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  • Apple Music: Gone and Forgotten

    October 7th, 2015

    Within 30 days after Apple Music debuted, Apple touted 11 million signups. But since they were for 90-day free trials, it meant, obviously, that had actually paid for the service. With contradictory surveys showing how many planned to actually keep their subscriptions active when it came due, the potential for success remained a huge question mark.

    It didn’t help that there were loads of complaints about the messy user interface. Did Apple screw up, or were people just expecting too much? Or somewhere in between? The other day, I read an article suggesting Apple made a major mistake in designing Apple Music, which seems peculiar. After all, Apple has done well enough with iTunes, although it doesn’t always get the love.

    In an interview after the first 90-day signup period elapsed, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, declined to reveal how many paid members Apple Music ended up with. He talked more about playing a long game, which implies that signups were nothing to shout about. Or maybe they are waiting to see how long it’ll take to beat Spotify, which had over 20 million paid subscribers as of June of this year.

    Well, on September 29th, I had to make a decision. Some of you simply turned off the auto-renew option so your Apple Music account wouldn’t renew. I realized I hadn’t done so. Not that $9.99 is that much money, although I can think of other purposes for it.

    Decisions, decisions!

    Now those of you who have followed my posts about Apple Music know that it worked all right for me, more or less. It took a while for the service to get a solid handle on my preferences that include classical, country rock, jazz, pop, classic and other musical genres. But not urban or hip hop or anything related to rap. Well, except perhaps for a 1980 tune, “Rapture,” from Blondie.

    It took a while for the system to realize I was no fan of Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, or Eddy Arnold for that matter, though I suppose there was something in my original settings that led to the stubborn inclusion of these and similar artists for the first few weeks.

    Let me assure you that I did spend that time assiduously catching up on music for a change. In recent years, I’ve been lost in talk radio, and only switch to music stations in the car when Barbara is with me. She keeps cable news on in the background at home, but is only too happy to ditch it when she’s on the road But probably because my cable news tastes differ from hers, and it avoids an argument. But when it comes to music, we are in simpatico.

    However, I have rarely used the iPhone as an audio interface for music in the car. In the past, I’d use the CD player, but gradually moved the tracks over to iTunes. Yes, there’s enough free space on my iPhone to carry a decent library, but the interface of the typical auto infotainment system isn’t terribly kind to such setups. So I seldom bother.

    That takes us back to Apple Music and the decision I made on September 29th.

    It turns out that I hadn’t touched any tracks from Apple Music in six weeks. Not a one. This doesn’t mean I didn’t launch iTunes, but every song I played, when I played anything, was something that I had already purchased. So why did I need to spend an extra $9.99 each month?

    Why indeed!

    So the decision was inevitable. I decided to go without. Now maybe I will decide I must listen to something that I do not already own and isn’t being played in rotation on a classic rock or oldies music station. At that point, I may decide to subscribe. But since I am not committed to any particular timeframe, I suppose I could cancel the following month and try it again when the mood returns.

    I’ve long taken this approach with Netflix, largely because I can binge the few shows I don’t want to miss in a few days, or at most a week or two. So why pay for something year-round when I’m not using the service all that often? Perhaps I’m coming across as a cheapskate, but I don’t see the need to pay for things when they go unused, although I realize the convenience of not having to restore my membership. I suspect Netflix — and perhaps Apple — will earn huge profits stemming from the fact that most customers aren’t so picky. But if you’re on a tight budget, it hardly makes sense to pay for service when it’s not being used.

    Obviously, I’m far from the typical would-be Apple Music customer. I grew up buying music, and started visiting record stores when I was an overweight teen who enjoyed spending a precious dollar or two on a new 45 from one of my favorite artists. My weight normalized at 18, and perhaps I’m just too old to change my ways, but there is something about owning music and not having to worry about whether the credit card can handle another charge, or whether a service will outlive me. Of course, at my age, I fully expect Apple will be around long after I’m gone. Even then, I’d rather own a physical object than something that lives on a drive as a digital file.

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