Why leave? Apple Music is great right now

By

Find new music; listen to your favorites. It's that simple.
Find new music; listen to your favorites. It's that simple.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

What the hell, internet? Apple Music, for all its growing pains and glitches, is a fantastic music streaming service.

It’s free unlimited music now, cheaper unlimited music later, and Apple Music is undoubtedly going to get better, especially if you’re already tied into Apple’s ecosystem.

If you take off before the trial period ends, you’re gonna miss out.

An oft-cited recent study on the demise of Apple Music only surveyed 5,000 people. That’s a very small number as compared to the 11 million subscribers that Apple claims for its streaming music service. I’m not sure we can generalize from such a small sample. (Update: The Verge says Apple denies these numbers anyway, reporting that 79% of people who signed up are still using Apple Music.)

Numbers aside, though, I’m loving Apple Music and I’m pretty sure all the “haters” are jumping ship far too soon.

Why do people hate Apple Music? It’s too confusing, say some. It’s “un-user friendly.”

Change is hard

It’s really not any less user friendly than any other streaming music solution. Rdio, Spotify, and the like all have their own way of creating a cohesive system of metaphors so you can find and play the music you want to. Apple Music does this just as well; the metaphor and arrangement of icons and such is just window dressing.

Certainly, there’s a learning curve when you’re figuring out a new service. When I left Rdio for a brief flirtation with more-social Spotify, I had to re-learn the way Spotify dealt with playlists, favorites, and sharing. I was so used to Rdio’s metaphors for finding and listening to music that Spotify was disorienting, confusing, and downright un-user friendly, if you consider the only user I cared about was me.

I think Apple has created a fantastic blend of both curated and data-driven features to allow me to lean back and discover new artists, or lean in and micromanage my playlists and album listening. Once I learned where the Apple playlists were, and how to influence the ones chosen for me on the For You page, I was all set. Apple Music is a bounty of music that I don’t have to buy or manage, and I can play it on my iPhone or my Mac.

I’m willing to bet that — especially if you’re new to streaming, like Charlie “Fatal Horizon” on Twitter — you’ll be completely addicted.

Sure, iTunes can be a confusing place. Adding Apple Music to an already crowded interface was a tough choice. I would have loved to see a separate Mac app, but really have no problem finding or playing music on my Mac. I do think the iOS experience is a bit better, but that may be due to iOS needing more streamlined, less complex interface.

It just works

Whatever the case, Apple Music meets my needs. I’m not a huge fan of Beats 1; there’s just not enough genre variety to keep me interested. I’d love for Connect to turn into a serious tool for communication with corporate and independent artists alike, but it’s not a must-have feature for my streaming service. The fact that these two options aren’t quite up to the hype in no way diminishes my love for the core service: streaming music.

Don’t like Beats 1 or Connect? Don’t use them! It’s as simple as that.

What I want is a friction-free way to play music I know I love already and a simple, intelligent way to discover new music I haven’t heard yet.

Apple Music meets this simple, basic desire. I launch it on my iPhone or via iTunes on my Mac and I check out For You. I look at the new playlists that show up. Are they interesting? Most of the time, they are. I hit play. I hear new and familiar tunes all in a row; I rarely need to skip tracks. It’s instant, and has thoroughly replaced my radio in the car; something Spotify or Rdio never really did.

When I want to find an album or a song I want to hear, I use Search. I’ve only had one instance of not finding what I want so far – the catalog is huge. I can download albums to my iPhone with a simple tap; it’s as good as owning the songs for my level of listening.

Worth the price of admission

Ultimately, what pushes me toward Apple Music even harder is the price. You can’t beat $15 for four people to listen to as much music as they can handle. Thanks to Apple Music, my kids think I am a godlike creature.

“You mean we can listen to anything we want, for free?!” exclaimed my son when I gave him access to the service via Family Sharing. They’d been used to saving up their money to buy an album every month or two. Now, for less than $4 a month per person, they can “have” any album they want.

I’d like to think that Apple Music is a work-in-progress. Like the Apple Watch, Music will get updates and changes along the way. Apple is nothing if not iterative. I think the best is yet to come.

If you’ve signed up for Apple Music; give it a couple of months paying for it, just like you do Spotify or Rdio. Turn those off. Try Apple Music for a week or two. You just might be surprised that once you learn the way Apple does streaming, you’ll never want to go back.

.

Deals of the Day

  • Tallest Skil

    How about NOT redesigning Music in iOS to make people who have their music locally feel abused and relegated to the worst possible interface imaginable instead, okay Apple?

    • Gregg_Thurman

      Is Apple Music going to be a success (for any reason) or a flop (for any reason)?

      It doesn’t really matter all that much today (worst case scenario: about 4.5 Million subscribers, according to Music Watch, after only 2 months on the market) or 5 years from now with maybe 30 Million subscribers.

      In 5 years, assuming continued average annual growth rate of ~9%, iTunes, Software and Services will be generating ~$30 Billion per year, while Apple Music streaming will be generating about $3.6 Billion per year.

