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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

In praise of Apple Music in my iTunes Library

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


When I write about Apple Music, I feel like I have to add a disclaimer: “I’m an iTunes guy.” This doesn’t mean I’m a defender of iTunes1, but it does mean that I use it every single day to play music on my Mac. Most of the music I listen to, I listen to while sitting at my desk, using iTunes.

Previously, when I’ve used music streaming services, I’ve never been satisfied. I’ve got more than 10,000 tracks in iTunes, ones I’ve bought digitally or ripped in from CD (and matched using iTunes Match). It was never fun to switch back and forth between iTunes and those other apps (whether they were Mac apps or just web apps), nor did I relish the idea of dumping iTunes, syncing my music with those services (where available) and using one of those other players exclusively to play music.

I don’t know how much of that is being a creature of habit—I’ve used iTunes since the day it was released—and how much is the fact that the online streaming services’ Mac players are no great shakes themselves.

In any event, what I’ve discovered is that for me, Apple Music’s killer feature is that it’s completely integrated into iTunes. Not just integrated in the sense that the iTunes Store is integrated, with a separate set of pages that don’t really resemble the iTunes Library. I mean integrated in the sense that, when I find new music I like, I can click the plus icon and add it to my iTunes Library.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Apple Music integration. I guess I assumed that when I added a track to “my library” from Apple Music, it would go to some special Apple Music tab, or playlist, or library. Nope—that music just shows up in the My Music section of iTunes, mixed in with all of the stuff I’ve bought over the years.

I realize that this approach may not work for everyone—one of the great challenges in designing any computer-based music service is going to be the endlessly different ways people consume music—but boy, does it work for me. I play music from a lot of self-built playlists, but now I can add Apple Music playlists too, and they’re seamlessly integrated. Apple Music’s integration with my music library lets me listen to music in the same way I’ve been doing it for the past 14 years—but with the addition of tracks from Apple Music’s nigh-endless supply.

I can also see just how insidious this approach is. My music library is no longer pristine, no longer a collection owned by me. Now I’m acquiring albums and tracks not by buying them, but by clicking that Add to Library button. It’s already started to happen, after a couple of weeks. After a few months or years with this service, how will I ever be able to cancel it? If I did, a major chunk of my library—everything I’ve discovered over the past months or years—would just vanish.

That’s why some people will always be dubious about the idea of renting, and not buying, your music. But for me, this works perfectly—and it’s why I’ve streamed more tracks from Apple Music in the last two weeks than I did in a year of Beats or two years of Rhapsody.

  1. On the contrary, when you use iTunes every day you become quite familiar with its flaws. 

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