It has been two and a half years since I switched from Spotify to Apple Music for my streaming music needs. I love Apple Music the service, but I’ve become increasingly exasperated by Apple Music the software, particularly on the desktop.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that subscribing to Apple Music the service brings along iTunes Match for the ride. I’ve used iTunes Match for a time before Apple Music was a thing, but eventually abandoned it — and iTunes itself, for a time — after finding it decidedly unreliable at its stated purpose, matching songs in your music library against the iTunes catalog, and uploading those that are unique so you have copies in iCloud. The reality, alas, was that that process would either fail to complete or never even start. Worse, if you made the mistake of deleting a local music track in the belief that you’d be able to download it again from iCloud, you might not necessarily get back what you’d expected.
Unfortunately, iTunes Match hasn’t improved much over the intervening years, unless you consider not pestering with cryptic error messages an ‘improvement’. And because it also creates the data used by Genius as part of this process, if for whatever reason something goes wrong the only option is to — I wish I was making this up — turn Apple Music off and back on again in Preferences, because there’s no separate switch for iTunes Match any more.
I posted recently about bit-rot in my music library, and the culprit has been Apple Music. It finally reached the point where, just over a week ago, I decided I’d had enough. I’ve turned off the renewal for my Apple Music subscription, and I’m now in the process of cleaning up my music library and noting down what albums I need to either re-download / re-rip or purchase elsewhere.
There’s a bitter irony in this process: I’m making use of Smart Playlists to track down the music that I added to my library from Apple Music, plus a few tracks that never made it into iTunes Match and got lost along the way. That is one of the truly great features of the software, inherited from iTunes, in spite of Apple apparently not putting enough thought into updating it to work with Apple Music. (I’m not being flippant in the previous sentence: I had to resort to some reverse logic to find stuff that’s in the cloud rather than stored locally, as there isn’t a ‘Cloud Status: in the cloud’ option.)
I’m undecided as to whether I’ll stick with the Music app once my Apple Music subscription expires. While I’ll be spared the extra steps of cloud synching, I have a horrible feeling that the user interface changes that Apple made are still going to niggle. I may end up going with Swinsian again, which I used for a few years and really liked.
As far as music discovery is concerned, I’m not lacking in sources I can turn to for that, and I’m not referring to Spotify. I did briefly consider rejoining, but to be honest their Mac app felt like a tick-list item rather than something they put much effort into. Plus, from what I’ve read about Spotify these days, I’m not keen on giving them my custom.