‘The Anxious Ease of Apple Music’

Alex Ross writing about Apple Music:

The majority of the population that ignores classical music will shrug and go back to the new Jamie xx record. (I’m enjoying his track “The Rest Is Noise.”) Yet Apple’s unwillingness to accommodate—in this first iteration, at least—defining features of a thousand-year tradition is symptomatic of general trends in the streaming business. You sense declining interest in the particulars of genres, in the personalities of artists, in political messages, in cultural contexts. Differences are flattened out: music really does stream, in an evenly regulated flow. One zone of Apple Music offers playlists tailored to various activities and moods: “Waking Up,” “Working,” “Chilling Out,” “Cooking,” “Getting It On,” and “Breaking Up.” All that’s needed is one for “Dying.” As the Times critic Ben Ratliff recently said, on the subject of streaming playlists, “I always feel as if I’m shopping somewhere, and the music reflects What Our Customers Like to Listen To. The experience can feel benignly inhuman.”

The more time I spend with Apple Music, the more I feel like I’m being marketed to. That is, of course, the case with just about everything online, but there’s something kind of blatant about the whole thing. For one, my “For You” area is full of well-known acts. I’m supposed to discover the “Deep Cuts” of Tupac or Kanye or Van Halen or the Doors or listen to Jimi Hendrix tracks arranged in an exciting new way.

Are my tastes really so main-stream? Or is there something else going on? I like these performers, but I haven’t listened to so much classical rock or hip hop in years.

Btw, I have yet to receive a single classical playlist as a recommendation even with all my little hearts being appropriately applied.

History of Music Notation Programs and Advice

Bill Holab writing at New Music Box:

Sales of Sibelius and Finale are strong, particularly in the education market, and generate enough revenue that the companies that own these products (Avid for Sibelius, and MakeMusic for Finale) can afford to continue development and add features, support existing users, and maintain the software. Yet there have been big changes in these two companies.

I remember the day when Avid announced the closure of the London office where much of the Sibelius team was located. It was the kind of event that fundamentally shook your faith in a product, and by that point I’d been using Siblius more or less happily for some time to write my musical ideas. The new licensing scheme looks completely unappealing (how many software subscriptions do we need nowadays?), and I wasn’t happy at all when Avid stopped supporting Sibelius 6 entirely, which meant it had bugs after OSX upgrades. Additionally, all the new features of Sibelius 8 seem geared towards Windows tablet users, which I’m not.

His advice in the article regarding whether or not to upgrade or not is interesting, as is the follow-up article briefly mentioning LilyPond, the open source program.

At this point, it might be time for me to give LilyPond a try.

Classical Music for Elevators

Kirk McElhearn writing on Kirkville:

I know Apple Music is just getting started, but they can certainly do better than just provide “Classical Music for Elevators.” Maybe Apple needs to hire some classical music “curators.”

I actually haven’t even received a single classical music playlist suggestion under the “For You” tab. So he’s ahead of me in this metric. It’s been all popular music like rap and classical rock even though I “love” (click or tap the little heart icon) many of the classical tracks I do find. I do get album suggestions.

They do have curators, but for some reason, the myriad playlists offered don’t actually make it to the “For You” section. Except for the elevator music one apparently.

Thoughts on Playlists in Apple Music

And I've added the "New Listener" Playlist to Apple Music

title

I just updated my giant post “Don’t Know Where to Start with Classical Music? Start here” with a playlist made in Apple Music. If you’re – like me – an early adopter of Apple Music and want to try it out, then here’s the playlist link directly. Have fun!

A few thoughts on Apple Music playlists so far.

Their Curated Playlists are Great

In general, I like it. It’s a solid streaming service, and I’ve been able to find all the music I could want (absent a few notable exceptions). It’s very easy to find new music as well. As I write this, I’m listening to a curated playlist for people working. Right away, I’m being introduced to some new stuff, and because it’s human curated, there tends to be a logical and fun assembly.

I honestly think these playlists are Apple Music’s greatest strength. Integration with iPhones and Macs and our iTunes libraries is fine great etc., but we’ve been living with streaming services for a few years, and it’s hardly been a giant imposition to open a different application to stream stuff. But the playlists are very nice, and I’ve heard they’re what made Beats Music special.

Making Playlists in Apple Music: Too Hard

However – and it’s a big “however” – making playlists is way too complicated at this point.

For one, there’s no way to import playlists from other services. I recreated the above playlist myself, and it took about 45 minutes. There are public playlists on Spotify that are many times longer than that, which individuals have been creating for years. Do we expect their owner’s to actually recreate them by hand in Apple Music? No.

The question then arises; why is it so hard to move playlists? Here’s why. Songs that you find in Apple Music can’t be added directly to playlists. They must first be added to your library and then added to playlists. This is not how Spotify – for example – works. I can add music to any playlist in Spotify and not add it to my larger library. Because of this limitation in Apple Music, imported XML playlist files can’t just auto add songs to playlists because those songs aren’t in the user’s library yet.

If you do want to create a playlist, as I just did, then you have to navigate back and forth between the “My Music” and “New” tabs in iTunes. Using the search field while in “My Music” searches your library by default. You must then click the button to specify that you want to search Apple Music, which will then take you to a page with your results. The search field is then erased, so if you want to refine your search, you have to retype everything.

Banging your head yet?

Mutually exclusive

Once you find what you want, you must first add it to your library before adding it to a playlist (even though you are presented with the option to add it to a playlist!!!) by clicking the plus symbol. Then you go to the track and click the three dots (don’t right click, because you’ll get a different menu and different playlist options), and then you can add to a playlist.

Along the way, you might run into a few bugs, which I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say, they slowed me down.

Once you have the playlist, you can share it with a link. There’s no embedding yet, which is a drag, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get that. I hope we do. I also can’t just “publish” it somehow within Apple Music for other people to stumble upon. That’s also a drag. I’ve found some really good playlists made by users in Spotify, and I’d like this to work a little more seamlessly.

Caveats

I like the service. I really do. I like that my wife and I can have a family account that’s cheap. I’m glad I can mix my own recordings and the streamed ones. I love the playlists. I’m glad they’re paying musicians slightly better. There’s a lot of stuff to listen to. Metadata is decent (I want to write a post about this). I even dig the new icon. All good stuff.

But it has a ways to go yet, and I’m hoping they’re going to iterate it quickly.