by Jim Lynch

Apple Music impresses the critics

Jun 30, 2015
Consumer ElectronicsOperating Systems

Apple Music gets major kudos from journalists but some users remain skeptical of the new service

Apple Music was released today, and many people are curious about it. Fortunately, a number of critics have gotten a sneak peek, and the overwhelming buzz about Apple Music seems quite positive (with a few caveats).

I’ve compiled snippets from various critics below to whet your appetite for Apple Music. And I’ve also included some comments from users in a recent Reddit thread that featured some interesting give and take about Apple Music. Some users were quite excited about Apple Music, while others remained skeptical of Apple’s offering.

What the critics are saying about Apple Music

Jim Dalrymple at The Loop was seriously impressed with Apple Music:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from Apple Music. I was not only pleasantly surprised when I started using it, I’m downright impressed. Many of the problems I had before with iTunes Radio are completely gone. Selecting genres of music or even something like “70s Rock Hits” or “80s Metal” gives you exactly what you want—great music.

With the integration of Beats, you also get curated playlists and the ability to stream artists music, if you become a member of Apple Music. The selection went from not having much to choose from with iTunes Radio, to having so much great content from playlists and radio stations that I had to start saving them all so I could listen to them later.

I did my workout today to a new Apple playlist called “Workout Warriors,” which is part of the Hard Rock section of Apple Music. I was walking down the street playing air guitar to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Guns ‘N Roses, and Motorhead. You know you’re enjoying the music when you start playing air guitar in public.

I’m damned impressed. Apple Music is a quality service, with the right mix of human curation and algorithms to help users figure out exactly what they want to hear.

More at The Loop

Walt Mossberg liked Apple Music too, but also felt it might be confusing to some users:

I’ve been testing Apple Music on an iPhone 6 Plus, loaned to me by Apple for about a day. Because of the short testing time, this isn’t a full-on review but a first look. I set out to gather some initial impressions of how it feels to use the product. And to answer the question: Would I pay $10 a month — $120 a year — to use it?

My answer is a tentative yes, with some caveats. Apple has built a handsome, robust app and service that goes well beyond just offering a huge catalog of music by providing many ways to discover and group music for a very wide range of tastes and moods.

But it’s also uncharacteristically complicated by Apple standards, with everything from a global terrestrial radio station to numerous suggested playlists for different purposes in different places. And the company offers very little guidance on how to navigate its many features. It will take time to learn it. And that’s not something you’re going to want to do if all you’re looking for is to lean back and listen.

My first impression of Apple Music is that it’s the most full-featured streaming music app I’ve seen — and heard — and the first I’d consider paying for. But it may overwhelm some users, and I’ll need to live with it more before I can reach final conclusions.

More at Recode

Ed Baig at USA Today found Apple Music visually appealing but noted that Connect was a bit thin right now:

Apple Music certainly looks visually appealing on the iPhone 6 Plus preloaded with the iOS update, especially the way Apple extracts the colors and themes from an album cover and displays it across the entire display. But it also took me awhile to get comfortable finding my way around — there’s an awful lot packed into a section labeled “New.”

Not all the artists whose music is available for purchase in iTunes are also available for streaming, most notably The Beatles: “There always some folks to come later that we would all like,” Cue says. “Over time I certainly would expect The Beatles to be there.” Of course if you own Beatles music it can reside next to the on-demand tracks in the library.

Apple has high hopes for the Connect feature that connects artists to fans. The artists you follow may post extra music and videos, photos, in-progress song lyrics, info on tour dates and more. Having indicated an interest in classical music, I found myself connected to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra where conductor Sir Simon Rattle in a video discussed streaming classical music.

For all its promise, the Connect area seems pretty thin at the outset. “It’s somewhat of a discovery social network and you can’t do that until it opens. Day one is day one,” Iovine says.

More at USA Today

Christina Warren at Mashable noted the importance of curation in Apple Music:

The real heart of Apple Music is the For You tab. This is basically your music homescreen. When you open the section for the first time, you’re asked to go through a discovery exercise. This was lifted directly from Beats Music and it’s one of the best discovery tools I’ve used over the years.

You start by tapping dots with genres of music. The more you tap, the bigger a bubble gets. You can remove bubbles you don’t like and pick and choose what types of music you like. Then move to artists, where you do the same thing.

It’s hard for me to over-stress how much I like For You. From the very beginning, the recommendations in playlists and albums that the app showed me were dead-on accurate, reflecting my various musical interests.

The idea behind “For You” is to help make it easy to find good music to listen to. Tapping on an album or playlist will play it instantly. You can then either add it to your library, keep it playing in the background, add a track to another playlist or just cycle through.

