This is a good test for today’s Apple on two fronts. First, will they actually succeed in streamlining the interface to Apple Music? I still think the most obvious solution is to make Apple Music its own standalone app. “All your music in one app” sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice, I believe that is what has led to the confusing UI. It’s yet another major feature added to iTunes on Mac and Windows — an app that everyone seems to agree already has too many features and responsibilities. What do you see when you open the Spotify or Pandora apps? Just the streaming music you have access to. That makes them less complicated, by definition. “Everything you see is in the cloud, and you have access to it because you are a subscriber” is easy to understand. “Some of this is in the cloud, some of this you own” is more complicated.
I’m not sure that’s the most confusing aspect of Apple Music. There are two sections, My Music – which contains music in the iTunes library connected to your device, and music you’ve added to your library from Apple Music – and the New and For You sections, which contain only music from Apple Music. You check My Music when you want to listen to music you own, or music you’ve saved, and you check the others when you want something new.
The promise of Apple Music and iCloud Music Library was this ability to merge your own iTunes library with music from Apple Music; unfortunately, when Apple Music and iCloud Music Library were launched, it was a disaster, causing no end of problems to people (like me) with large, carefully curated music libraries.
I don’t know how most people use Apple Music; do they look in New or For You, or do they just search for an artist, album, or song, as they would do on YouTube? The advantage with Apple Music is that you can do either of those, as well as access your own music (and music you’ve saved). I don’t think that’s so confusing.
What is confusing is all the buttons and options, and the poorly designed For You section, which offers useless recommendations that you simply cannot get rid of. If I see a playlist I don’t want to know about in Apple Music, and choose I Don’t Like This, it should disappear, not stay there. It shouldn’t be just about tweaking my personal algorithm, it should instantly go away.
And the other problem – on the desktop at least – is the fact that you can go from Apple Music to the iTunes Store, but not from the iTunes Store to Apple Music. It’s understandable; Apple doesn’t want to give away what it might be able to sell, but it’s crippling Apple Music by not allowing people who get to the iTunes Store via links and making them manually search for an item in Apple Music if they want to stream it.
One of the problems with Apple Music is the existence of the iTunes Store. Apple can’t fully commit to Apple Music because they still need to sell music. If they didn’t have the iTunes Store, then Apple Music would have one less layer of complication.
Last year’s Apple Music announcement in the WWDC keynote was the worst segment in an Apple keynote in modern history. It was rambling, awkward, left important questions unanswered, and went on way too long. I don’t break out my “This wouldn’t have happened if Steve Jobs were still around” stamp very often, but I broke it out for that one.
I’m just guessing – I don’t have little birdies in Cupertino to tell me what’s going on behind the scenes – but I think part of the problem with the whole Apple Music presentation was, again, the iTunes Store. There’s a large part of Apple that works on the iTunes Store, and I can imagine there were internal tensions around the Apple Music launch, with people afraid to lose their jobs if Apple Music was too popular.
I believe these two things are related. Coherence in product design leads to coherence in product marketing. And vice versa: incoherence in product design leads to incoherence in product marketing. If the product isn’t logical and consistent throughout, how can it be marketed in a logical and consistent way? That’s what we saw with Apple Music last year, and the meandering music segment of the WWDC keynote exemplified it. It will be telling to see if that was a one-time blip, or the beginning of a trend.
Yep. They need to get everyone on the same page. And not have Jimmy Iovine open his mouth on stage.