Apple has concluded a deal with TuneIn, the internet radio service, to ” offer listeners access to TuneIn’s more than 100,000 global radio stations on all Siri-enabled devices and Apple Music. This collaboration comes on the heels of Apple’s release of iOS 13, which introduces a new radio experience to Apple devices – including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, CarPlay and HomePod.”
It’s not clear how this is going to work; you’ll be able to launch radio stations via Siri, but will these radio stations show up in the Radio tab of iTunes and the new Music app on macOS Catalina? This would explain why the new Music app no longer supports internet radio stations, which have been part of iTunes for a long time.
And it’s not clear whether these radio stations will be available to people who don’t subscribe to Apple Music, but it’s good to see that internet radio will not be forgotten in the new, split-up iTunes.
Update: I heard from Apple that this was caused by a bug on their servers, and it has been resolved.
One of my favorite ways to listen to music is my personal Apple Music radio station. Apple added this feature, which it initially called “Personal DJ,” about two years ago. (See this article.)
To create it, just ask Siri, on any device, to “Play some music.” A new station is created using whatever image you have attached to your Apple Music profile (if any). (Read this article to learn how to set up an Apple Music profile.)
I often go back to this station because it generally plays a good cross section of my music. It includes purchases, music I’ve added to my iCloud Music Library, music that I’ve loved, and other music that I’ve played recently or a lot. So if I’m in the car, and I don’t want to spend time deciding what to listen to, I put this on, and skip what I don’t want to hear, but am never really disappointed.
But since yesterday, it’s been broken. It only plays two songs: I Must Have That Man, by Adelaide Hall, and Bengali Blue, by Bobo Stenson and Lennart Åberg. Until just a few minutes ago, when I was about to start writing this article, it only played the first song, and since then, a second song has been added. Sometimes the first song only plays a second or two then stops; sometimes it plays, then the second song plays, then the first one comes back again for a few seconds. And this has happened to other people; I found a number of people posting on Apple’s forums, and on Reddit, who had similar issues: sometimes with a single song, sometimes with two or three.
Feel free to try it out: you can share links to your personal Apple Music Radio station.
But I don’t know how this can be fixed. Some algorithm has gone all William Gibson, and the only way to correct this would be for someone with the keys to the kingdom to reset something in the Apple Music database. It’s unlikely that any first- or second-level Apple Care technician would be able to do that. So I can’t use this personal radio station any more, unless somehow the algorithm figures out that there’s an issue.
Because you cannot delete Apple Music radio stations. Not this one, not any that you create based on songs, albums, artists, or genres. This has long been an annoying, but in most cases, you just shrug it off and move on. They pile up in your Recently Played list, but you can ignore them, because you can just create others with other songs, artists, or genres. But this radio station is special.
If I could delete it, then I could recreate it, and that might fix the logjam – or, the broken record – and it would work as it should again. So, for now, I will no longer have one of the best features of Apple Music at my disposal. This makes me sad.
I’ve been writing lately about changes to iTunes, and how the apps that replace iTunes are missing certain features that were in the app for a long time. I discussed the demise of the column browser, which dates back to iTunes 1.0, and which has always been one of the best ways to navigate a large library. I’ve also mentioned other changes, such as in this article, where I pointed out that Songs view no longer allows you to display album artwork. Again, this was a useful navigational feature that allowed you to scan a list of music and see artwork to identify it more easily.
Another feature that dates back to version 1.0 and that is going away is internet radio. These are radio stations that stream and that you can listen to from the Library section in the iTunes sidebar.
There are about twenty genres of internet radio stations, and you can browse the list and find a wide range of eclectic styles of music, news and talk radio, and more. iTunes currently lists about 4,000 such stations.
You’ll be able to launch a specific internet radio station in the new Music app by choosing File > Open Stream URL, but you won’t have the library to search for internet radio stations any more. I assume that these weren’t widely used – admit it, most of you didn’t even know that this existed – and all these stations stream from their websites anyway, so you can still listen to them, just in a different way.
