Listening to: Into The Night (Nero) :
Please note the irony of today’s track being only available for you to enjoy because of Spotify.
I like Apple music much more than expected. Not that I had low expectations for the app going in, but just because I couldn’t imagine anything a new app could do that fit me better than Spotify, a service I’ve been injecting directly into my veins since 2006. And what really knocks me off my feet is that the expansiveness of its music catalogue, which was my prime fear from the start, is actually incredible. For example: I’ve always been too much in love with Ellie Goulding (up until right about Halcyon Days). There’s a particular album of her acoustic tracks on Spotify that I’ve listened to a few thousand times. That one album is also on Apple Music, along with several other collections of her live work that I didn’t even know existed. (The catalogue isn’t perfect, though. Spotify still wins out for finding same-day-as-release club tracks from EDM artists who aren’t Avicii).
So since Apple Music has at least a slight advantage there over the other market leaders, why do I keep finding myself using Spotify? Is it just the newer, juicier green logo working it’s magic in my subconscious?
Here are some things that I would like Apple Music / iTunes to implement:
1) Sharing/embedding tracks. (Spotify allows, Apple Music allows in a very limited form, via Family Sharing)
Pro’s of the current method: I think the tighter control over distribution has to be greatly responsible for the trust that artists put in Apple Music (see: Swift, Taylor), which probably leads to more availability, like with the Ellie Goulding discoveries I mentioned.
Pro’s of suggested method: So I don’t know anybody who has more patient friends than I do. I have piled so many individual songs into their ears, at such a rapid rate (at least two or three a day for years), and they still hit Like on Facebook (and listen to the tracks… right?!). With Spotify, slinging an awesome new track to somebody else, even if they don’t have Spotify, is as easy as a right click, a left click, and posting a link into Facebook. There is nearly complete freedom to enjoy music as a social experience, whereas Apple Music by nature of its exclusivity treats all songs in your library as free iTunes Purchases on loan.
2) A more vertical, “phonebook” layout. (Spotify layout is entirely vertical, all the time. Apple Music is very horizontal)
Pro’s of the current method: Apple Music is much more verbose in its delivery. Pictures of things are important and this takes more space. Graphical features like For You (a collection of fun, bouncing red bubbles) and Connect (artist microblogging) require richer text and the sort of content depth that a vertical list of tracks just can’t convey.
Pro’s of suggested method: I don’t care about For You or Connect, personally. At least not when I just want to pull up a reliable list of every song from an artist I’ve been hearing buzz about. Or when I don’t know the full title of a song but I know it has the word “Gratitude” in it. Spotify is just so easy to use without thinking. I don’t always (or often) want to learn things about artists when I need music. I just want easy access and easy sorting, which lead me to…
3) Better Sorting / Searching Options (search for Taylor Swift in Apple Music for iTunes. You get a horizontal box of Top Songs, Top Albums, a weirdly prominent Influencers rectangle full of pictures, Top Videos, and Albums. Search on Spotify for Band of Horses. You get:
Pro’s of the current method: I have no idea
Pro’s of the suggested method: It’s just so much simpler, so much more like the original iTunes Store. A sufficiently intelligent toddler could use Spotify. I have literally never asked someone “Do you have Spotify?” and received back “Ugh, no I couldn’t figure it out.” Not even from fetal alcohol poisoning can render someone helpless enough to be afraid of Spotify. If you used Google to find Spotify, you’re already a master at the process. It’s a search bar, a list and a bunch of other things that you can do but aren’t forced to do.
4) The return of a real side bar. (iTunes 12 renders the previous version’s side bar nearly useless, hidden by default, and completely inaccessible while using Apple Music to search or discover).
Pro’s of the current method: More space for horizontal design elements
Pro’s of the suggested method: Go to Apple Music and search for Taylor Swift. Don’t go into a specific album. Try to click and drag any listed song to any useful purpose. You cannot. In Apple Music (not in album view yet) you have to click the “…” icon next to the song to access any options, but you cannot Cmd-A or group select. You have to do this for each individual track or choose a specific album (more time wasted) before you can even see the sidebar, which is literally invisible unless triggered and thus useless to most casual users.
5) A “Date Created” sorting option. (iTunes 12 usually pulls way ahead of Spotify for playlist flexibility due to the underrated genius of Smart Playlists)
Pro’s of the suggested method: I consider myself a ‘power-listener’, though I’m sure there are still millions of iTunes users who are even more hell-bent on algorithmic sorting of music. What is that, you say? Smart Playlists are the difference between lists called “Songs I Like” and “Songs by Nero and Drake released within the last two months and faster than 88bpm”. For DJ’ing, Smart Playlists are the undeniable best way to keep all your music tightly organized when you’re dealing with 5-10 new songs sampled or downloaded per day. They allow you nearly comprehensive coverage of every way I can think of that you might want to segregate songs (as far as current technology allows… no audio-scanning genre guesser yet) , but it has a serious hole.
Let’s use the example playlist I mentioned above. As of now, there is no way for me to guarantee that the Drake/Nero playlist only contains songs released within the last two months. Smart Playlists have the familiar “Date Added” option, but that is only concerned with when the song was introduced to your iTunes library. Not even to your computer! If somehow a Drake track from 2009 leaves your iTunes library and you unthinkingly double click the file to play it through iTunes, you suddenly have a breach in your playlist, because it’s Date Added is now 09/20/2015. Even if you’re aware of this, you’re SOL if this situation happens, unless you just choose to never listen to that track in iTunes again. If you’re routing iTunes playlists into DJ software such as Traktor Pro, that song is now essentially useless.
The solution is so simple. OSX and every major OS has a Date Created property for all files anyway, which is an invariable number reflecting it’s publication. This would be perfect for the rapid fire release of new music, especially in EDM and hip hop. It’s hard to believe that iTunes still doesn’t have this (as far as I’ve seen).
In the end, Apple Music is still in the first year of a surprisingly exciting infancy. While I do hope these things get addressed, if there’s one thing consistent about Apple Developers it’s their endless ability to come up with even better solutions I wouldn’t have imagined.
What would you like to see in Apple Music? If you’re a Spotify user only, what feature would it take to make you move to another service?