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The Failure of Apple Music, Might Really Be iTunes


Apple Music was not meant to take over the streaming world. With a fairly low-key launch Apple announced that their new streaming music service (once called iTunes Radio) was now going to be Apple Music. They made a big show of their 24/7 Beats One Radio program as well, with, GET THIS, live DJs. Wow.

Instead, with Apple Music they pretty much left iTunes in shabby shape and bolted on some streaming capacity and a radio station.

The reality is, as my three-month anniversary is nearing, I’m not going to renew my Apple Music subscription. I’m guessing a whole ton of other people feel the same way. It was an interesting start but the experience was marred by the interface and trying to understand just what Apple Music was and how to invoke its magic streaming station from a song Pandora trick. It didn’t work for me. Again, the failure may have been more a problem with iTunes in general, and Apple’s attempt to bolt this new idea onto the old structure. They wanted to make iTunes new again, but the polish and sparkle has actually made iTunes harder to use.

Here’s the problem with iTunes. If you are a purchaser and collector of music, keeping iTunes in-sync and organized is difficult. I suppose for kids who will never buy a music collection, streaming and more streaming is a great option. As long as their parents are paying for their data plan, what could be the problem? Well, that moment in the airplane when you lose connectivity, but they’ve got some other media downloaded to watch at that time. For me, my massive on-disc MP3 and FLAC collection is spread across several hard drives. Even today, on my MBP, I have a substantial percentage of space committed to my music collection.

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And I have a bigger problem than that.

With my music growing bigger than my storage capacity on this machine, I occasionally have to split things up and take non-essential music off to a backup drive. And when iTunes loses track of things I often wind up with album track lists that look like this.

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And occasionally it will take me several attempts to find the track that actually exists.

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But that’s after several of these.

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So why doesn’t iTunes have a simple way to reconnect with missing files (all of them at once) or deduplicate tracks? Apple hasn’t had to work to hard on iTunes lately. And it’s easy, because they have no viable competition for hd-based music on iOS or OSX. It is a shame that our music libraries are forced into such a dated and uncooperative software program. But Apple had a chance, with a NEW music app release, something called Apple Music, to reinvent the wheel. Make everyone happy.

Instead, with Apple Music they pretty much left iTunes in shabby shape and bolted on some streaming capacity and a radio station. For the money Apple spent to buy Beats and Beats One Radio I would’ve hoped a revolution in music and our music app was coming. I was sadly disappointed.

Today managing any substantial library of music within iTunes is a nightmare. If you don’t mind watching the pinwheel of death appear every time you try to make a change, like deleting those to extra tracks per track on The Shins record above. The same type of nag screen comes up and then the pinwheel of death. A 15 – 2o second pause where you can’t do anything but watch the little hypnotic ball is quit maddening.

You’re better off deleting The Shins all together, waiting for the pinwheel pause, and then reimporting The Shins from their current location and again waiting for the pinwheel.


OPTION ONE: Apple could keep revising the Apple Music / iTunes cluster fk over the next few years and leave us all in this hypnotic and frustrating state. Meanwhile, they will not take many customers from Spotify or Pandora, as was their plan with Apple Music.

OPTION TWO: Apple could BUY Pandora for their streaming and curated playlist content. Let that be their streaming service. Add a few features like being able to hear an entire album, if available. But why reinvent such coolness when it already exists and you’ve got 147 BILLION in cash reserves. And while they are at it, rather than advertising on Shazam for music recognition, why not buy them? If Apple wanted to dominate the music portion of their consumer electronics world they could, but that’s not their plan.

Apple sells expensive computing devices and consumer electronics equipment. And while they do make some money on iTunes and selling music, it’s a tiny fraction of their overall revenue. On the other hand, they need a music player and some music systems for their entire iOS and OSX platforms. Today they are piddling around with a crappy product and an even more confusing implementation.

OPTION THREE: Apple can do nothing. And we can hope for a third-party app that would allow us terrestrial music collectors to manage and sync our libraries across multiple devices without so much hassle and pinwheel watching. Is there a killer music app on Android? (That’s a legitimate question.) If so, maybe they could bring it to iOS and make some more money. I’d really appreciate it.

For now Apple Music is a bust. iTunes while frustrating is the only game in town for iPhones. Let’s see where Apple goes next. Maybe the Apple TV could finally become the home automation/entertainment platform we’ve been waiting for. If it’s using iTunes and Apple Music, we’re still a long way off. Even Siri can’t fix the broken iTunes interface.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

what some other people are saying about Apple Music:

How Streaming Music Sucks the Life Out of Music


Caveat: Let me be clear. It’s not the streaming that’s the issue. It’s the royalties paid primarily to the BIG artists and almost zero to the small artists. Stream OK, but BUY THE MUSIC YOU LOVE. Support the musicians themselves and not just the mega-corp labels, lawyers, and streaming companies.


