It feels like yesterday, but it has been three months since the release of Apple's streaming service - Apple Music. For € 9.99 per month, you can stream songs from Apple’s huge library, access a radio station with celebrity DJs, and interact with your favorite musicians on Connect, Apple’s very own social network. I started using the service on day one and now that my free trial is over I decided to share my thoughts about it.
First of all I need to say that I have mixed feelings about streaming services. One one hand you have almost all the songs ever recorded at your disposal for only ten bucks per month, which is obviously awesome, but on the other hand you have artists struggling to making a living with the payments they receive from these services. I paid Spotify for a few years but I moved my business to Google Play Music simply because I think the way that they handle their service is the best approach available. I can upload my own music on Google servers and stream them, for free! I think this way everyone wins; musicians get more money since I bought their records, I can stream all my music wherever I go as long as I have Internet connectivity just like I used to do with Spotify, and Google can get even more information about me and therefore offer me better ads.
The service Apple is offering is not very appealing to me. I'm going to cut to the chase - The iOS application is a hot mess from a usage and performance point of view; it's like someone who has no clue about UI design created that ugly and complicated interface. It’s amazing that after three months of using the service I still feel lost much of the time. Every time I click on something I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get. It does works a little better on the desktop though. The service is located inside of the iTunes app (whose own UI has gotten worse over the years) and it is a little bit more intuitive than the iOS version. As for Connect, it seems like Ping 2 (Ping was an iTunes social networking service for music that didn't go anywhere, and was later shutdown), just another promotional platform that fails to be a place where artists or users actually engage. The music library is impressive. It might not be as deep as Spotify’s, but all the majors artists and even most of the minor ones are represented.
The Beats 1 radio station is by far my favorite thing about the service. I have to be honest here, the first time I heard about Beats 1 I thought it was the dumbest idea ever. Who wants to listen to radio? I thought no one wants to be force-fed music anymore. I was wrong. With its 24-hour roster of superstar DJs headed by Zane Lowe (who used to be a DJ on the BBC radio 1), Beats 1 is actually pretty fun to listen to. The best thing about the radio station is that it gives you a great way to discover new music. Discovery remains key for me. I don’t need Apple’s music service to listen to my own music but I have discovered more new music in the past three months than I ever have with any other service I’ve ever used. The worst thing about it is that sometimes they try too hard to push some songs on you. How many times do they have to play "New Americana” from Halsey? Apparently a lot of times! I do like the song but sometimes they even played it back-to-back, and I could feel the invisible hand of the about-to-die music industry trying to push it down my throat. Beats 1 is free to listen to even if you are not subscribed to the streaming service, which is good because I have no intention of becoming a customer, but as long as the radio is free I will probably keep listening to it.
The reason I am not becoming an Apple Music customer is not because of all the issues that I pointed out above, but because I am not sold on the idea of music streaming services. The problem with these services is that even though they pay lots of money to the record labels, the artists only get a small fraction of this money and that is a deal-breaker for me. I really don’t like the way major labels do their business; they basically exploit the artists and when they are not turning into profits anymore they simply get rid of them and that bothers me. I know that it sounds naive and maybe even silly but I don’t care. I don’t like their business model and I will not contribute to it.
Apple still have a long way to go if they really want to compete with the other streaming services on the market right now, especially on the user experience side which is terrible with Apple Music. I’ve stated my opinion but I think you should check the service for yourself and see if it fits your demands; it is free for three months anyway, just don’t forget to turn off the automatic renewal when you first start using the application, or you will be automatically charged when the free trial ends.