Why I’m Paying for Apple Music

Last week, I got an email from Apple telling me that I was being billed for my Apple Music subscription; or “membership” as they call it. I have agreed to pay the $10 monthly tithe to access music on Apple Music, against my better judgment.

I had high hopes for Apple Music. Back in 2014, I wrote an article suggesting how Apple could make a streaming music service that would be better than the others. Apple Music looks a lot like what I outlined back then, though Apple has managed to make it quite confusing. iCloud Music Library is a mess; iTunes is confusing; and the iOS Music app is frustrating to use.

I’ve long felt that streaming music encourages detachment from music, rather than engagement. I haven’t changed my mind about that. I don’t find Apple Music’s recommendations very useful, and I find the process of discovering music to be no better than browsing on Amazon. But I have a large music collection, and eclectic musical tastes, and it makes more sense to keep listening to music I own.

In fact, the only reason I plan to pay for Apple Music is because I write about it. I get lots of questions about Apple Music for my Ask the iTunes Guy column on Macworld, and, just as I have paid for iTunes Match for several years without really using it, I will have to pay $120 a year for Apple Music as a business expense.

While I have listened to the occasional album or playlist on Apple Music in the past three months, the fact that I cannot integrate my own iTunes library with iCloud Music Library ensures that I will not do so regularly. Apple has so bungled this feature that I dare not trust my library to iCloud, since my initial experiences were so bad. And I keep getting emails from people who have similar experiences when they turn on iCloud Music Library.

Apple had an opportunity to make something different; to make something that would stand out, that would work more efficiently than other music streaming services. But the company has failed, creating a service with a confusing interface that insists on messing up libraries of people who have been collecting music for a long time. I wish it worked better; I wish I could get $10 a month worth of music from Apple Music. But I won’t. I’ll keep paying only because I have to.

[Note: in order to use Apple Music, I have it turned on on my MacBook and my iPod touch. I don’t have it on my iMac, which houses my main library, nor on my iPhone or iPad, to which I sync music from that library.]

28 thoughts on “Why I’m Paying for Apple Music

  1. I’d feel a lot better about Apple Music if they secured a deal with recording artists and labels, such that items couldn’t randomly disappear.

    To make sure I’m giving Apple Music a red hot go, I’ve backed up my library, and re-created it from Apple Music. I’ve fixed covers, I’ve renamed tracks, I’ve added ones which iTunes never had, but not every song I own, only the missing ones… I’ve finessed the iCloud Music Library in the same way I did with my old library — and it’s taken me the whole three months to do it, with as much time as I could spare.

    I want to see if Apple Music can make purchasing music obsolete. With the exception of making your favourite songs disappear over time, I’d say it’s not TOO bad. The only issue is having to rebuild everything from the ground up, only to have labels deprecate old albums in favour of Greatest Hits compilations, etc.

    The other niggle is that Apple gave labels the ability to make songs streamable, but not “addable” to your music library, to keep encouraging purchases despite you having a streaming subscription. This is the kind of pandering which puts listeners second, and I’m not fond of it.

  2. I’d feel a lot better about Apple Music if they secured a deal with recording artists and labels, such that items couldn’t randomly disappear.

    To make sure I’m giving Apple Music a red hot go, I’ve backed up my library, and re-created it from Apple Music. I’ve fixed covers, I’ve renamed tracks, I’ve added ones which iTunes never had, but not every song I own, only the missing ones… I’ve finessed the iCloud Music Library in the same way I did with my old library — and it’s taken me the whole three months to do it, with as much time as I could spare.

    I want to see if Apple Music can make purchasing music obsolete. With the exception of making your favourite songs disappear over time, I’d say it’s not TOO bad. The only issue is having to rebuild everything from the ground up, only to have labels deprecate old albums in favour of Greatest Hits compilations, etc.

    The other niggle is that Apple gave labels the ability to make songs streamable, but not “addable” to your music library, to keep encouraging purchases despite you having a streaming subscription. This is the kind of pandering which puts listeners second, and I’m not fond of it.

