Here’s why I’ll be removing Apple Music from my playlist

I believe in the total democratization of music, the ability to pick from small players and listen in a way that suits my mood.

apple music ios

I won’t be using Apple Music when it debuts later this month. I do have an iPhone and an iPad, and I’m sure I’ll see the new service pop up and consider trying it out. Here’s why I won’t.

First, you should know I’m a Total Music Snob. I’ve been a music reviewer for the past decade or so. I’m a chronicler, an archiver, and a surveyor. I like mainstream artists like Bruce Springsteen but my favorites are usually a bit more eclectic--think Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad with a heavy dose of Alt-J and relatively unknown artists like The Black Ryder or Chelsea Wolfe. Right now, I have 90 albums stored in a Google Music account that are not even released yet. (I obtained them the legal way--directly from the media relations contact.)

I’m one of those unusual music fans who will go to an Austin tech conference and sneak away from a panel with Al Gore to attend a record store concert by the lead singer from a band called Waxahatchee. I’ve somehow convinced my teen daughter to like vinyl, mostly by osmosis. I once got so excited when a Geneva Sound Systems speaker came in for review that I hauled it into my living room by myself. (Note to those with back problems like mine: It weighs 77 pounds and is larger than a dorm fridge.)

I already know what Apple is trying to do with their new music service. It’s a clearinghouse for all audio entertainment in any form and in any circumstance--streaming music ala Spotify, personalized radio (which they already do), artist “connections” (you can comment when Drake posts a picture of himself), and--of course--paid music. It will cost $9.99 per month after a three month trial. Sigh. It is the Apple approach to view every market as a target for total domination and disruption. 

The main problem with this strategy is that music is a personal endeavor. There are times when you might want to play a slow-jam in the car on the way to work, stream through a waterproof Bluetooth speaker in the pool, or play along with your own guitar in the den as Ben Howard plays through your Xbox connected to high-end speakers. I’m not really talking about music ownership or even fidelity, and I’m not talking about personalization or the rights of commercial artists. It’s just this idea that my mood for music changes throughout the day. I don’t want to be locked into a “one company owns the party” dogma.

I do use Google Music, but it’s essentially a storage medium for me. Apple Music is a rather bold attempt to dictate how music listening even works. You’ll be able to ask Siri to play the best song by The National, which I can only assume is based on the popularity rating or maybe unit sales. That’s a troubling scenario. How can any service pick the best song by any artist? By having that feature alone, Apple is spoiling the party.

Mainly, I’m just not sure I want to use a service that intends to be so all-encompassing and meet every music-listening mood. One of the things I like so much about SoundCloud is that it is intended mainly as a music discovery platform and as a way for indie artists to reach a new audience. It’s bone-dead simple. I’m not sure if SoundCloud will ever run as an embedded app in my car, but if it does, that’s fine. I don't plan to use it in ways the creators never intended; in some ways, the creators are honoring the music.

There’s a reason I’ve used Apple iTunes for so many years. It’s the one service where I actually purchase songs, usually the ones I can’t find anywhere else through streaming or just want to own. I use Spotify to queue up multiple albums; I use Rdio for music discovery. In the car, I’ll usually connect up with an Android phone because it’s where I store my archived music. When I have a speaker in to test, I use all of the these services at random. The main reason I don’t want to use Apple Music is pretty simple. I just don’t like the idea of having one service that’s so dictatorial.

Let’s say it does become the most popular music app. What does that really mean? When people ask Siri to play “the best” alternative rock artist, will the service pick the one that is actually the best or the one that leads to the most paid conversions? A few years from now, when Spotify and Rdio are long dead because everyone has picked Apple Music, is there any reason the service couldn't charge twice as much? I prefer small upstart entertainment companies. I want an indie aesthetic to my music. It's just too personal to put all of my eggs in one music basket. I’m not sure I trust the basket owner.

How about you? Will you sign up? Does ease-of-use always trump democratization?

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