More at Mashable

Kory Grow at Rolling Stone focused on Connect in Apple Music:

Ostensibly to make things easier, if you’ve purchased music from an artist on iTunes, you are signed up to follow them on Connect. But once you’re following an artist, you can “like” posts and comment if, say, Snoop Dogg wants to test-drive new lyrics and demos alongside songs and videos. The service had not launched when Rolling Stone demoed Apple Music, but it looked pretty quiet in the demo phase with only a few artists using it.

With no other streaming-music analog on other services, this feature appears to be the service’s biggest uphill battle. Twitter and Facebook already have strong locks on artist-fan relationships and it seems unlikely that many musicians would want to share potentially embarrassing works in progress with fans and risk alienating them.

Moreover, the only place where fans can interact is the comments section of each post, cutting out a major part of what Apple hopes will be a new music ecosystem: fandom. While it’s possible fans would share music individually – with Apple Music’s many options to post to text, email, Twitter and Facebook – the absence of fans’ voices on “Connect” makes it more like a supplement to a social network than an exciting music-discovery platform. But only time will tell if it catches on. This is one place where Spotify, with its ability to follow and make playlists your friends, has a leg up.

With its vast selection of music and smartly curated playlists and radio, Apple Music is robust enough to compete with, and possibly supplant, Spotify and Pandora as the go-to service for music fans. At the same time, users will need to play around with it a bit and dig to move past some of the less immediately intuitive facets (i.e., just how deep the “New” tab goes) for it to hook them.

More at Rolling Stone

What some users are saying about Apple Music

Walt Mossberg’s article spawned a huge thread on Reddit, with Apple redditors weighing in with their thoughts about the new music service:

ShezaEU: “The absolute biggest barrier to stop me paying for the service once the trial ends is simple: Price. Spotify smashed Apple with its 50% student discount. There’s no way I would pay double for slightly better features over Spotify. If they mirrored the student discount I would, if is as good as they say, ditch Spotify. But as it is… No way.”

Dcrck: “Apple Music is not complete without lyrics in my opinion. Hope they add it soon.”

Heratiki: “Yup considering the Amazon Music is really the only app that has synced lyrics is strange considering how easy it would be to implement (compared to other features).

That being said my requirements for Apple Music are the family price plan (6 users for $14.99 vs Spotify’s $29.99 for 5 users) and how much music is available including indie music and lesser know electronic music.”

Moobyghost: “As someone with two apple devices, who never did the music match, and who loves pandora more than any other service… why should this new Music service matter to me? I have had no one explain it yet in a way that makes me go, “ohhhhh.”

Endemoniada: “For me, and most other people who will be switching, the appeal of Apple Music is the native app and eco-system integration with iOS in general. I don’t have to have a separate app or separate company taking my money. I can stick with Apple and On top of that it seems I’ll be able to “add” streamed music to my existing library, blurring the line between what I’ve sync’d and what I’m streaming to make one seamless experience. Spotify (which I currently use) can’t do that.

Then there’s the Beats 1 thing, Connect, and a bunch of other stuff that you either want or not. It’s up to you. Apple Music is not revolutionary in the sense of traditionally streamed music. It’s revolutionary in the sense that no other streaming music provider has a complete device and OS platform and superior access to the world’s music libraries and industry titans.

BrettGilpin: “What does “deeply integrated” even mean? Just that it will be on all your devices? What benefit does Apple Music have over Spotify on integration beyond the fact that it will be automatically installed on all your Apple devices? And beyond that, how much do you honestly think you’ll be using it on your Apple TV or whatnot? I can see some possibilities, but I just think you and everyone else are overblowing the usefulness of it coming as a first party app.”

Crazy_Drago: “Pandora is a streaming app that doesn’t let you pick the songs you want to hear. You pick a station and it plays songs. Like the radio. You can customize that station to be more accurate and you can seed it with songs you like, but you can’t pick a specific song and listen.

Apple’s new offering, like spotify, has pandora like features, but it gives you access to their entire library on-demand. You can pick a specific song and listen. Or a whole album. If it’s on iTunes (mostly) you can listen to the whole song.”

Scrmedia: “Obviously people are going to be critical because its Apple, but I also assume that no one expects Apple Music to be perfect on day one. Look at Spotify when it launched compared to now – you had to make a playlist for EVERY ALBUM you wanted to listen too for quick access, or just star things which puts everything in one big horrible list. And it stayed that way for a ridiculously long time too…

Compared to that, Apple Music sounds like its got most things right from Walt’s first impression and I’m sure it’ll improve rapidly on the things its gotten wrong.

Guccipiggy: “You can’t really compare something that was launched in 2008 when there weren’t too many other services to compare to and now. Apple Music of course will be better than when Spotify launched because it has a lot of competitors to take cues from. Apple can see what worked and what didn’t. This is not something Spotify had the luxury of doing back then.”

More at Reddit

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