Apple Music Early Report Card

Every time Apple releases a new cloud-based service, technology journalists and early adopters sit around with bated breath. Apple seriously damaged its reputation a few years back with the MobileMe rollout and it still is accepted wisdom that Apple is lousy at cloud services.

While I’d prefer to not open that particular can of worms today, I would like to report in on my experiences with Apple Music now that we’ve all been using it for awhile. 

My family music library was approaching 25,000 tracks. When Apple Music released, I switched my wife and two daughters over to Family Sharing and signed up for the trial period of the Apple Music family plan.

Setting up Family Sharing was easy. Because we previously used a shared account for iTunes purchases, my account still connects to that shared account for purchases and my personal iCloud account for calendars, email, contacts, and similar data. My wife and daughters now use their personal iCloud accounts for both purchases and data. In some ways, their set up is easier than mine. However, we still need that legacy account attached in order for them to get access to all that music, television, and movies we’ve purchased over the years.

The last time I attempted Family Sharing, things went poorly. I chronicled all the problems at the time but in summary, Family Sharing broke app updates and lost data and generally had my family sharpening knives for me. With this new attempt things have been working without complaint. The list of sins in my above linked post seem to be largely resolved.

That’s not to say that Family Sharing isn’t still a pain at times. When my wife and daughters want to download something from the other family accounts they need to go to the “Purchased” button and then switch to the appropriate user and find the media from there. This should be easier. Once everyone understood how to get at each other’s data, however, everything worked. 

One interesting bit in relation to music is the convenience of downloading with Apple Music. When we first started this journey, I put all of our iTunes library music on a portable hard drive and explained to my wife and daughters they could copy any files they wanted from our legacy library into their own accounts from the hard drive. Interestingly, after weeks, nobody has taken me up on this. I looked at their iTunes libraries a few days ago and it appears that rather than copy files from the drive, they’ve just re-downloaded much of their music from Apple Music.

They haven’t just stopped at music that was already in my library. My entire family has built out their libraries with a lot of music we don’t own. I’m no different in this regard. I went on a Dexter Gordon binge yesterday that would have cost hundreds of dollars. Conservatively, we’ve downloaded over 2,000 tracks that we didn’t previously have in our library before Apple Music arrived.

One advantage that Apple Music has is it’s integration with they prior library. I’m constantly rating music that is interesting and have built a series of smart playlists around those ratings. With Apple Music I can continue to rate the tracks I’ve added to my library and tie them into existing playlists. I’ve been an iTunes guy for so long that integration with my existing library and smart playlists is a big feature for me. Competing services can’t do that.

I was a Beats subscriber for over a year before the big integration and I enjoy the service now more than ever because it works with my iTunes library. (Beats on the Mac up until last month was a mess. It required a Flash enabled browser. Yuck.)

I know there have been problems but at the Sparks house, Apple Music has been a huge hit. Based on our aggressive downloading of tracks, I expect the $15/month will be a no-brainer.