Jul 1, 2015

Apple Music is NOT for Metalheads (or sane people)

Blog post title pretty much says it all, but let me go into details and get my frustrations out, so please read on.

First, let me make a disclaimer. I have owned several iPods, been a Mac user since 1995 and currently own a 27" iMac, a MacBook, iPhone and an iPad. My entire family is Mac-only with several computers and iDevices on hand. We're not Apple Fanboys or Fangirls, but we bought into the whole ecosystem, have supported and enjoyed it for a long time.

As far as music goes, for most part I stopped buying CDs years ago and even stopped buying mp3s since the streaming music services have become indispensable as they do not take any rack space, cataloguing is easy and for most part music is literally at your fingertips, and whether you're in a car, walking or sitting at home, you're only a few swipes or taps away from music from your favourite bands.

The streaming service I've been using for a few years now is Rdio, not by choice, by default. I'm in Canada, and as is the case with most everything, we are few years behind when it comes to technology and internet services. Until Spotify finally arrived in Canada, choices were slim and even when Spotify did finally get here, I was deeply rooted in various playlists and had a sizeable library, not to mention that the social networking of Rdio is actually quite good. I gave Spotify a shot but it was too late to sway me away.

When Apple bought the trendy headphones brand Beats, with a full intention of overcharging for their gear of questionable quality and using their assets and client base to set up a streaming service, I was a bit apprehensive about it. I was worried that this will be a service geared towards the Top 40 crowd with little to no way to discover new music. Apple's keynote on June 8, during the WWDC had me convinced that this might indeed be a service to dethrone Rdio as my streaming venue. After all Rdio is not perfect, their desktop app is fantastic, but as the screen real estate becomes an issue on mobile devices, the experience suffers, I also found Rdio's service to be notoriously slow outside of a wifi network and the combination of buried submenus and an incomplete catalogue left me wanting more. Something I thought Apple would be able to provide.

Well, let me just say this, not since the days of PageMaker have I been more frustrated with a service or software.

Apple music should not have entered beta stage yet, and for metalheads especially, it is not even worthy of the 3 month free trial. Here's why:

It took us over 3 hours of pure frustration resulting in screams of agony to set up a family account. There are three of us using streaming music at home. First, in order to experience Apple Music, you had to download iOS 8.4 update, which on our iPads/iPhones took anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours, guessing Apple servers were running hot that evening. Setting up family account was an experience I would not recommend to those I hate, especially those who have ever had to change their Apple ID in the past, as was my case, so I'll skip that part, as your experience might have been less annoying and the less I have to be reminded of how shitty it was, the better.

On desktop, Apple Music resides inside the world's biggest bloatware known as iTunes and this is where the troubles only begin. iTunes is a mishmash of odd interfaces, confusing work-arounds and headscratching decisions that make Windows 3.1 troubleshooting seem like a charming task. When you finally launch Apple Music, you're greeted with the goofy Apple Watch interface that lets you pick music genres (to my surprise Metal was actually there) - one tap indicates that you like it, two taps means you love it, tap and hold for few seconds eliminates a genre. On an iMac this was faster and far less pretentious, since on mobile it took me a long time to close up all bogus music styles such as R&B, hip hop, electronica, pop, etc, etc. You'd think that by now Apple would know I couldn't give two shits about other music. Death to all but Metal!
You're then presented with the same annoying Apple Watch-style bubble choices of Metal bands to narrow your search further and for Apple to "get to know" you. Some of the bubble icons representing metal included such stellar metallers such as Disturbed, Nickelback or Kiss.

Once I selected a few metal bands from the list that I actually like, I was greeted with the home screen of Apple Music with such choices running at the bottom:

For You: oh, look, heart. Gay
New: Mostly Top 40 stuff = useless
Radio: useless, got one in the car
Connect: Only Avril Lavigne photos (why?)
My Music: Link to music I already have on my iPhone. WTF? Did I need to update to Apple Music to get a feature I've had for years?

In the middle you have a few Apple Music generated playlists for Metalheads, so I open the first one called The A-List: Metal.
What's in it?
As Apple would say: "beautifully curated music, especially for me"
So, based on my band choices, Apple gave me this personalized 25-song playlist with such songs as "1000HP by Godsmack, "Rabbits Foot" by Turbowolf and "Gimme Chocolate" by BabyMetal. No, I wish I was fucking with you.

So, a useless playlist you can't delete forced me to look up some bands. I hit the Search icon to look for decent music. Instantly my search window gets populated with the "trending searches" such as Keith Urban, bigbang and, you guessed it, more Nickelback. I'd normally ignore that, but I'm growing more frustrated at this point, I entered "The Pulse of Mourning" which is the title of the new Thurisaz album. Nothing. I've had it on Rdio for a while. It's not on Apple Music. I search for Thurisaz, the band, turns out Apple hasn't heard of them and tried to autocorrect me to Turisas. FUCK! At this point I switch from iMac to my iPad. I search for "Insomnium" and... oops. Crash. iPad is restarting. I grab my iPhone and I figured it looked so good in a demo, I'll use Siri to search for music. I asked her to play Omnium Gatherum "Beyond". She misunderstands me, of course, so I try to say it as clearly as I possibly can and I get this:

Then I get this:

So, I got my daughter, who was born here to try to announce it:

OK, back on my Mac, I'm now playing some Enslaved. I tried clicking the "+" icon to see what options I get. All I got was a check mark, meaning either the song or the album just got added somewhere, but where? To a playlist, to mobile, where?

Now I'm back on my freshly rebooted iPad. I'm looking up Napalm Death, (as I get more frustrated, I'm looking up more aggressive shit.) To my astonishment it finds lots of Napalm Death albums. On the right it finds similar artists. I see Carcass and Bolt Thrower, makes sense, they are similar bands. It also finds Nile and Deicide, ok that's a stretch, but I'll take it, but why the fuck are all these bands labeled as "Rock" bands, Pig Destroyer is labeled as "Metal", so is Godflesh, but somehow Immortal is rock, so is Marduk, Nasum, Satyricon and Anal Cunt. Brujeria is labeled as Alternative!!! WTF?! I see that Belphegor is there, so I tap on it to see the artist page. Nothing. Tap again. Nothing. I'm boiling over in frustration at this point. I fuckin need some Belphegor! I'm thinking something is wrong with my iPad, I borrow my daughter's iPad Mini. Same shit. On any band's page, you see a list of similar artists, but you can't tap on them at all. You can on Apple Music on the computer however.
At this point I'm completely ruined, my nerves are shot, my throat hurts from screaming.

As I am clearing my head and drowning my sorrows in Heineken, I'm listening to "ballistic punk rock of Carcass" right now and I can tell you that Apple Mu


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