      Using the same 9% average growth rate to Mac revenue (actually growing faster than that) yields $14.o Billion in incremental revenue over the next 5 years (far outstripping aggregate Apple Music revenue over the same period).

      Apple Music may, or say not, be a success (or failure, depending on your bias). It really doesn’t matter all that much, even if 10% of total iTunes users signed up (~90 Million against 900 Million iTunes users). All Apple Music will ever be is a very small increment to Apple’s gross revenue.

    • Totally agree with all that, I also store all my music locally and despise streaming. FYI if you’re jb, MusicMod is a great solution to strip all the cluttering Apple music UI from the music app. It’s currently one of my favorite tweaks.

    • , said the old person.

      Hate to break it to you but Apple is investing in the future. And when I say “future” I mean “teens and millenials”.

      And the future does not include locally owned music that doesn’t exist in the cloud because that isn’t how the next generation is consuming their music.

      • Tallest Skil

        Thing is, that’s the generation that doesn’t have any power or cash. Apple better enjoy the next few months; they won’t be kind to the company.

      • A future that doesn’t include locally owned music is a very sad one indeed. Every single one of these streaming services are losing money and have yet to turn a profit; spotify included. It also completely bones all artists paying them fractions of cents on streams unless they’re in the top 1% (aka taylor swift). In fact the only sector of the music industry that actually is growing is vinyl. So thank those teenage hipsters and the rest of us audiophiles alike for that.

  • Jose F.

    My only issue with Apple Music is Connect, it feels like a really big mess, but since you can go to Restrictions and deactivate the feature it works as a charm, now the Connect tab is gone for good and the Playlists and Music tabs are shown separately.

  • Hector Reyes

    Petty whining and bitching from the same people that are only skilled in that art. Apple Music was live only a couple of hours before the retard community was already writing articles complaining about the service. As with anything apple does, the haters gonna hate, and the users that appreciate the best of software and hardware will continue to benefit. It was also only hours after it launched that other services began copying them and adjusting their service to compete. I could care less about the haters that don’t wanna use it, be gone and I will enjoy their silence. Those of us who do use it should be the opinions that matter.

    • TrickyDickie

      Isn’t it something like 49 % of Apple users that don’t like it…?

  • It doesn’t “just works” to use it properly you need to enable iCloud Music Library. Which you need to match your music. For people that don’t want their libraries messed up, the service is crippled unless you enable this. You cant save playlists etc. I gave the service a chance, its meant to improve in iOS 9 which I will try it again, but at the moment. Its not a great service. Its a confusing mess, and is not about change. Once its cleaned up then I guess people will be willing to switch.

    That being said it has potential and the catalogue is however great, once they sort out the kinks, I am sure it will be a great service.

  • johnbobohn

    My only real issue with Apple Music is that even after the iOS 8.4.1 update, anytime I set a playlist to be Available Offline it downloads all the songs and then I check the playlist and they are still not downloaded; only available via streaming. Then, I completely reset everything (sign out, turn of iCloud Music Library, sign back in, turn iCloud Music Library back on) and then I open the Music app and it starts automatically downloading music again even though I did not tell it to download anything. And then, to make it even more frustrating, the songs are STILL not showing as available for offline use and they keep downloading the same songs over and over again without me even initiating a re-download! Then I ended up having to restore my phone completely because it said my 128GB iPhone 6 had about 45GB of “Other” space being taken up; which I can only assume was the thousands of songs that downloaded dozens of times saved in a cache somewhere but were not showing up as available for offline use! And then, even after restoring and starting everything over, I am having all the same issues (except the huge amount of “Other” space being used). I haven’t given up, but I feel completely lost and like this is not going to work despite all the bugs supposedly being fixed in iOS 8.4.1 and the latest iTunes release (though my issues have all been iOS related).

  • MWinNYC

    Apple Music is a MESS! I can’t get my playlists to play past the first song. I downloaded a few songs- extremely poor sound quality with obvious skipping. Music is just another Apple disaster like Ping, Maps, etc. I’m sticking with Pandora for now (which Apple should have bought a long time ago when it had the chance). Looking forward to some of their new hardware this Fall, though- that’s what Apple does best!

  • virduk

    Well Idisabled autorenew and mostly gave up because I was sick of fighting Apple Music to sync my music with icloud. It didnt just work, unlike Google Music where it does.

  • I agree with the author. I am also a former Rdio and Spotify user, and was ticked off with Apple Music and its numerous bugs at first … but they’re straightening those bugs out, and combined with the 15,000 songs or so I already own on iTunes, Apple Music is a seamless way to just stick with iTunes and Airplay to my home stereo.
    That said, with such a large library, I wish Apple would release a larger iPod Touch (256 GB) – but I get that’s the dinosaur in me talking.

  • Ryan

    Spotify is 100% better and make sure to turn your auto renew off before Sept. 1.

