Apple Music

After almost a month of the initial three available in the free trial period with Apple Music, I have confirmed my initial thoughts in relation to the likelihood of continuing to pay a subscription come the end of the trial period.

The short answer is no. The service itself? I do enjoy using it, and the user interface of the iOS app I find straightforward and simple to use, with the layout appealing. The reason I won’t be continuing with a subscription is largely a financial one, tied to the overall value I would (or wouldn’t as the case may be) get from such a service.

My Usage

More and more these days when I play music, it is often simply in the background, and beyond the types of artists or genre, I don’t really mind what that the specific music is. Prior to Apple Music, this was often one of the dozen or so iTunes Radio Stations I had created based on artists I enjoy listening to. I am not a big playlist creator, and am happy to hear something new or random in the genre I enjoy. Failing that, I am happy to listen to something from my own collection.

Will Apple Music change this?

To date, it hasn’t. Sure, I might miss the For You recommendations a little when the trial ends, for as I’ve mentioned, this part of the service fits the way I most often listen to music. That is, having offered to me an artist/genre/scenario, after which I’m happy to be surprised by what I hear. Of course the obvious choice here will simply be creating more radio stations, which is as simple as tapping “Start Station” from any artist or song in the service.

Looking at my Recently Played in the Radio Tab on iTunes is also quite representative of “Most Played” from the past few weeks as well. On high rotation has been The Mixtape, along with Beats 1, and my usual alternative Radio Station selections, be they genre or self-created based on artists.

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I don’t have what you’d call a large collection of music, with around 8000 tracks, however I know what I like, and anything I discover through these stations or by other means can readily be purchased and added to my collection should I so desire.

With the audio output from my iPhone just as likely, if not more so, to emit the sounds of a podcast as it is music these days, the desire for an endless on-demand library just doesn’t have the same attraction it once might, and that compelling reason to undertake a monthly subscription seems a little further away.

Cost and Data

Another consideration not out of the question in all of this is simply renewing my subscription to iTunes Match. Although it may seem counterintuitive given what Apple Music has to offer, here we are talking $AU34.99 per year compared with the equivalent of $AU143.88 for a single membership, or $AU215.88 for the family option. If you will get a lot more out of Apple Music, and access to the extensive catalogue that is iTunes, I don’t think this figure itself is necessarily too expensive. However for someone who will only use it in a more limited fashion as I’ve described above, then it becomes a fairly expensive radio station.

So, with the first hurdle being the subscription cost (which is fair enough given the requirement to pay artists for their work, and whether or not this is enough is another discussion), perhaps a more significant barrier lay in cellular data plans. My current 2.3GB per month plan — more than enough for my day-to-day usage, often runs relatively close to its limit — and that is without a streaming service in moderate to heavy use. Overall, I am quite happy with my data plan and how I manage it, yet extracting full value from a music streaming service would require consideration of additional data add-ons or an entirely new plan — both at additional cost to what I am currently paying.

The Service

As I’ve mentioned, on the whole I like Apple Music both as an app and a service. I know there are many who have been frustrated with the app interface, and there are tales of larger problems involving loss of music doing the rounds recently, however personally I have found not found this to be the case. You’d also do well to read beyond the initial hysteria surrounding such issues and onto the resulting clarifications on exactly what did and did not happen in some of these cases.

Of course it goes without saying that playing around with cloud services and something like your entire music library without having a local copy backed up is, well… to put it politely — not the best course of action.

The available catalogue itself? Again, I’ve personally found no real issues — however within the first few days of the service launch, there was of course the usual “who can find an artist not on Apple Music and tweet about it first” epidemic. I do find these types of things a little tiresome, more for their tone than anything else.

So once the trial period ends, what will I have remaining to me? Looking at the What you get with your membership section: Beats 1 and the Apple Music Radio stations — both my own creations and those put together by Apple. This was the same as before, and when my iTunes Match subscription was current, I enjoyed these stations ad-free. I’ll most likely give it a run and see — perhaps my Match subscription would be worth it to eliminate ads alone.

Closing thoughts

I was not a subscriber to a music streaming service prior to Apple Music, so it should come as no surprise I will not be subscribed to one after this initial trial period ends either. In summary, my patterns of usage, cost considerations and general value I may gain from a paid subscription simply don’t add up to pushing the button, and to be honest I cannot really see that changing.

Probably something to mention also (as you well know), is that Apple Music is not the only option, and in such a crowded marketplace, there is quite a bit of value to be had in sampling the many other services on offer. This post was written whilst listening a very enjoyable Alternative station provided by the Australian owned Guvera streaming service.

So for the current time, I am more than happy to either listen to my own collection or be served up a selection of music from genre or artist based stations. For the times when this isn’t the case? Well, there are always one or two podcasts in my queue.

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