I’ve been using Apple Music for a little more than a week now and here are my thoughts on it. With Spotify, Rdio and other being around for several years, Apple was entering the streaming music business late. Internet radio is about all I’ve done in the streaming music arena. I use my iTunes Match subscription as a backup instead of a cloud-based music service for my iPhone. I was curious about Apple Music, and with a three-month trial, why not try it out.
The initial set up was initially cute. It uses the Beats app interface to select artists and music genres you like. The cuteness wore off after trying to load and select more options. The little bubbles were hard to move around, and after a while the screen got so crowded that they didn’t move anymore. I could see this interface working for the initial set up; however, to augment your choices later, a more list-like view might be faster.
Similar to Khoi Vinh, I expected Apple Music to take advantage of the years of data in my iTunes Library that was stored in iCloud (by using iTunes Match). I have been syncing plays between devices, so Apple has data to work with. Surely some intelligent algorithm could have done something with that.
For You and Connect
After the set up was done, I began playing with the For You and Connect options. For You showed me lots of things from the people and genres I’d chosen when I started – all good there. The playlists here solved a big pain point for me when searching around the iTunes Store – finding what’s good. Both the automatically generated and curated playlists have given me a great way to easily find new music I’m going to like. This is true even for artists I’ve been following for years. I’ve been listening to the playlists a lot. This area seems pretty well done.
Connect is a little social network for all the artists and genres that you chose at setup, and the system automatically follows them for you. This gives you some content to see right off the bat, which is good. At the beginning of the week, the content wasn’t so voluminous; however, as the week has gone on, artists are slowly getting content up there. I feel that Apple missed an opportunity by not including content from the artists’ other social networks. If it ingested content from Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, there would be even more content to look at. The behind-the-scenes content and early releases would still make Connect unique, but you could experience much more from the artist. It feels like another case of Apple creating a walled garden that could die like Ping from lack of interest.
I listened to Beats 1 for a little bit. I’ve listened to Zane Lowe for a few years when he was at Radio 1. I couldn’t really get into the station. Like with a lot of radio that plays several genres, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get. I’ll probably listen to it now and then, but For You is where I’ll spend most of my time.
Next to each song or album, there is a heart icon. Tapping it tells Apple Music that you like it, and it refines what music is shown to you in For You. I’ve found it to work pretty well. I listen to a lot of different music – pop to classical to grime – and letting me easily say I like something and see it reflected in my lists encourages me to use it more. Rating songs seems to have no effect; I wish it did, I’ve spent a lot of time rating songs.
For those of us who have our iTunes libraries and lots of purchased music, the integrated environment is a big benefit. If I already have the song, Apple Music uses my copy. I can add playlists and songs to my iTunes and they are then available whenever I want to listen. I like how it’s all integrated like this.
When you set up the service, it reads your playlists and iTunes Library to make the data available through iCloud Music Library. Unfortunately, it made duplicates of every playlist that was already on my iPhone when I signed up. Now I had the original playlist and a new one with a ‘1’ appended. Apple always seems to screw up stuff like this. With their vast army of engineers, this really shouldn’t happen. In addition to the duplicates, some of my templates didn’t make it to the iCloud Library. To get them to show up, I had to rename them. This triggered iCloud to update itself. Pretty lame, to be honest.
Now that I have it set up and have “hearted” a few things, it’s suggesting more and better music. This is just what you want to see happen. Except for the playlist issue, the integration with my purchased music and iTunes is nice. I understood why people like the streaming services; however, its integration with the music I already own means I’ll probably stick with it after the trial ends.