Apple Music: Buggier than a buggy thing in the land of insects

Updates (15th September 2016)

  • I’ve gone back to Apple Music.  Apple appears to have done quite a decent job of fixing everything that was plaguing this service.  With the recent release of iTunes 12.5.1.21, everything works beautifully.  More info here.

Updates (3rd May 2016)

  • With more and more albums missing tracks (last straw was a soundtrack album with ONE available track out of 14 unavailable), more server errors, and general PITA bugs, Apple Music is dead to me.  I’ve gone back to Spotify and am using STAMP Premium to convert playlists.

Updates (8th March 2016)

  • Apple Music/iTunes Match continues to bugger about with metadata.  I have half-complete albums from Apple Music with different artwork and tracks that are no longer available.  Manually uploaded/ripped albums have had their cover art changed DESPITE me manually setting it.
  • Considering moving back to Spotify.

Updates (16th December)

  • Or if you have one track – let’s say the Mad Men soundtrack in which the show’s title track, R2J2’s A Beautiful Mine – isn’t available for whatever reason, but you  if search, you can obtain the official album from which it comes from along with the missing track (in this case, Magnificent City Instrumentals).  With Spotify, if the track isn’t licensed for that album, it’ll make it available from an album that is available – thus you have the full album.  A kind of deduplication, as it were.

Updates (latest 9th December)

  • iOS 9.2 released.  UI is certainly an improvement, but Apple Music still suffers from “split album” syndrome in which for some inexplicable reason, tracks shared across multiple albums (regardless of whether you own/rent them or not) are split into their own separate albums. This is a Apple Music backend issue which has been persistent since launch (and a bloody annoying one).

Updates (latest 6th December)

Updates (latest 15th November)

  • Search is broken with iTunes (but fine with iOS).  Just the spinning wheel of doom if you try to drill down songs or albums.  Apparently this has been acknowledged by Apple according to this forum post. (UPDATE: Fixed, at least for me, since the 18th)

Updates (latest 22nd October)

  • The most annoying thing right now is if you’re in album mode (iTunes 12.3.1), have recent albums shown, and play more than one track within an album – the focus brings you right back to the top of the albums list – taking you completely out of the album you were listening to.

Updates (latest 18th September)

  • iOS 9 update appears to kick streaming music into gear – feels a little faster between selecting a track and hearing it.
  • iTunes 12.3 seems to bring a bit more stability.  One improvement I’ve noticed is that I’ve been able to download previously hidden purchases.   It was, until recently, as stubborn as a mule.

Updates (latest 1st September)

  • Tim Burton’s Batman Original Motion Picture Score has changed to 75th Years of Marvel and soundtrack order has been re-arranged.  Batman Returns score remains untouched.  Under iOS, a TV theme album was suddenly split into lots and lots of separate titles.
  • Apple Music under iOS 8.4.1 has started playing silly buggers.  Try to stream non-offline content and you’ll be asked to join Apple Music.  But I’ve already subscribed!  Rebooting the device seems to fix this for a while.  Apparently this is a “known issue”. Offline content seems to be unaffected.

Updates (latest 26th August)

  • Apple Music is, more or less, playing much more nicely now.  I have found that there are some problems with using other devices (namely my work Mac and my iPhone) syncing properly.  To resolve this involves either rebooting the iPhone or turning off iCloud Music Library (on the iPhone this is bad – you’ll lose offline music) and turning it back on again.
  • I now have over 75Gb of Apple Music content stored offline on my home Mac, around 20Gb on my iPhone 6, and about 10Gb on my work Mac.

Updates (latest 19th August)

  • The iCloud Music Library unavailable status is becoming more regular now, preventing me from downloading purchased music (which is the biggest frustration of all – if I buy from an iOS device, I have to wait until the status clears before I can download to my Macs)
  • Despite my overall disappointment in Apple Music, when it works – it works extremely well.  Therefore, I’m going to subscribe despite all these problems.

Updates (latest 16th August)

  • Unfortunately, we’ve gone back to being able to use Apple Music for about 5-10 minutes before getting the “iCloud Music Library is unavailable message” and not being able to do anything for up to three hours.
  • Have found that when using iOS version of Apple Music during the “iCloud Music Library is unavailable” error in iTunes can cause sync problems when iTunes does reconnect to the iCloud Music Library.  You then have to add albums/tracks manually in iTunes.
  • And there’s this:
An error, you say?
An error, you say?
  • The artwork on iTunes is now screwing up quite regularly.  The following is from the Minions Original Soundtrack (yeah, don’t ask):
Funny looking Minions!
Funny looking Minions!

Updates (latest 15th August)

  • I’ve been using Apple Music with iTunes and iOS today for 4 hours straight without any “iCloud Music Library is unavailable” error messages.  I’ve been able to download a fair number of albums for offline use with just a few download errors – and even then, the tracks that failed to download the first time were subsequently downloaded by clicking the refresh button.  Let’s hope this is a sign that things are improving!
  • There is, however, still a problem with hidden music.   I’m struggling to download music that was hidden (which I think happened at one point whereby I nuked my iTunes library in the process to trying to get Apple Music working).  Clicking either “Unhide All” or individual albums or songs only seems to release some music (which you can download through the iTunes Store -> Purchased link).  Some tracks I’ve been trying to unhide for a couple of weeks to no avail.

