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Yeah, um, Apple Music is way too complicated. I’m sticking with Rdio

Posted on 1 July 2015

I’ve been a happy Rdio user for years now, and it has been the primary way I listen to music, old and new. But danged if I didn’t get excited for Apple Music, which promised to offer all the streaming convenience of Rdio, only with a wider catalogue, exclusives, Beats 1 Radio, and the ability to merge your personal collections with the cloud. I fully expected to make the switch.

One day in and I’ve completely changed my mind.

While Rdio feels like a seamless merger between the collection and the cloud, Apple Music is a confusing mix of streaming, store, online and offline, different playlists, radio, Match and I don’t even know what else. I mean, full disclosure, I haven’t used iTunes much for years, but this thing is a mess.

Let me use just one example: favouriting songs.

OK, so here’s Rdio. I log in.

rdio open screen

There’s all my stuff. The music I’ve most recently been listening to is front and center. Over on the left-hand side I can navigate through a few things, including my personal playlists and friends’ profiles. Today I’m going to check out the new releases.

New_Releases_–_Rdio

I like Miguel. I’m going to listen to that. Click on it, it starts playling.

rdio hover

 

I like this song. Click on it, and a list of options come up, including adding it to one of my playlists, sharing (on Facebook, Twitter, Rdio, links, or embeds), and favouriting. I’m going to favourite it.

rdio favourite

I know I succeeded because there’s a red heart beside it.

rdio fav'd

OK, now I want to go back and hear some songs that I know I liked. No matter where I am on rdio.com, that “Favourites” tab is there. Here’s what happens when I click on it.

rdio favourited

 

All the songs and albums I’ve favourited, in reverse chronological order! I can access this from any computer, as well as from the app on my phone.

OK, so now let’s do the same thing with Apple Music. I open iTunes, and go to the “New” tab. Hey, look, it’s Miguel again!

itunes new

 

Alright, so so far it’s about the same. Click, it starts playing, hover on the song I like and I get some options.
add to

 

Here’s where it starts to fall apart. I hover over “add to” and nothing happens. I have playlists, but they are for my personal iTunes so maybe I can’t add streaming songs? OK, I’ll favourite it instead.

itunes loved

I clicked on the heart, so I think I succeeded? But for some reason Apple’s decided that different shades of grey are the best way to indicate whether a song has been favourited or not.

Let’s find out. I’ll head over to “my music” to find my favourite songs.

itunes my music

It’s not here. Maybe there’s a favourites tab in my playlists?

playlists

Nope.

And here’s where I have to spend ten minutes trying to Google an answer, and eventually piece together that I have to make a new “smart playlist”. How do I do this? Way over in the bottom left hand corner.

new smart playlist

Now I need to manually make a playlist that will add any song or album that I “love” to it. Make sure it matches “any”, not “all”!

new smart playlist 2

 

Here’s my new playlist of “loved” tracks. That Miguel song will be here, right?

 

itunes loved playlist

Nope, just a classic Weezer tune that I guess I loved a while ago. Incidentally, I tried to remove it from my “loved” tracks for the purposes of this demonstration, but had no success. I love it forever.

Alright, so back to Google. It turns out that before you can have a track you “love” in Apple Music streaming appear in your Apple Music collection, you need to first add it “My Music”. So go back to the artist tab.

apple add to my music

This is insane. Why would you give people the ability to “love” tracks without those tracks automatically being added to the “my music”? What is the point? I guess something to do with the algorithm, but now I spent time listening to new music and hitting “heart” only to have it disappear into the ether. I have no idea if there’s anywhere I can see those tracks. I also can’t figure out if I have the ability to share playlists, browse other people’s playlists, or even share this information between iTunes on my Mac and the phone apps. Yesterday when I tried to add tracks to my collection from a phone, I kept winding up on a purchase screen.

This is, I think, the problem with Apple Music: it’s a streaming service built on top of a store with radio stations on the side. Or a radio station in a store with streaming options. I don’t know. Regardless, it’s confusing as heck. While listening to Zane Lowe yesterday I tried multiple times to favourite or collect or whatever a song he was playing, only to give up and add it to my playlist on Rdio.

 

Here’s how it works on Rdio’s $9.99/month plan:

Here’s how it works on Apple Music’s $9.99/month plan:

There’s all these weird tiers and getting between them is not at all intuitive. On top of that, I can use Rdio on any computer with a web browser, because it’s entirely browser based. So if I’m working on the road, my collection is completely accessible to me from remote computers, and I’ve done this.

Apple Music, on the other hand, lives in iTunes. So you need iTunes. And once you have it, you need to authorize the computer or whatever junk that is to get into your stuff. And you can only authorize so many computers. And if you want to access your collection from someone else’s device, well, that’s a problem because you can only authorize a new account every 90 days or whatever. I don’t know. Just like the music itself, it’s this weird hybrid of something that lives online and something that actually takes up space on your computer that really feels archaic at this point.

And that’s just the start of it. I enjoy being able to browse other people’s collections and playlists on Rdio. Like this one. Rdio even lets you add your own cover art and descriptions, making it a lot more like sharing mixtapes. I mean, maybe that’s not a killer feature for everyone, but it is for me and I really thought Apple, with it’s history of iPods and playlists and this new focus on “curation” would have that baked in but as best I can tell you get the “recommended playlists” made by various Apple folks, and that’s it. And those playlists are pretty good, actually, but I can’t even seem to explore them, instead being limited to the few they choose to show me.

I mean, hey, it’s like day two of this thing, so it’s bound to be rough. Apple is a big company and has the resources to change. But I really hope Rdio manages to hang in there, because it has a far better product and I’d hate to be forced into switching for this.

Filed under: music, reviews

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