So I’ve been giving Apple Music a bit of a trial run because it would allow me to not worry about maintaining my FLAC backups along with having music anywhere and everywhere I go so the convenience was worth the price (I’m happy to pay for convenience if it means one less thing I have to worry about when going about my daily routine. I started the 3 month trial to see what the experience was like my going through all my music library and searching through the online music choice and adding the albums to my virtual library that Apple had available. Things were going well until I hit a snag – Ahmad Jamal Trio with the album Awakening where track 2 wasn’t available (however it is available in the iTunes store if I bought the album, something I’m not going to do since I already own it – the physical copy). I then found that as I went on I experienced more examples of this odd situation where there was one album by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers where only three out of the 7 tracks were available for me to listen to on the Apple Music service. So it went from being, “ah, pain in the ass, I guess I’ll get over it” to “hang on, this is getting beyond a joke”. Yes, I understand that Apple is very much at the mercy of music labels but for goodness sake the album was released in 1970 which makes it 48 years old – really, you’re (the music labels) wanting to squeeze more even more blood out of a stone? I might understand if it is a new artist but holy crap we’re talking about an album that is 48 years old, if there was any money to be made it would have been way back when it was first released – not today where Jazz is very much a niche genre in the music market.
When it comes to subscriptions I guess it is one of those things where if you’re starting off your music collection then it allows one to avoid the upfront costs associated with going out and spending $20-$30 per CD where as you can can have access to over 40million songs all at once for as little as $14.99 per month or around $4.75 per week (assuming you go for the monthly option rather than paying for a year upfront where you effectively pay for 10 months and get 2 months free). For someone like me, apart from the convenience associated with not having to worry about my music backup the limitations I found the experience rather underwhelming given that I already own everything I want – store it on an external hard disk or upload it to my iCloud drive and call it a day.
Regarding the longevity of Spotify as a stand alone operator, I question whether that is possible long term and whether we’ll see a merging or buy out of it by Netflix where Netflix eventually becomes a one stop shop or eventually offer something akin to ‘original content’ in the form of music where they literally step up as a distributor and record company rolled into one. Regarding Apple, there is rumours about Apple TV’s future but they really do need to come up with something they fan pair up with their Music offering and provide a combo which involves firstly by teaming up with maybe the same outlets that broadcast live streams on YouTube such as France 24, Bloomberg etc. then also talk to the likes of the BBC and CNN to stream using Apple’s network of CDN’s that are scattered around the world. For someone like me, if it were $14.99 but it was part of a larger combo then I could live with it in much the same way that I have a YouTube Red subscription that allows me to avoid the advertisements without having extensions that bog down the browser with the added bonus of getting access to the Google Music service as well. If Apple were to develop something similar aka ‘Apple TV’ with those live streaming channels that are ad free then combine it with their Music service then I’d be all over it like a rash.
Conclusion: The value of Apple Music makes sense when it comes from whether you answer ‘yes’ to both questions; Are you deep in the Apple ecosystem? Do you have an existing library of music of significant size? If it is yes to both then Apple Music is a great deal but if you’re someone like me with already an existing library then you’re probably better off paying the $14.99 and upping the storage to 2TB then upload the AAC encoded music to the cloud along with the FLAC backups plus the added bonus of being able to throw everything else one can think of in the cloud (too bad the Apple Music does bundle in an iCloud storage upgrade to sweeten the deal).