  3. Your comment that ‘I’ve long felt that streaming music encourages detachment from music, rather than engagement’ is really on the ball. I watched the first part of BBC4’s three part series on indie labels and it took my right back to the late 1970s, when all this creativity was out there and you had to look for it, to be part of the music ‘scene’ (for want of a better word). It really generated a sense of value for these musicians’ output and for the overall vision of the labels. Perhaps I’m an old fart, but the ease with which music can be obtained, whether it be by buying physical media, downloads or streaming, has really encouraged a detachment, and a sense of identity with the artist.

    FWIW I’ve stuck with Spotify (paid) and not Apple Music, though I don’t think either has a particularly good software interface, and streaming has increased the rate at which I buy music.

  4. Your comment that ‘I’ve long felt that streaming music encourages detachment from music, rather than engagement’ is really on the ball. I watched the first part of BBC4’s three part series on indie labels and it took my right back to the late 1970s, when all this creativity was out there and you had to look for it, to be part of the music ‘scene’ (for want of a better word). It really generated a sense of value for these musicians’ output and for the overall vision of the labels. Perhaps I’m an old fart, but the ease with which music can be obtained, whether it be by buying physical media, downloads or streaming, has really encouraged a detachment, and a sense of identity with the artist.

    FWIW I’ve stuck with Spotify (paid) and not Apple Music, though I don’t think either has a particularly good software interface, and streaming has increased the rate at which I buy music.

  5. One more example that Apple has forgotten its ‘prime directive:’ It just works. I spend as much or more time trying to get my Apple things to work as advertised as I do using them.

    I’m giving serious thought to spending some of that wasted time on trying to uncouple from the Applesphere.

    Tim Cook should reach back several decades and read the seminal marketing book of the 70s – “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind.”

    Tim and crew would be WELL served to pay attention to Jack Trout and Al Ries’ admonition to avoid ‘marketing from the inside out.’

    It probably won’t happen, but I hope to live long enough to see what some young, hubris-filled kids are coming up with in their garage today that will teach Apple those fundamental lessons that Steve Jobs knew so well.

  6. One more example that Apple has forgotten its ‘prime directive:’ It just works. I spend as much or more time trying to get my Apple things to work as advertised as I do using them.

    I’m giving serious thought to spending some of that wasted time on trying to uncouple from the Applesphere.

    Tim Cook should reach back several decades and read the seminal marketing book of the 70s – “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind.”

    Tim and crew would be WELL served to pay attention to Jack Trout and Al Ries’ admonition to avoid ‘marketing from the inside out.’

    It probably won’t happen, but I hope to live long enough to see what some young, hubris-filled kids are coming up with in their garage today that will teach Apple those fundamental lessons that Steve Jobs knew so well.

  7. So I decided against it. Sadly, despite the promise, it just doesn’t deliver. There’s no sign of the increased limit to iTunes Match, so my own 50K+ library of music can’t blend into the Apple Music system. Even worse, I can’t even turn iCloud Music Library on because my library is too large. That means no saving Apple Music playlists or albums at all!

    To your point about it encouraging detachment, I’ve settled on a system that is as engaging as I’ve found. I subscribed to Tidal for the higher quality streaming, but I listen to it at home through an amazing new browsing/playing interface called Roon. This has deep integration of metadata and it’s playlists are more focused on my listening (i.e. NOT Beats 1). And amazingly, it DOES integrate Tidal seamlessly with my iTunes library. It’s not cheap, but I’m willing to pay the extra for an engaging, integrated, great sounding system.

    Unfortunately this leaves me with a less than ideal mobile experience, but I only listen ‘seriously’ at home anyway. I can make due with manually created iTunes playlists and the Tidal mobile app when I’m on the go.

    I’m afraid Apple Music has a long way to go before it meets not only my needs, but the very promise it makes of itself. It will be nice when this transitional period we’re currently in finally finds a happy place.

    • Next step is Swinsian for ipod sync. I have Roon without Tidal. Tidal is not that with classical music; although for me enough Carmina Burana there.

