By Dan Moren
August 6, 2015 10:47 AM PT
When My Music isn’t “my” music
Warning: This story has not been updated in several years and may contain out-of-date information.
I’ve spent the morning wrestling with Apple Music and its inconsistencies, and while I’ve been exploring some wonky behavior with compilations, I wanted to point to one peculiarity that’s bothered me above all others.
Unlike my esteemed colleague Mr. Snell, I’ve only reluctantly made use of the “Add to My Music” feature of Apple Music, and a recent experience helped crystalize why it bothers me so much.
As mentioned, I’m a soundtrack fan, so I checked out the Ant-Man score and, deciding that it was pretty good, I chose to add it to My Music. Now, like many other soundtracks, this album is a compilation that primarily includes score cues from the movie, along with a few songs by other artists that are featured in the film.
Several of the tracks on the album are not apparently available for streaming (they’re grayed out when you look at the album in Apple Music)–presumably as the result of licensing terms. Okay–hardly unusual. (Update: Not entirely true: three of those songs are available on Apple Music as part of other albums. Which makes less sense, but could still potentially be licensing-related?)
But what bothers me is that when you add the album to My Music, they’re still grayed out.
What’s the purpose of having tracks in my library that I can’t play?
If I go to the iTunes Store or Amazon, those four tracks are listed as “Album Only,” meaning they can’t be purchased individually–presumably also due to licensing, which makes sense.1
But there’s a bigger–well, I suppose you could call it philosophical–point here. As long as iTunes has been around, the expectation has been that the music in your library is yours. This is what I find off-putting about the My Music integration in the first place–it’s intermingling tracks I own with those that I’m merely leasing.
I contrast this with a couple of other experiences: Movies and TV shows frequently go in and out of availability on Netflix, which is certainly irritating, but I have no expectation of ownership of anything on that service. I’ve also purchased media from the iTunes Store that has later been pulled from sale–but I retain those files (and the use of them), even if I can’t go buy them again.
Apple Music instead introduces a weird middle ground where not everything in “your” music is actually your music. I understand the convenience of meshing these two things into one, but they’re not actually the same thing. And yet they’re treated and presented to you as if they are.
Maybe I’m alone in this. After all, there are 11 million more users out there. But I can’t help imagining trying to explain to my less tech-savvy friends and relatives that they can pay $10 a month to add music to their library, most of which they can play.
- I did for a while end up with some of these missing tracks in My Music…but associated with their original albums instead of the Ant-Man score. Which was weird. But after trying a few times to remove and re-add Ant-Man to My Music, they appear to all be unavailable now. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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