With the split of iTunes into four apps, the way audiobooks are managed is different. If you have audiobooks from Audible or from the iTunes Store – technically the Books Store – you have no choice: they can only be stored in the books app. But if you have a collection of audiobooks that you have ripped, or downloaded without DRM, then you have two options for managing audiobooks in a post-iTunes world.
You can move your audiobooks to the Books app, which offers a number of features for playback that are more appropriate for listening to spoken word. For example, you click buttons to skip ahead or back by 15 seconds, set a sleep timer, and more. However, these files are stored on your startup disk, and you may simply not have enough space on this disk, so if you have a large audiobooks library and want all your audiobooks in the Books app, I recommend only adding those to the app when you want to listen to them. At other times, store them on an external disk. (Audiobooks will be stored in a folder in the Library folder of your home folder: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService.)
Or you can keep your audiobooks in your Music library. If you rip audiobook CDs, their files can stay in your Music library, and you can listen to them in the Music app, sync them to an iOS device, and even put them in your iCloud Music Library, if the bit rate is 96 kbps or above. This allows you to store the audiobook files on an external drive, if you don’t have enough space on your Mac’s startup drive.
Note that when you now go to rip new audiobooks, you must do this in the Music app; there is no such option in the Books app. But you can move these audiobook files to the Books app, and each file name shows up as an individual chapter, allowing you to navigate in your audiobooks more easily.
If you do want to keep them in the Music app, you no longer have to change the media kind to Audiobook for them to show up in the Audiobooks library, because that will be gone. You just leave them as music files, and they will show up in your Music library. It’s a good idea to set the genre to something like Spoken Word so you can find them easily.
So, if you do have a large audiobook library, make plans before upgrading to macOS Catalina.
For those who aren’t familiar with this tool, the best way to use it is in Songs view, and with artwork displayed (that, too, is going away). Press Command-B to display the column browser. It displays at the top of the window.
In the above, I’ve selected my Dead genre (all my music by the Grateful Dead and related bands), I’ve then selected Grateful Dead in the Artist column, and I can see a list of albums. I click one to view it in the bottom pane, and I can start playing it easily. I can use the arrow keys to move back and forth, similar to the way you can browse in Column View in the Finder.
What’s really useful is that I can see, at a glance, what albums I have. The list is compact and easy to parse. Note that I’ve shrunk the iTunes window a bit for this screenshot; usually, I see more columns horizontally in the bottom pane.
There are a number of options for displaying the column browser in the View menu. You can choose which columns to display, and you can group compilations and use album artists instead of artists in the Artists column.
Alas, this is going away, and the closest view I can use in the Catalina Music app is Albums view. With this, you can see up to 24 albums, because their artwork increases in size as the window size increases. (On my 13″ MacBook Pro, running Catalina, I see 15 albums, though the bottom row is cut off so I can’t see the titles and artists. On my 21″ iMac, using the current iTunes, I see 45 albums, but the bottom row is about half cut off.)
The screenshot below is from a friend who tried the Music app on a 27″ iMac. Look at that wasted space on the sides…
While viewing the album artwork can be helpful, it’s not very efficient. In many cases, I want to see the names of albums, such as for my classical music, where I have the names of performers in the album title.
I’ll miss this tool, which dates back to the first version of iTunes. (For screenshots, see this review of iTunes 1.0 on ATPM. One interesting quote from the review: “It may be noteworthy that the iTunes library can only hold 32,000 songs, though that should be plenty of room for most uses.”)
I hope iTunes users will let Apple know how important the column browser is. Send an email on Apple’s feedback page.
Many iTunes users on Mac are aware that TAFKAI (The App Formerly Known as iTunes) is undergoing big changes next month, with the release of macOS Catalina. While iTunes isn’t really “dead,” there are a number of changes coming, notably the following:
Music that you’ve imported or purchased will be in the new Apple Music app.
Music playlists and smart playlists that you’ve created in iTunes will be in the new Apple Music app.