I know it’s an old broken record and you’re tired of hearing about it. But your streaming habits are killing musician’s livelihood. What’s to be done?

Oh we musicians, we shouldn’t be trying to make a living making music anyway. That’s for the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world. Right? Fk that. The new “streaming” paradigm for music enjoyment is killing those of us engaged in making it. Well, unless we’re just doing it for a hobby.

Today, kids don’t have to buy any albums. They don’t have to give a single dime to any musical artist. With streaming services they never have to buy a song.

Some of my favorite local artists are starving musicians. If they were dependent on the revenue from their recorded music, they would starve to death. Most of them have “jobs” or have found a way to make an additional business out of their musical talents. But the change in the music business has hurt them. And no, Apple Music and Taylor Swift are not going to help any of us.

Here’s the way things used to work.

Like a band. Hear a band on the radio, in a club, on someone else’s stereo. Seek out that band and buy their music for your devices. When it was albums and cassettes everyone was reasonably happy. The record companies made music. They got royalties from the blank cassette manufacturers. And the artists, if they had a reasonable deal, got some money for their efforts. Even in the good old days, record deals were not paying the musicians living wages, they were giving them an opportunity to go out on the road and sell some tickets and in the process sell some records. The machine was happy when both happened. And if you were successful you could make another record.

How Apple changed everything with iTunes and iPods.

Digital music has not been around all that long. And yes, it does sound different. But when I first realised I could take my entire record collection (a sizable wall at the time) around with me in a device the size of a deck of cards, I was thrilled beyond belief. Some of us really love music. And we’re always looking for the perfect song for the perfect moment. And having those epiphanies were like spiritual-aural magic tricks. DJs at parties were judged by the tracks they played, the order, and the flow of the moment.

As we began to buy music from iTunes, the royalties for records began to dry up. Big record companies folded or were bought by other big record companies. Now there are exactly THREE big record companies. Everyone else is an indie. And as the industry consolidated, partially forced by jobs level pricing (.99 per track) but also because of the “singles” phenomenon. Kids began buying just the song they wanted off iTunes rather than the entire album. And if the album isn’t dead today, it’s dead for all but the most intense fans and fans with pocket change to spare.

So the royalties dried up, the big labels consolidated to protect their empires. And sites like Napster popped up and flooded the web with FREE COPIES of any song you ever wanted to hear. And just as it appeared the industry and consumer were at least making a pact, in came streaming services.

Today, kids don’t have to buy any albums. They don’t have to give a single dime to any musical artist. With streaming services they never have to buy a song. They only have to worry if they don’t have good cell connection or if they’ve maxed out their parents digital data plan. Sure, Spotify pays artists. And Apple Music will pay artists. BUT… And this is a big one.

BUT, the artists making money on Spotify are the same ones managed by the BIG THREE music companies. Under the Digital Copyright law, via the same “fair use” clause that radio stations use, streaming services can stream any album, unless explicitly requested not to do so, without paying any specific artist any money. The money collected by Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music goes into the big royalty payment systems ASCAP and SESCAC. And those agencies distribute the real money based on catalog and historical business.

The Artist Royalty companies are in on the deal too. And they pay out the money, but 90% of it goes to the big back catalogs of The Stones, The Eagles, Led Zep, U2, and any other supergroup who would lawyer up if any of the money stopped flowing. The Record Companies are still getting their piece of the action and so is Pink Floyd. But local artists and favorites like Sara Hickman and Darden Smith and getting monthly royalty checks in the single digits. And they have substantial catalogs of fantastic songs.

What’s the Plan?

So for the consumer today, a decision has to be made in favor of your artists and away from you cellphone companies and streaming music companies. By paying Spotify or Apple Music their $10 a month fee, you are dutifully paying the Stones for their hard work while starving most of the artists you care about. And your data plan is now your music tax.

A better plan:

  1. Buy music.
  2. Put that music on your phone. (why give the money to your cell provider?)
  3. Don’t stream it, listen to it in 320bps MP3 fidelity.

Well, if you really want to go crazy, go buy an album or cd and play it through real speakers rather than earbuds. Wow, you’re going to be amazed how much more music there is to music when you take out the earbuds.

Don’t Stream Music / Buy Music.

