Wolverton: First look at Apple Music

Apple is now unambiguously and enthusiastically in the subscription music business.

The company on Tuesday launched Apple Music, the streaming music service it announced earlier this month. Like Spotify and other rivals, Apple Music allows users to stream any song in the library an unlimited number of times for $10 a month.

Unlike its rivals, Apple Music isn’t offering users a free level of service. Consumers can try out the service for three months for free, but if they want to continue using Apple Music, they’ll have to pay the monthly fee.

I downloaded the iOS update that included Apple Music to my iPhone earlier today and plan to write a first-look review later today. But here are some of my first impressions:

• If you used Beats Music in the past, Apple Music will seem very familiar. Users configure it in the same way: by tapping on bubbles that represent the genres and artists they like, love or hate. The similarity is no coincidence; Apple Music is based on Beats, which the iPhone maker bought last year.

• Unlike its rivals and certainly unlike iTunes, Apple Music is much more a curated experience. The page that serves as your homepage is dominated playlists that Apple recommends based on the preferred artists and genres you selected. Lower down on the page are a collection of albums from particular artists, and again, those appear to be chosen based on users’ preferences.

• It’s not readily clear how to access individual artists or albums. There’s no obvious way from the home page of the app how to browse particular artists. It turns out that you can access them either through a search feature at the top of that page or by going to the “new” page via a tab at the bottom of the app.

• There was a lot of talk prior to the launch of Apple Music about what artists would or wouldn’t be on the service. I haven’t done anything close to a comprehensive search, but the only prominent band missing that I’ve discovered so far is The Beatles.

• Beats 1 won’t be for everyone. I tuned into Beats 1, the live online radio station that is a part of Apple Music, right after it launched this morning. The focus of the station appears to be on recent pop and alternative music. If you like other genres, the station’s likely not going to be for you. I generally liked what Beats 1 was playing, but after years of listening to Pandora or iTunes Radio, I found it weird and annoying to hear a disc jockey’s voice — in this case Zane Lowe — interrupting the tunes.

• It’s confusing how the subscription music service interacts with your personal library. The new Apple Music app replaces the old Music app on iPhones and iPads. As you might expect, much of the app is devoted to the streaming music service or streaming radio. Users’ own songs — once the focus of the Music app — is now shoehorned into a tab on the far right. But the lines between the two get pretty blurry. Users can save songs, albums and playlists from the subscription service to their “my music” area, and when they do, it’s not at all clear which songs they actually own and which ones they’re effectively renting.

Photo: Jimmy Iovine helps introduce Apple Music at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday morning June 8, 2015, at the Moscone West convention center in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Bart

    >>> Users can save songs, albums and playlists from the subscription service to their “my music” area, and when they do, it’s not at all clear which songs they actually own and which ones they’re effectively renting.

    Actually, that’s ignoring the fact that you never really own it, you only have either a lifetime license or license to play them while subscribed.

    Either way, it’s showing you the songs you have license for (or at least ripped under your misunderstandings about the old model). Surely then, the songs you add with Apple music evaporate when your subscription does, while the songs you “bought” (or ripped or whatever) don’t.

  • makelvin

    Looks like the new Apple Music removed the ability to do “Home Sharing” with your computer’s iTunes music library. If you do not have the paid streaming subscription services and the music match services, it is no longer possible to listen to your entire iTunes music library on your computer to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch unless you can manage to fit the library onto your device.

    The audiobooks are moved to the iBooks app which seems to be more logically placed. But once again, I used to be able to use “Home Sharing” feature to listen to the audiobooks located on my computer’s iTunes library. That is no longer possible as well. Also, Apple still ignores the proper Chapter Title names with the audiobooks and simply call each Chapter as Track. I can’t imagine how hard this can be to simply read the Chapter Title names from the audiobooks and list them accordingly; they used to be able to do that back in iOS 4 and earlier. Not sure what happened and why they decide to drop that feature.