We now know that Apple Music has 11 million people trying it since it launched last month, thanks to a new USA Today story.
In an interview, Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, told USA Today, “We’re thrilled with the numbers so far.”
I’m one of those trying it. And while I’m glad he’s thrilled, I can’t exactly say the feeling is mutual. While I still have two months to go before the trial ends, I can’t imagine paying for Apple Music.
First, a little context. I was an eMusic subscriber for several years. For a monthly fee, I could download 30 tracks per month. The last two years, I’ve been a paying Spotify user. So I’m more than happy to spend $10 per month on music.
At the moment, I primarily use Spotify on my iPhone, where the app is simple to manage and to use. I don’t think I’ve even updated the iTunes software on my Mac in two years.
Frankly, after using Apple Music for a month, I’m still not sure why Apple is even bothering to try to get into the streaming game. There is nothing in terms of features on the service that I can’t find elsewhere. Beats1 Radio is quite good, but I can continue to listen to that without paying for Apple Music.
As many others have noted, the Apple Music discovery elements are very strong. The curated playlists are also very good, and they often serve up old albums I hadn’t listened to in a while.
The rest of it, though, remains a confusing, frustrating mess.
For instance, the notion that this is all of your music in one place, as Apple claims, is a bit misleading.
When I click on specific artists, I might get taken to their artists page in Apple Music. But I also might be shifted to the iTunes store app for their page, which I take to mean they have not given Apple rights to stream their music. (Looking at you, Beatles.)
More annoying for me: All my previously purchased music is now gone. Yes, there is a way to get it back if you follow this simple 10-step process. But because I changed countries for my iTunes store (after moving from California to France), I can no longer re-download the 500 or so songs I previously purchased.
Not a huge deal, since almost all of them are on Spotify. But still, all of this just adds to the un-Apple-like complexity of Apple Music.
The USA Today story dismisses these concerns, noting, “By and large, Apple Music has gotten favorable reviews from the tech-set, with most of the criticisms anchored not to content but functionality.”
But the functionality is the point, at least for me. Most of us will have a hard time comparing catalogues when we’re talking 30 million tracks. But it’s annoying and time-consuming to manage Apple Music. And I haven’t seen a huge payoff for the time I’ve spent feeding it information.
“Connect” is a perfect example of this. At the moment, I’m only following 70 artists on Connect, the service’s social feed for bands to share news, video and music with fans. I’m old, so I’m probably just not following the right people on Connect.
But looking at it now, the last three posts are from Apple playlists I’m following. Before that, I have to go back 8 days to find a post from an actual artist. (Wilco released another entirely forgettable new album!)
The USA Today story also makes a fairly generous assumption in Apple’s favor: “Assuming all the trial memberships are converted into paying customers come October, Apple would already boast half the paid memberships of reigning streaming champ Spotify.”
It’s possible that Apple will have a high conversion rate compared to Spotify since Apple made auto-renewal the default when you sign up for the free trial. (Here’s how to turn that off.) Expect a bit of backlash when a portion of those 11 million trial users discover they’ve been billed for a service they had probably forgotten.
Of course, Apple retains many other advantages, including the fact that the app is built right into the iPhone. It’s possible that with three months to try it out, and without having experienced other streaming services, people who are new to streaming will be entirely delighted by Apple Music.
But I’m certainly not going to pay for two streaming services. And so I’m sticking with Spotify.