If we were having coffee, I might very well complain about Apple Music.
That’s a lie: I love Apple Music. I would complain about a related problem: iCloud Music Library.
Holly and I waited at first when it came to Apple Music. We reached a point, though, in looking at the option for a family account – cheaper than us each having an individual, and available since we family linked our iTunes accounts. We heard it would be available on the new Apple TV which we wanted (and got). We heard it was going to have a whole lotta music.
So we started up our three-month free trial (I think we’re still in it? Might be close to the end…). And I went to turn it on. And it told me something: to use Apple Music, I had to turn on iCloud Music Library. Without a second thought, I turned it on, and Apple blew up my music library.
Let me explain. I started my music library when I got my first laptop, when I was getting ready to head off to college. We didn’t have Internet at home at the time, so I was adding CD after CD to my computer, giving it the barest of data, if any. Maybe artist and album name. All manually entered.
I got to school, and the Internet, and had Dell’s music player – MusicMatch Jukebox. That was a great program for a while, though they eventually changed it to the point of unusability (or so I remember) and I switched to iTunes then. But before that, I used MusicMatch to, album by album, analyze all my burned CDs. It looked them up and added all kinds of metadata: artist, album, year, cover art, genre… it turned it into a modern music library.
This seems like a good point to mention again that I am a librarian. And the term “music library” is appropriate. There’s a lot of data describing the items in the collection. They’re sorted together in different ways. Ways you can browse. Ways you can expect. Ways I put work into.
So for over a decade now, I’ve been using that base music library. The one that, album by album, I analyzed, chose the right stuff, and processed. The library that I am used to scrolling or looking through to find music, knowing things based on alphabetical listing, or better yet by what they look like because I know (knew) all the album art.
And there was a little hiccup a few years back when iTunes changed alphabetical so that it was Album by Artist, which had workarounds at first but no longer does. But I got used to it. And I still had my CD cover art visual memory to work off of.
All that changed as iCloud Music Library analyzed my music library. In Library Science terms I would say that they are working off of Authority Files of the music – they seem to have attempted to only have one copy of a given version of a song online. Meaning if you have, say, a Greatest Hits album, or a compilation or soundtrack, there is still just one version of the song out there.
So all of a sudden there are all these albums with different cover art for each different song, or for just random ones. More annoying is that it also applies to Single albums, LPs and such, that they have in the library… so even simple albums will have random songs that have different art because it will be the Single Album art instead of the full album art.
I should add that I listen to most of my music now – including when I drive – from my iPhone. My iPhone, which displays that cover art when browsing, and which replaces my lock screen image with the cover art when playing music. It shows up on my car’s display, as well. So suddenly, all of these places have new art I’m not expecting, when I’m trying to glance and see what’s playing.
Along with the art, there’s some random problems with a few albums where it decided that some of the songs are from the Live Album and some not, or some from the Remastered Album and some not. So I can’t just listen to those albums (until I figure out how to fix that).
I’ve had some other growing pains with the overall process, but those have mostly been “learning the new program” sorts of things. Because it all works differently now – though to be fair, playing music from my iPhone changed anyway, without using either of these things, so it’s mostly just keeping up with that.
The last big problem happened when I was going through and finally “liking” (<3-ing) albums and such that I like, so I could start to get good tailored Apple Music recommendations. Which, the recommendations ever since have been great. Good curated playlists.
However, when I was liking albums at high speed, just one after another, my Music app crashed a couple times. Okay, no problem… except that in one of those crashes, my phone wiped ALL of my downloaded music.
I had about 16GB of music on my phone. Lots of my most frequently listened to stuff. What’s great is it even included some new finds from Apple Music – you can download them and have them available offline. And we were traveling soon, so music available offline is good stuff. And, we have data limits both at home and on cellular, so reducing usage while listening – something I do a lot, and especially while home with the Geek Baby – is important. Plus it was already on the phone from the Before iCloud Music Library times.
Welp. All gone. I could still listen to everything – okay, thanks iCloud Music Library, suddenly I needed you. I went to my computer and plugged in to re-install some songs anyway. However, the entire Music page for syncing the phone was replaced by a single line that says that you are using iCloud Music Library. So apparently, you never need to add or remove Music from your phone again! Hooray!
Alright, result of all this: we went over on our data at home last month (that’s WITH being out of town a week), and we went over data on our family mobile plan. Was that all my music listening fault? No, but we’ve never gone over on either of these things before, so did it contribute? Yes.
Sorry for the rant. I’ve been putting this one off, trying to fight through it, but going over both our data limits last month is just ridiculous. They clearly have a model in mind where we’re living in an age of Endless and Awesome Data, but it’s just not the case. Not yet.
I may have used work WiFi to download some albums back onto my phone… so hopefully no repeats!
And I need to reiterate again: loving Apple Music. I have downloaded (then lost), and otherwise added to my Music Library well over a year’s worth of Apple Music cost in terms of albums. I would love to have seen iTunes Store wishlist integration, but at this point that wouldn’t help me as that’s where I started when hunting for new music…
I’m just frustrated that I had to turn on something that so fundamentally changed how I access and use my music. And Apple knows what they’re doing, I assume, so maybe my saddest thought is that I am now an Old Person who uses things the Old Fashioned way, and that I haven’t kept up with how people do things now.
And maybe it’s a bit of professional anger – because all the duplicates and unmerged titles and unexpected changes? We have that at the library I work at too. We became part of a larger consortium, more libraries, with different practices. And a ton of duplicates and unintended consequences ensued. And we’re putting a lot of time into the cleanup on that – two and a half years in.
I didn’t necessarily want to have to do that in my personal life, too. Sounds like work.