressing Command+T). The main iTunes window area will be replaced by a two-pane concert calendar: on the left, a scrolling list, in chronological order, of events; on the right, a large calendar with artist names displayed on the date(s) they’ll be playing in your area. (If the calendar is smaller than your iTunes window, choose a larger Visualizer size in iTunes’ View menu.)

Of course, you’ll want to tell iConcertCal exactly where your area is. You do this by typing your city and state into the City and State fields in the upper left of the calendar display; you can also restrict the listing to venues within a certain distance of your location. (Oddly, these fields don’t look editable until you click on them.) In the screenshot above, I’ve chosen Cupertino, CA with a radius of 75 miles. Once you do this, iConcertCal will update its event calendar once a week. (If you live outside the U.S., put your country in the State box and your city in the City box; Canadians should put their province in the State box.)

Move your mouse cursor over an artist name and the date and location of that concert, along with the opening acts, will be displayed at the top of the iTunes window. Click on an artist name and you’ll go to information about that event on the Web—iConcertCal gets its concert info mainly from, but also from regional sites such as The List and Tour Filter. You can quickly toggle between iTunes’ normal display and the latest concert info by pressing Command+T.

"Interesting,” you may be thinking, “but why is this an iTunes visualizer as opposed to, say, a shared iCal calendar?” I have to admit, putting concert schedules inside iTunes, rather than on the Web or in a calendar app, seems a bit odd. (Then again, you’re most likely to be thinking about going to concerts when you’re actually listening to your favorite music.) But this interaction with iTunes is actually what’s unique about iConcertCal. You see, it bases its events listing on the contents of your iTunes library—it looks at all the artists in your library and then searches for upcoming performances by those artists.

What if you want to see concerts for artists not in your iTunes Library? You just create a text file listing any such artists, one artist per line, and save it as ~/Library/iTunes/iConcertCal/ iConcertCalOtherBands.txt . The next time you relaunch iTunes, iConcertCal will list events featuring those artists, as well.

Conversely, if you have music in your iTunes library from bands you’d never want to see live, you can restrict iConcertCal’s calendar to particular artists. To do so, you create a new playlist in iTunes called iConcertCal and then add at least one track from each artist you’d be interested in seeing. The next time you relaunch iTunes, iConcertCal will list only performances by those artists (along with those in your iConcertCalOtherBands.txt list, of course). The interesting thing here is that this iConcertCal playlist can be a smart playlist; for example, you could have it list only tracks you’ve rated with four or five stars—thus creating a list of artists whose music you really like.

iConcertCal does have a few drawbacks. The most significant is that because iConcertCal gets its data from external sources, it includes only shows listed on those Web sites. (iConcertCal used to access, as well, an additional source that increased the comprehensiveness of iConcertCal’s display, but when Pollstar demanded a fee, the site was dropped. The developer of iConcertCal claims this hasn’t affected listings that much, and that updates to iConcertCal will include additional sites.) Another drawback is that if you’re actually a fan of an opening act, rather than the headliner, it’s not easy to find performances in iConcertCal, since only the headliners are visible by default; you have to mouse over each headliner name to view the opening acts—a tedious process.

Finally, I experienced a couple iTunes crashes while navigating the concert calendar. According to the developer, this is a known issue that occurs if your default settings for iTunes’ Visualizer (found in the Advanced screen of iTunes Preferences) include having Display Visualizer Full Screen enabled and the Visualizer Size set to something other than Large. Indeed, after changing my settings I didn’t experience any more problems.

iConcertCal is a unique and fun add-on for iTunes—and one that, for many people, finally puts iTunes’ Visualizer feature to use.

iConcertCal requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later and the latest version of iTunes.

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