The iTunes Store will still be available to buy music on Mac, iOS, PC, and Apple TV.
iTunes Gift Cards and iTunes credits will be maintained and can be used with the new apps and the App Store.
iPhone, iPad, and iPod backup, restore, and syncing will move to Finder.
Movies and TV shows that you purchased or rented from iTunes will be in the new Apple TV app.
Use the Apple TV app for Mac for future movie and TV purchases or rentals.
Podcasts that you subscribed to or added to iTunes will now be in the new Apple Podcasts app.
Audiobooks that you purchased from iTunes will now be in the updated Apple Books app.
Use the Apple Books app for Mac for future audiobook purchases.
There are some other changes to note. Media files will be stored in different locations, with music and videos stored in easily accessible folders, and audiobooks and podcasts hidden. If you store your media library on an external drive, you should be aware of this.
There are also changes to the iTunes Store that are worth noting, though, in essence, all that really happens is that it has been split by media kind, which can make it more difficult to find things across different types of media.
I’m currently going through the manuscript of my Take Control of iTunes book, preparing a new book covering the new app landscape, and, as I do this, I have been looking at the details of the Music app in particular. I find a lot of the changes to be positive, notably the simplification of navigation. I was never a fan of the multiple navigational tools in iTunes 12: the Media Picker above the sidebar, then the tabs at the top of the window, which changed by media kind. In some ways, having music on its own makes the Music app a much better tool for those who only used iTunes for managing and playing music.
As I dig deeper, I find that a lot has been simplified. There are tasks I had described in my book that had multiple steps that are simpler, and there were often several ways to do something, whereas, now, there is generally just one. I find myself cutting large sections of my book’s content because of this simplification.
I will miss the column browser; I used this tool constantly to navigate my library by Genre, then Artist, then Album. With Artist, Album, and Genres view, it’s hard to get the big picture. If you have, say, 135 Grateful Dead albums, you need to scroll through the Grateful Dead entry to find the one you want, whereas in the column browser, I could quickly scan a concise list. Or when I wanted to listen to Kind of Blue, it took a few clicks, a quick scan, and I found the album.
The other feature I’ll miss is that in Songs view – that’s the one where you see items in a list – you can no longer display album artwork. I used that extensively, together with the column browser, as you can see above, because it’s a quick way to scan content to find what I want.
The “replacement” for these tools is search; but search has always been a problem. Sure, when I looked for Kind of Blue this morning on my Mac running Catalina, it was easy to find, but what if I want to quickly scan my 1973 Grateful Dead recordings, my Schubert lieder albums, or my shakuhachi recording collection? Without these tools that give you the big picture, you won’t be able to navigate a large library as easily. The display is certainly attractive, but it took me more than one minute to narrow down Kind of Blue starting from the Genres view.
Naturally, I can search for an album when I know what I want to listen to, but iTunes with the column browser was great for when I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to, but had a vague idea. Say I wanted to listen to a Bill Evans album; there are dozens. It’s not easy to choose, and I could scan my collection to find the one that suited my mood.
So as with all changes, some are good and some not so good. I think many people will find the changes to the Music app – and the other fragments of the late iTunes – to be positive. But I think users with large media collections will be a bit disappointed in what’s coming.
For years, iTunes has had a Home Sharing feature, that allowed you to share your library across a network. Users in your home, dorm, or office could listen to your music, and even copy it to their computers. They could stream videos from your library, and this was a good way to maintain a movie and TV show library on a Mac and stream content locally to an Apple TV.
Perusing macOS Catalina I was initially worried that Home Sharing had been removed, because there was nothing about it in the Music app, but I found that they feature had been shunted to a new location: the Sharing pane of System Preferences.
This makes a lot of sense. With iTunes split into four apps, you wouldn’t want to have to turn it on for each app. But this centralized media sharing has a great advantage: you don’t need to launch any of the apps to be able to share their content. As long as the computer hosting the media is running, you can load its content on another computer, an Apple TV, or on iOS (in the Music or TV apps). And if you have Wake for Network Access checked in the Energy Saver preferences, your library is accessible even if the host Mac is asleep. (On a laptop, this only works if it’s connected to power.)
