- The Tech Night Owl — Cutting-Edge Tech Commentary - https://www.technightowl.com -

The Apple Music Glitch Machine

As you know, new product launches can be troublesome. Apple Music is no exception. Despite the fact that Tuesday’s 9:00 AM Pacific launch was limited to iOS 8.4 users (iTunes 12.2 didn’t arrive until several hours later), there was loads of attention. Early reviews were mixed, with a cluttered layout and lack of easy guidance for newcomers the most troublesome. But that’s not all.

Apple promises “All you music in one place,” but it’s not that simple. In order to sync all your music, you have to enable the iCloud Music Library. But when you do that, your music library may be scrambled. One report I read online described tracks moving to the wrong album as an example of the mess that’s was being created, at least for some.

Now I was not able to duplicate this problem on my iMac. It does appear that my music library, consisting of ripped tunes from my CD collection and elsewhere, along with the tracks purchased from iTunes, is intact. While I’ve heard reports of problems with iTunes Match when Apple Music is enabled, today I didn’t see that as an issue. It was yesterday, at least for a while.

Still, random songs from my library are unaccountably not matched. “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window,” from “Abbey Road,” is a typical example, and it has been thus since the day iTunes Match launched. The tracks in the last Beach Boys album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” are still duplicated, but I’ve been hesitant to remove one copy in case the others vanish. Yes, I did buy it just once.

After a day, it does appear that the For You section of Apple Music is learning more about my tastes, since there is more useful content in there. But it does appear as if the content is not in any particular order, at least it’s not organized by the frequency with which I play music or the tracks I’ve selected. There’s more to like, however, particularly in the Classic Rock category. Unfortunately, the Beatles aren’t represented, and presumably Apple needs to make a new deal with the Fab Four. There is some content from the individual  band members, however, but it’s hit or miss.

Early reviews indicate the New category is the most cluttered, but it seems better organized on the second day, with a style reminiscent of the standard iTunes layout and even Apple TV. Classical was supposedly poorly represented, but I found a decent selection when I selected that genre. A few “Intro To” options will help newcomers discover more composers. Devoted fans, however, will likely find things to criticize. It’s a work in progress.

Remember that iTunes is a browser, and content will be updated regularly and rapidly, so what appears to be lackluster one day, may seem more fully fleshed out the next. Unfortunately, the first group of reviewers received an iPhone 6 Plus from Apple and had maybe a day or so in which to write a review. Considering the constraints and the rapid changes, those reviews will probably have to be fleshed out, and even corrected, over time.

The best approach to Apple Music, at least for me, is not to assume anything, but simply explore the options, test the context menus, and see what’s available. As more and more users sign up, and Apple receives customer feedback, things will get better. As it is the Connect social networking feature, where artists will share stuff with fans, seems threadbare. After choosing a few musical genres to follow, my most recent visit provided no options to configure it any further. Again, this is something that’ll no doubt get fixed as time goes by.

However, Apple has no excuse when it comes to a scrambled music library, which may force you to rebuild it from scratch. In addition, Macworld’s “iTunes Guy,” Kirk McElhearn, discovered a curious phenomenon where, if a track is matched with one on Apple’s servers, you’ll get a copy-protected version even if you are already a subscriber to iTunes Match. This doesn’t appear to make any sense, unless removing Apple Music will restore the original unprotected content. Or it’s just another glitch.

Unfortunately, problems of this sort will stuff Apple’s discussion boards, and Apple users and especially critics will be busy tallying the complaints. On Wednesday, some of Apple’s iCloud services were hit by slowdowns and outages. This might be due to the fact that the arrival of Apple Music has put a far greater load on the server farms. While services are back in operation as I write this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see further hiccups until Apple gets better control of the situation.

Clearly these growing pains will continue to fuel complaints that Apple just doesn’t get the online world. There have been periodic service glitches over the years. But no cloud service is perfect. There have been problems with Amazon, Google and Microsoft, but Apple will continue to get the lion’s share of the attention. Still, the company continues to invest in new datacenters, and one hopes they will be able to beef up the network faster than customers sign up. But that remains to be seen.