  8. So I decided against it. Sadly, despite the promise, it just doesn’t deliver. There’s no sign of the increased limit to iTunes Match, so my own 50K+ library of music can’t blend into the Apple Music system. Even worse, I can’t even turn iCloud Music Library on because my library is too large. That means no saving Apple Music playlists or albums at all!

    To your point about it encouraging detachment, I’ve settled on a system that is as engaging as I’ve found. I subscribed to Tidal for the higher quality streaming, but I listen to it at home through an amazing new browsing/playing interface called Roon. This has deep integration of metadata and it’s playlists are more focused on my listening (i.e. NOT Beats 1). And amazingly, it DOES integrate Tidal seamlessly with my iTunes library. It’s not cheap, but I’m willing to pay the extra for an engaging, integrated, great sounding system.

    Unfortunately this leaves me with a less than ideal mobile experience, but I only listen ‘seriously’ at home anyway. I can make due with manually created iTunes playlists and the Tidal mobile app when I’m on the go.

    I’m afraid Apple Music has a long way to go before it meets not only my needs, but the very promise it makes of itself. It will be nice when this transitional period we’re currently in finally finds a happy place.

    • Next step is Swinsian for ipod sync. I have Roon without Tidal. Tidal is not that with classical music; although for me enough Carmina Burana there.

  9. Not that Apple has Apple Music as smoothly operational as they could/should, but from the latest RIAA figures, if they are to be believed, Apple Music is setting Apple up for the future. What makes this difficult is that Apple has done so well training their users on Apple’s old music model of owning music. Streaming is currently the clear path for those who are younger than most of Apple iTunes/iPod/iPhone users.

    Of course, Apple really should clean up this mess of an interface.

    Joe

    • I agree that this is a long game. But I still don’t think the majority of people are willing to pay $10 a month.

    • In the Applestore they told me the new ipod touch is a multimediaplayer; they don’t talk about music -music on your machine is ancient history? With the iPod classic owning music is fading out. It’s about (instant) access; not my kind of downsizing or being a minimalist.

  10. Not that Apple has Apple Music as smoothly operational as they could/should, but from the latest RIAA figures, if they are to be believed, Apple Music is setting Apple up for the future. What makes this difficult is that Apple has done so well training their users on Apple’s old music model of owning music. Streaming is currently the clear path for those who are younger than most of Apple iTunes/iPod/iPhone users.

    Of course, Apple really should clean up this mess of an interface.

    Joe

    • I agree that this is a long game. But I still don’t think the majority of people are willing to pay $10 a month.

    • In the Applestore they told me the new ipod touch is a multimediaplayer; they don’t talk about music -music on your machine is ancient history? With the iPod classic owning music is fading out. It’s about (instant) access; not my kind of downsizing or being a minimalist.

  11. Stream baby stream! But in the meantime buying lossless at Qobuz for the same price as iTunes store’s ‘plus’. Classical boxes at Amazon’s €1/€2 cd (horowitz/Richter/Rattle).

  12. Stream baby stream! But in the meantime buying lossless at Qobuz for the same price as iTunes store’s ‘plus’. Classical boxes at Amazon’s €1/€2 cd (horowitz/Richter/Rattle).

  13. So far I’m happy with it. I have a family plan and I haven’t had interface issues. It has allowed me to make playlists of a lot of old songs I haven’t heard in ages, and new stuff that just came out.

    And one huge plus? The 9 year old is able to listen to all the Katy Perry and Taylor Swift her little heart desires and I don’t have to purchase a single thing. In that aspect, Apple Music has paid for itself already.

    I’m a fan.

  14. So far I’m happy with it. I have a family plan and I haven’t had interface issues. It has allowed me to make playlists of a lot of old songs I haven’t heard in ages, and new stuff that just came out.

    And one huge plus? The 9 year old is able to listen to all the Katy Perry and Taylor Swift her little heart desires and I don’t have to purchase a single thing. In that aspect, Apple Music has paid for itself already.

    I’m a fan.

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