Love Your Musicians Like You Love Your Music.

Here’s where my music lives. Buzzie on CD Baby it’s also on iTunes and Play, but not on Spotify.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
image: record player, martin fisch, creative commons usage

Sorry to Say It: Yep, Apple Music Sucks

With all the fanfare they could muster, Apple entered the streaming music market a month ago, and the verdict is mixed. Mostly, the verdict has been “meh.” But I’m beginning to see the chorus of posts claiming how bad Apple Music is. And it’s time to weigh in, even if briefly.

Apple Music Sucks.

It’s not a Spotify or Pandora killer. It’s not going to be a great salvation for us musicians who are stupefied by our tiny royalty checks from spotify or Apple Play. (think $0.00014 per stream) Even top musicians, that I know, are getting $2 monthly royalty checks off successful catalogs. Okay, but what’s so bad about Apple Music?

It’s confusing. 

Is Apple Music this Beats One radio thing? I could care less about streaming radio. DJ’s, talk, funny people, and some music. I don’t do radio at all. So Beats One is a bust for me. Beats One appears to be Apple going for cool, going for trendy, going for fashion and entertainment and zeitgeist and stuff. No thanks.

Beats One Radio = NO.

Is Apple Music about building radio stations around your favorite artists? Well, okay, but, if I’ve got every album by a certain artist, I’m not really needing a station on them. And besides, even if my kids are not, I am conscious about my monthly data plan that is getting eaten up by my son’s Pandora subscription.

Apple Music Stations = Maybe.

So I guess this is where the real magic is supposed to be. If I like an artist, but I’ve only heard a few of their songs, I can build a station around them. Just like Pandora. But I’m not all that interested in another Pandora. Again, I realize I’m not the target demographic.

The power of Pandora is in the human curated music. And this was supposed to be Apple Music’s killer feature. Curated lists, acquired in the Beats Music purchase, that would hip me to new and powerful playlists. Like Hip Hop by Dre. Or Disco by Madonna. The problem is, I could care less about those features. And users who are passionate about them, say the Apple Music playlist and playlist sharing feature is broken. Again, I’m not the target. But I’m also not impressed by the offering at this time.

Apple Music Playlists = Not Ready for Prime Time

And so, for me Apple Music feels like it should be it’s own app, and not muck up the already confusing iTunes. But that’s not what happened. And I’m hopeful that Apple will get it right over time. But there are still some maddening things about iTunes as well, that they never fixed.

I’m a Mac without a great music app. And Apple Music just made the one we have worse. So yes, Apple Music sucks, but so did iTunes before it. Perhaps Apple will pull a miracle drug out of Bono’s ass and create the killer music app for the iPhone and Mac. I’m not holding my breath.

This rant continues here: How Streaming Music Sucks the Life Out of Music

click to see parody twitter account

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)


Slamming Into Moore’s Law: What Could We Do With More Powerful Processors?

I’m fairly sure you don’t need a faster computer.
You might want one, but that’s different.

Today, I’m still very happy with my MacBook Pro. But the upgrade lust process never ends. After a few years working on a super-fast mac, I start to wonder, what’s faster, leaner, better. For over three years now the answer to that question has been zilch.

Here are the specs from my “Late 2012” MacBook Pro.

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As we are nearing “Late 2015” the processor ascension that used to be a given reason for a technology upgrade every couple years has ended. Today on Apple’s website, the fastest quad-core i7 MacBook Pro you can get is 2.8 GHz. That’s not a significant bump by any stretch of the imagination. So what happened? And would an additional 4 cores help me get my work done?

I can imagine wanting a faster laptop. I was checking out Apple’s site today to see what progress has been made. Well, you can get thinner and smaller, but you can’t get much more powerful. Moore is laughing in his grave. But again, I ask, what would I be able to do better with twice the processing power?

Processing power is less important these days than display processing power. Last Christmas when I was building a gaming desktop with my son, I was surprised that the 1024 mb graphics card was more expensive that the AMD eight-core processor. If I had eight cores would it make my MS Word run any faster? No. Would my internet connection be faster or my wifi connectivity any better while I was on the road? No.

Processing power is important, but these days the processors have overrun the need by about 3 X. If I were doing animation, 3d renderings, or huge video or audio edits, maybe, but today the most common computational tasks can be handled with the lowest processors.

That still doesn’t explain why almost three years later the speed increase on the Intel i7 quad-core processor is at best a 0.2 GHz increase. Has the industry hit the processor wall, and does it really matter? Can I get my tasks done with a $500 HP laptop? Yep.

John McElhenney


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