Updates (latest 13th August)

  • Apple has just released OS X 10.10.5, iTunes 12.2.2.25 and iOS 8.4.1 which fixes a few Apple Music related bugs.  It still isn’t good enough, however.
  • The good news: the complete album problem looks to be fixed.  If you have a few tracks from an album (whether purchased from iTunes or uploaded via iTunes Match/Apple Music from other sources), you can now add all the tracks from the album from Apple Music without having to delete your original purchased/uploaded music.  It bloody works!  Hoorah!
  • More good news: Apple looks to have fixed the issue where it was splitting albums into sub-albums.  It appears to have happened whenever a track in a compilation album appears elsewhere.
  • The bad news: Some artwork has been mixed up.  iTunes 12.2.2.25 is still laggy (even on a 2014 MacBook Pro Retina) – laggy enough that if you’re downloading tracks and are attempting to add tracks from Apple Music to an existing album, you end up adding the same tracks over and over again – creating duplicates.
A laggy/busy iTunes can cause many duplicates to appear if you keep hitting the "Add" button.
A laggy/busy iTunes can cause many duplicates to appear if you keep hitting the “Add” button.
  • Even worse news: Apple still has not fixed the bloody “iCloud Music is unavailable” problem whereby iCloud Music Library goes away for a few hours.  During this time, you can’t add or download music from Apple Music or the iTunes store (including already purchased tracks).  It appears to be a server-side issue.
Nope - you can't play with Apple Music because iCloud Music Library has buggered off somewhere.
Nope – you can’t play with Apple Music because iCloud Music Library has buggered off somewhere.
  • Despite resetting my iCloud Music Library completely (since I’m a former – and present – iTunes Match subscriber), the bloody thing STILL misidentifies tracks in the iCloud Music Library.  iTunes remains convinced that a Gilbert & Sullivan collection I added in Apple Music is “matched” rather than belonging to Apple Music.
  • Can I only reset the iCloud Music Library once?  The option to try and reset my iCloud Music Library has vanished from my iTunes

Updates (latest 23rd July): 

  • Good (well, it’s not good, but you know what I mean)  to see somebody else experience the pain in the AaaS (Apple As A Service – pronounced “ass” or “arse”) that is Apple Music.  Apple Music is a nightmare (Jim Dalrymple).
  • An IP belonging to Apple has visited this blog post over the past few days.  I hope they’re paying attention.  If it turns out that it’s somebody browsing in an Apple Store, I’ll be quite disappointed.
  • After iTunes 12.2.1.16’s release, I tried removing all content from all iOS devices and trashed my iTunes folder on my Mac, deleting everything in my Music directory on my Mac.
  • After nuking iTunes, I downloaded all previous iTunes purchases and imported everything else I had purchased from outside of iTunes.  I then reset my iCloud Music Library through iTunes -> Account -> View Account menu to ensure that any content is flagged up correctly by iCloud.
  • But it’s all still very, very buggy.  Even doing everything above, downloading any reasonable number of songs or albums will lead to the dreaded Unavailable iCloud Music Library error, and you can’t do anything for several hours.  It’s had the additional effect of not being unable to download anything on iOS which, when iCloud Music Library comes back, requires me to reboot my iPhone to get the downloads to work – it’ll be stuck indefinitely otherwise.
  • There are still issues where iTunes or the iOS music player wants to split “albums” into separate sub-albums.  Plus there is another bug that, to see a complete Apple Music album where you have one or more tracks you’ve purchased individually, you have to delete the purchased tracks to make way for the Apple Music ones.  It also means having to remove the album too and re-add it.
  • In short: Apple Music is a poorly designed, bug-ridden pile of crap that should never have been released this early.  It feels like a rush job.

Previous Updates

  • If iTunes 12.2 is not in focus, and you’re using a web browser (any will do) while music is playing, you’ll experience substantial stuttering during music playback until iTunes is back in focus.
  • Things seem to be settling down iCloud Music Library connection wise in iTunes, but there are still many “Waiting” iCloud Library statuses and tracks cannot be played.  To further confuse matters, some tracks ARE playable but still have the “Waiting” status.
The much publicised Taylor Swift album is there, but why are three tracks unavailable (to stream or otherwise)?
The much publicised Taylor Swift album is there, but why are three tracks unavailable (to stream or otherwise)?
  • Licensing of tracks is horribly inconsistent and poorly implemented.  Take the Vikings TV series original soundtrack (series 1).  The title track by Fever Ray (“If I Had a Heart”) is not available on the soundtrack, but it exists within Fever Ray’s album and as a single on Apple Music.  But you can’t access it within the Apple Music’s Vikings track listing at all EVEN if you’d added Fever Ray’s album to your Apple Music collection (offline or not).  It’ll show as being greyed out and unplayable.  So Apple Music can’t scan its entire catalogue to make tracks available to an existing album if the whole album isn’t licensed.