  • Matthew Stough

    My reservation is simple…I’m on a fixed data plan. How much data are you now consuming additional to normal use after using Apple Music? I’m curious

    • Richard Ludwig

      I was on 2 GB and was using 1.25 – 1.5 GB. After Apple Music I upped to 4 GB, but rarely use more than 2.5 with “carefree streaming”.

    • If you are on T-Mobile, streaming Apple Music is completely free and doesn’t dip into your data plan.

  • UZ

    I am a big Apple fan. But I am not a fan of Apple music, as it is yet another product (like Maps and Siri) that’s not been properly South Africanised (where I live). The music choice is very limited, it doesn’t give me a choice to choose those artists I have in my music, but rather lists artists I don’t know, it shows Afrikaans (a language) as a genre, in stead of mixing it into the genres, and I can go on. The fact that I cannot find 2/3 of the music I own in iTunes on Apple Music means I will have to pay for something that doesn’t give me what I want. So Rob, I disagree. It doesn’t just work. And it’s not worth the price of admission. Maybe in the USA, but definitely not here in South Africa.

  • distanskunk

    Apple Music is a work in progress, but being a long time subscriber to Xbox Music (Now Groove), I can see the long term potential – out of the box, Apple Music is already better than Groove – which to me proves Apple’s commitment to the project. As soon as my subscription from Microsoft’s Groove runs out, I am coming over to Music. My gripe is how Music is intertwined in iTunes – its just too confusing – i shouldn’t have to figure out where I am in the app – I should just know by a unique design and UI.

    • brian

      I’ve had this issue but I think thats the point, apple wants you to flip between both iTunes and apple music so it’s all seamless. So if you stop your subscription you’d be like Oh this is just so limiting. But yep I agree it’s confusing to know exactly where you are.

  • brian

    I just don;t know if I’m willing to be paying Apple for the rest of my days for music, I’d rather own the music outright and well call me old fashioned listen to the radio. (not Beats 1 either) I assume given the receipts that actually go to the artists from these streaming services and the fact you only buy a licence from iTunes for purchases everybody is still “kick ass let me in” ing for music anyway?

  • Jon

    Apple music is just no where near Spotify in terms of ‘Just working’ yet. For me, I’ve made a playlist ‘available offline’ 3 times, then when I come to listen to it away form a wifi network, it’s greyed out. Just yesterday, I was listening to a playlist, and at the end of one of the songs about 3 tracks in, it switched to a completely different playlist I had saved. Some songs just stop halfway through playback and I have to hit play again. I also seemed to get a lot more songs saved offline when I was using my Spotify premium, Apple music I get to my device capacity pretty quickly. This is all without even getting started on that god awful UI – like seriously, what on earth were they thinking?!

  • JoJhutton

    I automatically opted out. No point for me.

  • Jason Cardoz

    I just apple music as it does job, press the add button it’s there! No what about this song or that so much more simpler than spotify tbh

    • “Press the add button and it’s there” So it’s just like Spotify then? Not sure what you are doing in Spotify but it really couldn’t be simpler to use.

  • I just wish Apple would make Apple music a separate app from the dedicated music player to not force us into having to deal with it.

    • So you want to have one app to play music, and another app to play … more music?

  • Ben Cooper

    I quite like Apple Music, but once the free trial is over I won’t be renewing/paying for it, for me I don’t like the idea of building up a library of music to one day decide I can’t afford the monthly payments, for what ever reason job loss etc, and then have it all disappear, yes it would cost me more to own it all but I’d rather have less and own it than have more and borrow, that aside I do like it, they need to work a little more on obscure genres and what they recommend because even after narrowing down likes and dislikes they still recommend pretty much the same obvious choices.

  • Hang on. Leaving now doesn’t mean I hate it! I am a long time pro-user of Spotify. I need pretty good reasons for switching. Is there something wrong with staying loyal to a service that I have enjoyed for a long time? I am a Mac user but there wasn’t an Apple streaming service when I joined Spotify. Am I expected to jump ship just because Apple have now, belatedly, entered the market?

  • www

    Unfortunately, it is not that way. For plus we can define the music itself: you can listen to more albums than in Spotify, e.g Peter Gabriel. However, creating playlists, looking for songs and downloading them is a nightmare. I am sure Steve Jobs would fire all the team responsible for the project. After using it for several weeks I give up and go back to the competitors.

  • As a professional graphic artist who specializes in user interface and user experience design, Apple Music is the biggest usability nightmare I have ever laid eyes on. It’s not just one thing here or one thing there, the entire Apple Music experience is just terrible all the way around. Essentially Apple did nothing but pile the Apple Music service onto an already cluttered and messy user interface in both iTunes and the Music app on iOS. It’s pretty disappointing that a company who had such high quality standards has now fallen to the level of Microsoft.

  • whahuh82

    Ok, an Apple site saying “change is hard, but switch to Apple Music!” 75% of the reason Apple is still a leader when it comes to phone sales is because its customers are unwilling to even look at other options.
    And secondly, last I recall, Microsoft’s Groove Music was $99/year, cheaper than Apple Music’s $9/month, plus it has about twice as many songs.