Apple Music Review

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Thursday morning, I opened my Apple Music app with plans to quit my free trial early in an attempt to avoid the near-certain conclusion that I would completely forget about the service in three months. I wanted to keep my $9.99 to myself.

Before I could even break into my settings, something strange happened. The ‘My Music’ tab opened, and I was greeted by a set of my favorite bands and bands that I was interested in hearing more from. The New Pornographers, The Decemberists, Beck just to name a few. There were playlists and albums and connections made from artists I know to artists I didn’t know. I was pleasantly surprised.

Two days before, I was waiting with breath baited, borrowing the pool’s wifi as my kids were tearing up their latest swim lesson. The four-year-old nearly put her head under water. Score! An update to iOS 8.4 and a restart later, I was in. I couldn’t wait to see what Cupertino had in store for me.

What is the opposite of impressed? Initially, I was unimpressed. Check that. Very unimpressed. There’s tabs and buttons and plus signs and check marks and ellipses that reveal no less than six options. There’s my music and make available offline and for you and radio and I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to get it.

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I have Slacker Plus. All I want – All I care about is storing music for offline playback. I’m not interested in 16-track playlists. I’m interested in hours of uninterrupted music to get me through a work day, the next and the next – shuffled. Why listen to the same songs in the same order over and over again?

I must admit, though, for my love of Slacker, it does feel stale and incomplete sporadically. Slacker does little to throw enticing, new stations and playlists your way. Rather, Slacker opts for new stations curated by people I’ve never heard of and have little interest in.

Apple Music threw some new things my way on Thursday morning. Not only was I captivated, I was surprised how engaged I was when digging through.

Built to Spill discography? Yes, please. Best of ‘90s Alternative vol. 1? Sure, why not? New Ryan Adams? I always did like him better without the Cardinals. Introduction to the Monkees? I’m game.

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The ‘For You’ tab sends new and different tracks my way, but seven days later, it begins to lack variety. Right now, it is only keeping me pigeonholed to indie rock. It is my wheelhouse, but I do like a range of good tunes. If you get stuck in the same way, fine-tune your favorite artists and genres.

The ‘Now’ tab takes some work to navigate around and into. There are layers and layers of playlists and albums separated by genre. There hasn’t been enough here to catch my interest. Peeling back the layers might change that in the coming weeks

The ‘Radio’ tab, though centered at the bottom of the screen, is the aspect that I find the least compelling. I don’t want to listen to Beats Radio. I don’t care if it is based in London, NYC and LA. I don’t care who the djs are. You know why? Because I can’t store it for offline. It is dead to me.

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‘Connect’ – I still have no idea what this is, and furthermore, I don’t care to know. My feed is full of bands that I have a lukewarm awareness of. I don’t see the benefit of this, but I imagine more will come of it later.

Lastly, we have ‘My Music.’ During my first seven days, I have vacillated between ‘For You’ and ‘My Music.” The reason: Because any of the tracks, albums or playlists I discover or rediscover from ‘For You’ needs to be shifted to ‘My Music.’ The process is still a bit unclear because when you are done, you can either remove downloads or remove from my music. I can’t really speak to how much room these tracks consume, but I bet it can add up unless you are active in managing the tunes.

I do NOT like how ‘My Music’ is the music borrowed from the app and the actually music that I have spent my hard-earned money on. Some differentiation might be needed.

Will Apple Music replace my much-loved Slacker Plus? No. Could it be a nice complimentary service? Absolutely, but big changes need to happen in the next three months to justify the hefty $9.99 price tag when I’m already paying for my music.

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The biggest loser here is Amazon Prime Music. Clearly, this is not a standalone service, but everything that Amazon Prime does, Apple Music does 10 times better with a higher-level of design and intuition. Apple has the tracks, the artists and the design while Amazon adds nothing noteworthy.

My hope is that the next months bring Apple the foresight to see the benefit in station that are captivating, engaging and able to be saved for offline playback. Then Apple Music would be the total package of online music services. Until then …

Consume.Review.Repeat gives Apple Music 6.5 ellipses out of 10.

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