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The Apple Music Report: Too Complicated

In addition to music library scrambling, a major complaint about Apple Music is that it’s not simple enough. There are too many features, and too much stuff is put in your face when you check the different music repositories, particularly New. And perhaps there’s not enough support, yet, for less-popular music genres. This means if you’re a fan of Taylor Swift — and I’m not one of those people — you’ll have no problem finding plenty of pop music for your listening pleasure. If you prefer classical, maybe not so much.

As Kirk McElhearn, Macworld’s “iTunes Guy,” tells me in an interview recorded for the next episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, Apple appears to be more concerned about the 80% of music listeners whose tastes aren’t well defined or who focus on more popular music genres. I suppose, then, that these people would be more apt to partake of the 90-day free trial and let their subscriptions auto-renew.

My feeling, though, is that devoted music lovers might be more inclined to invest time and energy into configuring Apple Music, and constructing playlists that are more nuanced, and thus would not want to throw it all away when renewal time arrives. At least that’s me.

The other issue is of greater concern. It’s understandable that the tracks you download via Apple Music are protected by DRM. After all, you’re renting them, not buying them. But it appears that DRM is also being attached to your own music that’s being managed through the service. Maybe this is a mistake, and one tech pundit suggests it may be part and parcel of Apple’s agreements with the music companies. That doesn’t sound sensible or logical to me. After all, why should you be prevented from playing music you already own on another device that isn’t covered under your Apple Music subscription?

I only hope this is just a mistake and that it will be handled. Or maybe it only shows up as protected on the device attached to your Apple Music subscription. We’ll see, but if not, there will be a hue and cry, not to mention threats of a class action lawsuit. That’s a real downer.

As to the service itself, there is already a structure for subscription music, since other companies, particularly Spotify, have established a robust market. While Apple often enters new markets with a product that might lack features in the very first version, that sort of approach isn’t possible for Apple Music. Apple has to one-up the competition, and it’s doing so in different ways.

So you have the typical iTunes approach, which is having established artists deliver exclusive content, such as Taylor Swift with her “1989” album. Another is seamless integration with existing iTunes music libraries including iTunes Match, or at least the promise of seamless integration. It’s Apple’s ecosystem, but one of the key complaints is that some music libraries are being scrambled when you enable the iCloud Music Library. One suggestion is not to use that feature, which is needed to sync your content. The repair otherwise might involve rebuilding your own iTunes library, or maybe this is something Apple needs to fix at the server end, and that might happen soon.

You have to expect early glitches with any new service. With a 90-day free trial, however, assuming most bugs are massaged out of the system over the next few weeks, customers will have plenty of time to get used to a well-oiled machine and thus will be inclined to renew. It’s very possible some people will just let that happen and not notice an extra $9.99 per month on their credit cards (or $14.99 for the family option). But you can disable auto-renew in your iTunes account whenever you want and deal with whether you want to continue to subscribe later on.

As to those complaints from the media that it’s just too complicated, maybe. Some features aren’t really obvious, but if you point and click and tap around a little bit, you’ll get most of it. If you’re not picky about every nuance of an interface being just so, you probably won’t care if tech pundits find a few issues. Apple Music has to be feature rich at the starting gate even if a few things aren’t well integrated or reasonably well implemented. It’s still a version 1.0 product, and Apple can make lots of visual and functional changes without ever touching the version of iTunes or Music for iOS that you’re using.

Meantime, Apple Music appears to be quickly adapting to my musical tastes, or at least those expressed after a few hours of listening and clicking Love icons. So I’m feeling positive about the whole thing, but I haven’t yet made the decision about paying for the service after the sampling period is done. Remember, I still believe in owning music, and nothing that Apple has shown me yet has convinced me to change my ways.