I’ve long been ambivalent about streaming music services. I’ve tried to like Rdio and Spotify, and they just didn’t let me. They certainly didn’t do anything to make me feel like adding to my list of recurring expenses. Intellectually, I could understand the appeal of having access to all the music, all the time, but it’s never been remotely difficult to decide that I wasn’t interested in buying what anyone was selling.

Ten minutes into my three month free trial of Apple Music, I have to say it: this is, for me, the first truly compelling music service. Even an old scrooge like me who puts music at the bottom of my “needs and wants” list understands why this feels like a good thing.

Apple didn’t invent radio or even streaming music.1 In fact, they’re late to the streaming game. But they offer something none of the other players 2 do: the advantages of streaming, subscription-based music combined with existing personal libraries and online radio stations. It’s the mix that makes the service, and it’s done attractively, with a UI that Spotify would kill their favorite pet squirrel for, at least on iOS. On the Mac (or PC), iTunes manages (as always) to dampen the joy quite a bit.3

artist view   radio view   for you view

Longstanding iTunes inadequacies aside, there is still room for improvement, yes. It’s early days, and Apple could easily make certain aspects less confusing. For example, while searching in Apple Music in iTunes on the Mac, in some views you can find all of an artist’s albums, and in other views for the same artist, you can only see their most popular albums. There’s a bit of a learning curve, and it feels like Apple still has some streamlining and “use case” optimization to do.

Also, as pointed out by Matthew Guay on Twitter, it seems like on obvious miss for iTunes to still limit iTunes store previews to 90 seconds even if you have an Apple Music subscription considering you can just search for the same song under Apple Music and stream the whole thing that way. I hope we see better integration with the pre-existing offerings going forward.

Confession time: I actually don’t intend to pay for Apple Music once my trial is up, but not because I don’t think it’s worth what Apple is asking. It is. I just have other financial priorities right now. Someday that will presumably change, especially when my daughter is older and has some really strong opinions on the subject. But Apple’s new baby is the first option I’ve tried that has me convinced that if and when the budget more readily allows, it’ll be a no-brainer.

Apple exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect to care about or like Apple Music.4 I do. I can only imagine that it will be even more exciting for people who prioritize music highly and want the benefits of a subscription streaming music service.

  1. I honestly don’t think anyone’s confused on this point, or is claiming that Apple invented anything they’re doing in Apple Music. Nevertheless, I did see a tweet on Twitter by someone who felt compelled to counter the non-existent argument anyway, so I wanted to make that clear. 
  2. See what I did there? 
  3. Can we just say it for the 10,000th time? iTunes sucks, and it’s not doing Apple Music any favors. 
  4. The Apple Music segment of the WWDC keynote didn’t do anything to improve my attitude about it either. But it seems pretty clear to me that even though their on-stage presentation was jumbled and confusing, the music service itself isn’t. Thank goodness.