Why leave? Apple Music is great right now

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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.