I have stated on many occasions that I have concerns over the QA of new Apple products and services (case in point, a brand new MacBook Pro and FileVault problems straight out the box).  Apple Music is no exception.

It’s brave that a company the size of Apple, with the resources it has available to it, that it can release a fresh new music streaming service to over 100 countries simultaneously.  That, in addition to releasing new updates to two operating systems and various other product updates.

For me, updating to iOS 8.4 went remarkably smoothly.  Signing up to Apple Music likewise.  But in practice, the service cannot match that of existing services such as Spotify or Deezer, who have had time to refine their catalogue and applications.  To say the iOS version of Apple Music is hideous is an understatement.   The screens are cluttered, and the submenu that allows to you to do various bits and bobs is far too unwieldy to be practical.

As for Apple Music’s catalogue – so much is missing from my Spotify playlists I’m wondering what the hell happened with those high-level discussions Apple had with the various record companies.  On the other hand, there is stuff in the Apple Music catalogue that’s not available on Spotify.  To compare, Apple Music has a much better contemporary selection, but its back catalogue is far too spotty in comparison with more established services.  It may change, of course, but for the time being if you’re hoping to match like-for-like with your Spotify playlists, you’re going to be disappointed.

Searching for content on Apple Music is straight forward enough, but suffers from the iTunes Store search problem I keep experiencing in that you have to be very specific otherwise you’ll end up with weird results.  Usually, the first couple of words followed by the artist should match pretty well.

A big frustration with Apple Music is that you can’t create playlists on the fly.  You have to create them beforehand prior to adding tracks to them.  It is an issue that’s replicated within iTunes 12.2 as well (but more on that later).  You can seemingly nest playlists, but there’s a whole bunch of fiddling to do first.  It’s an enormous PITA.

Downloading Apple Music offline in iOS is relatively straightforward – but you must remember to do this after adding the tracks (or go straight to “Download for offline use”).  Adding the album or tracks and not doing this later will result in a frustrating experience thanks to the clunky interface.

Apple released iTunes 12.2 much later than planned, and while it’s an improvement on 12.1.2, using Apple Music with it is one of the most frustrating experiences imaginable and does not come close to that of Spotify’s app.  Whether it’s iTunes Match interfering with Apple Music or not, or whether it’s Apple’s servers going doolally, or some other issue I’m not aware of, accessing the iCloud Music Library consistently fails.

cloud_fail

The cloud symbol that indicates iTunes is “unable to connect to your iCloud Music Library”.  It does this frequently.  You can be adding albums or tracks and then suddenly the cloud symbol above pops up.  It often fails to vanish for many hours.  Some say it has something to do with an existing iTunes Match subscription, but who the hell knows.  All I know is that Apple clearly haven’t done enough Q&A on this service to have it fixed in time for launch.   I’ve submitted a ticket to Apple Support about this because there’s bugger all information on the Apple service status page about any issues with iCloud Music.


Note: This connection bug only seems to affect iTunes 12.2 on the desktop – the iOS client appears to be largely unaffected by it, but it’s difficult to tell due for sure to lack of decent UI feedback under iOS.


Errors galore!
Errors galore!
You log in, log out, deauthorise, reauthorise, and this still bloody happens. #iClownMusicLibrary
You log in, log out, deauthorise, reauthorise, and this still bloody happens. #iClownMusicLibrary

The following demonstrates the many statuses of iCloud files in your new, improved (read: bloody mangled) iTunes library (read: cesspit).  Click each image to expand.

Managing tracks, when Apple Music/iCloud Music Library is rarely working, is a much nicer experience than the iOS client, but there are many times in which iTunes feels very sluggish and unresponsive – even streaming directly from Apple’s servers.

Apple Music has potential, but it’s technical shortcomings are highly apparent and feels like the service is an afterthought rather than a carefully crafted service with a decent user experience in mind.  It comes nowhere the quality or capability of Spotify, Deezer et al. other than the Beats 1 radio show that is rather nifty.  That’s where Apple Music shines – but for everything else, it’s bloody awful. It feels as if Apple doesn’t care at all for the user experience.  You and I know that’s not true, of course, but you’d be hard pushed to see that when using Apple Music across iOS and Mac devices.

Thank goodness Apple gives everybody three month’s free trial.  But is it a trial or unpaid beta testing?  I’m edging towards the latter.

I strongly urge those considering moving from other services to stick with what you have for the time being – you’ll get a far better experience both technically and in back catalogue titles.  Apple will, hopefully, fix the technical gremlins that currently plague the service – but I dread to think how long this will take and how many different software iterations we’ll have to go through to get there. Hopefully, it’ll be less than three months.

I’m going to try and persevere with it, because with a bit of love and polish, Apple Music COULD be a worthy competitor.  But at the moment, it’s like watching a bunch of clowns honking their way through the “cloud” (weather warning: adverse weather conditions for the next few weeks) in their clown cars scrambling to fix stuff that should have been fixed way before the public launch.

AaaS (pronounced “ass” or “arse”) – Apple As A Service needs some serious work if it’s to be taken seriously by the public.

*Honk* *Honk*