Made the upgrade to iOS 8.4 and iTunes 12.2 so I could explore the latest Music app and the new Apple Music streaming service during its three-month free preview period.
The Apple Music streaming service is dense, feature rich, and doesn’t offer many guideposts as to what it does, or what it expects you to do. Explore it, however, and you’ll quickly reap some lovely musical rewards — with one caveat. Apple Music is not something you want to try for the first time on a tiny iPhone screen. Exploring it on an iPad is much nicer, and is better still for the first hour or two via the iTunes frontend on your giant desktop screen.
On any screen the service is divided into four tabs: For You, New, Radio, and Connect. The first thing Music will ask you to do is Like, Love, or Hate a from a selection of genres, then from a selection of artists in amusing little bubbles. Click once for Like, click twice for Love, or click the X for Hate. There’s no actual “Hate” on the screen, but watching the bubble pop gets the message across. Click “More Artists” and get more bubbles to choose from. When Music thinks it knows enough about you, it’s time to dig in.
Also new to iTunes in general is the heart-shaped Love button. Click that on your desert island songs, in your own library or in Music, and the service learns your tastes even better. I made a Smart Playlist of my five-star rated songs, clicked Command-A to highlight all 500 or so of them, then right-clicked and selected “Love.” BOOM!, Apple Music knows exactly what I love best.
For You is where I spent most of my time, clicking on anything that even just looked promising. Within ten minutes Apple Music had introduced me a lovely Bossa Nova artist I was unfamiliar with (Eliane Elias, woo!) and became an instant fan of. Strangely though, the service provides no direct links to buy music through the iTunes Store. I suppose that’s to keep streaming music buyers paying the monthly streaming fee, but maybe you’re like me and you prefer to own your music outright.
The curated playlists provide mostly standard fair, each with a few surprises only a knowledgable DJ can provide. If you’re familiar with the “Deep Cuts” areas of the iTunes Music Store, then you know what I mean. Anyway, those smart DJs led me to a few tracks I wanted to purchase, but again without any direct links to do so in the iTunes Store. It’s a very curious state of affairs when the world’s largest music retailer makes it more difficult to buy music.
Still though, the music selection is broad and the software is deep — and the combination of algos and human curation virtually ensures that you’ll soon find new stuff you’ll love.
Speaking of New…