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:

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