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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

A rough ride for Apple Music

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


Jim Dalrymple has had it up to here with Apple Music. In an 1100-word break-up letter on his site, The Loop, Jim details all the reasons the service has frustrated him. You should go read the whole thing, but to summarize:

  • Adding music to his library was inconsistent
  • This inconsistency seems to be related to mismatches between Apple’s cloud library and Jim’s existing music collection

  • Songs were sometimes duplicated in the Music app

  • The library couldn’t differentiate between tracks on source albums and greatest-hits compilations

  • Albums Jim owned didn’t show up in his library

  • He got bad music recommendations1

  • Turning off Apple Music removed purchased music from his library

I’ve seen some of the symptoms Jim reports, though not nearly as severely. I saw tracks get removed from source albums and added to greatest-hits compilations, making it impossible to listen to the original album without retagging. I’m sure there are dozens of examples I just haven’t noticed yet that will annoy me once I notice them.

I’ve had no problems adding music to my library, though… in fact, I praised the process earlier this month. The promise of Apple Music as a fusion of your own music and just about anything else you could want to listen to is an impressive one. But it’s a pretty tough promise to deliver on, and Apple Music seems to be falling short for a lot of people.

What’s funny is, when I saw that Jim was ripping into Apple Music, I thought it would be for a completely different reason that he didn’t even mention!

Yesterday, Apple had a pretty severe cloud-services outage. And with it went my access to Apple Music. Most of my music listening takes place on a Mac without much of an iTunes library, so I’m largely playing music stored in the cloud. Yesterday, the music stopped. My Mac wouldn’t play anything. My iPhone wouldn’t play more than a few saved tracks. I ended up spending most of the day listening to music via Home Sharing from the Mac mini in my house that’s got a copy of my entire music library.

There was also another (shorter) outage last Friday, when I repeatedly received a message informing me that “Cloud Music Library was not responding (503)” and that I should check my firewall software. When your error messages conjure Windows 95-era Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong.

What those outages did is point out that with all the great convenience of having the world’s music library at your beck and call, if the servers go down when you want to listen to music, you’re out of luck. If Apple wants people to embrace streaming their music, and embrace Apple Music as the service that provides them with that music, its services need to be reliable.

That means keeping its servers up and running. And it means fixing bugs and interface mistakes like the ones vexing Jim.

I like Apple Music. I really do. It’s already exposed me to a bunch of great new music and its curated playlists have managed to surprise and delight me. But if it can’t be reliable, and if it separates me from my favorite music by mislabeling and miscategorizing the music I’ve collected over the years, it’ll be a failure.

  1. Nobody tells Jim Dalrymple that he listens to electronica and pop and lives to tell the tale! 

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