This is a great change to the Home Sharing feature, and it will make it a lot easier to set up a master library to use on multiple devices.
With the new Music app in macOS Catalina, which retains most of the music functions of iTunes, but sloughs off the other media kinds that the previous app managed, there is a change in the way the iTunes Store is handled. In some cases, users won’t even see the iTunes Store.
In early betas of macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store was visible, but in recent betas it did not show up in the sidebar of the Music app if the user was signed into Apple Music. That seems to be the default now: if a user has an Apple Music account, they won’t see the iTunes Store. You can display it, if you wish, in the Music app’s Preferences, on the General pane, but if you’re a streamer, you won’t see it by default.
You’ll note that in the screenshots on Apple’s macOS Catalina preview pages, the iTunes Store is not visible.
The iTunes Store is certainly not going away, but Apple is considering that streamers don’t want to buy music. This isn’t the case with the TV app, which retains the tabbed navigation bar of iTunes, to show one tab for Library, and four other tabs to entire users to find new content. Granted, the way we consume music is different from movies and TV shows, but this is a clear sign that Apple is betting on streaming for music, and rentals and purchases for video content.
It’s interesting that, while Apple has made the interfaces of the four apps that replace iTunes (Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books) very similar, two of these apps retain the tabbed navigation bar: TV and Books. And these are both apps where there is more content to purchase than to stream. (Obviously, all podcasts are free, so there’s no need to have a marketplace in that app.)
In the Books app, I think the tabs don’t make sense. There is one for your library, which is logical, but there are two store tabs: Book and Audiobooks. I think it would be better to have a single store, because there are a lot of people who buy both ebooks and audiobooks, and splitting them can make it harder to find which options you have.
As for the TV app, that has the potential of quickly becoming bloated. There are tabs for your library, then for Watch Now, Movies, TV Shows, and Kids. The problem with the TV app is that it aggregates not just your own content, but potentially channels, networks, and services that you subscribe to. And that leads too bloat. But the very nature of these disparate services makes it hard to do otherwise.
Update: Commenters have asked about searching with the iTunes Store disabled. When you search in the Music app, the search results show three tabs: Apple Music, Your Library, and iTunes Store. If the iTunes Store is disabled, then you only see the first two tabs; if you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, then you only see Your Library.
You can, however, go from Apple Music to the iTunes Store, even if the latter is disabled, by clicking the … button next to any item and choosing Show in iTunes Store. However, searching only Apple Music will not find items that are for sale in the iTunes Store and not available to stream.
My home is set up to stream music locally. In my office, I have a Sonos Amp, which uses AirPlay 2. I stream to it either from my iMac (which is in the office) or from my iPhone or iPad, when I’m sitting in my comfy chair reading. In the bedroom, I have a stereo pair of HomePods, and in the kitchen, I have a Sonos One. All of these devices are available when I stream music from my Mac, or from my iPhone or iPad.
But if I’m not in my office, I don’t always stream music from my iOS devices. My iCloud Music Library is only a limited subset of my full library, and not all my music is available on Apple Music. So I often want to stream from my iMac to, say, the bedroom. I would like to be able to do this from one of my iOS devices, using the Remote app, but this isn’t possible: the HomePods don’t show up in its AirPlay target list.
If I start streaming on my iMac, send the music to my HomePods, then go to the bedroom, I can control the playback with the Remote app, but I cannot initiate a stream to the HomePods using Remote. I’m not alone; this has been the case since the release of the HomePod, and plenty of people who own these devices wonder why this is not possible.
There’s no workaround, but this is really annoying. I don’t know why Apple doesn’t allow this; technically, it should be simple. Or are they really trying to push people toward only using Apple Music and Siri on the HomePod?
“iTunes is dead!!!” claim a number of websites and publications. Even on the TV news they were saying that “Apple has discontinued iTunes,” that “it’s the end of an era.” Apple made big announcements at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in early June. Did they really kill off iTunes? We look at this subject, yet again, for what will be the last episode about the future of iTunes, at least until the next one.