I'm feeling left out. Apple Music hasn't deleted any of my songs or albums, and the only duplicates I can find in my library were already there – created by an app called Boom. (It's a great audio app which does something to your sound files to make the crappy little speakers on your laptop, or even your desktop, sound way more awesome. Unfortunately it creates amplified copies of the songs to do this. Hence the duplicates all the way through my library).
It's been about a month since the blessed fruit company's streaming music service launched and most of the coverage has been lukewarm at best. Taylor Swift famously scolded them for expecting musicians to cover the cost of the three-month long 'free' trial period. Long-time Apple observers like Marco Arment, John Gruber and The Loop's Jim Dalrymple have all aired their issues. Dalrymple's involved an embarrassing misadventure in which he thought Apple had deleted about four and a half thousand songs from his library, potentially forcing him to buy them all over again. That turned out not to be the case, leading to the aforementioned embarrassment when Dalrymple had to clarify a pretty gnarly blog post on the matter, and cut out a big chunk of a podcast with Gruber.
Initial reports from the other streaming services, mostly meaning Spotify, seem to indicate Apple Music hasn't landed any crippling blows yet. In fact it's only effect so far might be to grow the streaming market.
I've been using it for a month, after subscribing to Rdio for nearly a year. I still have my Rdio subscription, a family plan costing a little more than $20 a month, but I haven't used the app since I got Apple Music. This isn't because Apple Music is a superior service – in many ways it's really not – but rather speaks to the inertia of having a bunch of accounts already set up and configured to everyone's personal taste. You can transfer your playlists from Spotify and Rdio to Apple, but it's not simple or free to do so.
One popular method involves buying an app like the prosaically named Move to Apple Music 1.1 For five bucks it will move most of your music across, but it's not perfect and if, like me, you don't like giving login details to outsiders, you're shit out of luck.
I moved my two most played workout lists over by hand. It took half an hour and cured me of any enthusiasm to repeat the process with my other playlists, such as ‘Writing’ which has hundreds of jazz and blues tracks carefully selected to fade into the background while I tap away.
So, apart from not paying their suppliers, i.e. musicians, and then losing Jim Dalrymple's Ozzy Osbourne collection (since recovered) how is Apple Music shaping up? I can only answer for myself. I use it every day, and I find myself impressed by the power of the service, and frustrated by the experience of using it. The user interface, especially on the desktop, is terrible. Complex, opaque, inconsistent and buggy. The exact opposite of “It just works".
This is partly because Jimmy and Dre are trying to pack so much into the service, but mostly because they've built it atop the layered ruins of iTunes. It’s a bit like building your shiny new mall atop a haunted housing development, which buried an accursed graveyard, that replaced a city of the damned, which sank its foundations into a Hell Dimension. iTunes is not just a music library it is a massively complicated device and content management system that has grown wild and achieved a malign sentience over the years. It is inevitable that Cupertino will eventually split off Apple Music as a pure standalone app, but untangling the Gordian knot of iTunes will probably take a couple of years re-engineering. Until then, suck up the pain.
Apple Music on iOS is simpler, or perhaps just easier, than its OS X counterpart. Mostly because it can live free as a separate application. The iPhone app in particular is less confused and confusing than its companion apps. It is still diabolically complicated, but not as intentionally malevolent. The language of multitouch speaks more fluently to the interface than Yosemite’s point and click. You can already see where Force Touch will fit in, possibly as soon as iOS 9 is released in September or October. For instance, pressing and holding your finger on a suggested playlist or album in the For You section brings up a series of options such as adding it to your library, making the selection available off-line (by downloading it to your device) or even telling Apple you hate this stupid choice and you never want to see it again. (Seriously, Apple, stop trying to make Rhianna happen to me). There are, however, so many options that sub menus exist under the main menu. This is a blindingly obvious use case for Force Touch.
Putting aside the complexity of the interface, there are certain simple actions which appear to be universally available to other streaming apps, which simply don't exist in Apple Music. In Rdio, for instance, whenever you see an artist's name, or an album, or a song, you click on it and go straight to the relevant track or page. This is not so in Apple Music. I'm not always sure what happens with Apple Music. And I say that having used it heavily for a month. The UI is just not intuitive. Or logical. Or even coherent. Often this seems to be a result of an inability to say no.
Apple still boasts that for every Yes there are 1000 No's. While it might be true in hardware design, and even in other software and service offerings – the redesigned Photos springs to mind – the same discipline has not been applied to music. Example? You can add a song to "Up Next" or you can mark a song or album to "Play Next". Two very similar instructions with two very different outcomes. I have learned to avoid hitting Play Next because it deletes everything in my Up Next list. One slip of the finger and hundreds of songs in a stack can disappear. This has made me sad more than once. By way of contrast, Rdio's Play Later option is less powerful but more functional. Programming my set list for the work day was always a pleasure with Rdio. On Apple Music it feels like a gamble.
And yet I'm still using Apple Music. Why? Because for all of the failures of design and execution, the intent and the vision behind it are still great. When it workds as intended, it's brilliant. As much as I came to love Rdio, it rarely surprised me. The delight that I felt in using it was the glutton's happiness at beholding the vast banquet table before him. More often than not, however, I would simply pile my plate high with the same toasted cheese sandwiches I had yesterday. Rdio, and I presume Spotify and the other streamers, do attempt to introduce their listeners to new music, but I never much liked the picks. What new music I did find, I found for myself.
One thing Apple is very good at, is telling you what you are going to like. (And by God you'd better like it, or else you’re gonna find out why Eddie Cue’s nickname is Da Cueball). In the month I've been using this complex, opaque, inconsistent and buggy service it has delivered more surprising and delightful new music discovery than a year on Rdio. I enjoy the way it surfaces playlists depending on the time of day. Workout choices in the morning. Driving lists in peak hour. Cocktail tunes at sundown. I find myself dipping into Beats 1, the radio station, whenever I have a couple of minutes to spare. I sometimes hate what’s playing, but when I don’t, I might just love it with the same intensity and will always add the track to my library. (Again, a process which is not simple or easy. *Shakes head*). The curated playlists, thousands of them, with more being added every day, are often close to perfect.
I have even bought more music after finding one or two artists whose work I enjoyed so much I felt obliged to pay for it. (And one or two artists whose albums were available to stream one day, but not the next – a common enough occurrence across all the streaming services.)
Of course, I bought those albums on iTunes. The UI for gving Apple money works as well as it ever did.