Apple Music: What Reviewers Are Saying

July 14, 2015 by

Apple's new music streaming service launched a couple weeks ago (June 30) and so far reviews have been favorable.

VentureBeat's Mark Sullivan wrote (June 30): "The new Apple Music app, while not perfect, lives up to the hype, and may pose a serious problem to competing subscription music services. It's that good."

Sullivan extolled the value of Apple Music's suggestion engine, called "For You," which leverages existing iTunes user data to create streams the user will likely enjoy. Overall, he liked the experience, although it did recommend a couple albums he already owns in iTunes. "It should have known that," he added.

He also explained the "New" section of the app, which displays current chart-topping singles and albums. "The section is organized in sections for popular LPs (Hot Albums), recent releases, top-rated songs, and new releases. You’ll also find top songs from Apple’s Connect artist social network." There is also a wide variety of mood/genre stations available for streaming, which get as granular as "bbqing, breaking up, celebrating, chilling out," and "cooking."

Apple Music lives up to the hype. It's that good.
                                                                 - Mark Sullivan, VentureBeat

Lastly, Sullivan explained the "My Music" section, which is where users can access music they already own via iTunes, recent downloads from Apple Music, and playlists created from both. A toggle switch at the top of the screen allows you to switch between "library" and "playlists."

In the end, Sullivan concludes the greatest benefit to Apple Music is for users with a "history" with iTunes, as the service is effective at matching music to your taste. I, however, abandoned iTunes in favor of Rdio two years ago, so my taste has evolved since then -- there will be a gap in my listening history.

Rolling Stone's Kory Grow wrote (June 30) about many of the same things Sullivan did. But he expanded on a couple other items in particular: Beats 1 radio and Connect.

On Beats 1, he writes, "Trent Reznor's baby is the most interesting aspect of Apple Music, since it offers radio shows more akin to Sirius XM or college radio than any of its competitors. In addition to ringmaster Zane Lowe's sure-to-be-bonkers broadcasts, Beats 1 offers unique shows by Dr. Dre, Elton John, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Q-Tip, St. Vincent, Ellie Goulding, Jaden Smith and others."

Beats 1 is the most interesting aspect of Apple Music, since it offers radio shows more akin to Sirius XM or college radio than any of its competitors.                                          - Kory Grow, Rolling Stone

About Connect, he writes, "Other than Beats 1, the main feature Apple is touting to fans that will continue to be free after the trial period is a quasi-social network called 'Connect.' This offers a Twitter-like feed from artists – which number in the hundreds according to an Apple rep – who wish to communicate with fans. (Any musician with songs on Apple Music or in the iTunes store can create an account.)"

MTV's Brenna Ehrlich (June 30) had a number of reactions to Apple Music (11 to be exact), each with an animated GIF, giving her review a Tumblr effect. Many of her reactions were similar to Sullivan and Grow's, except she singled out a handy Apple Music feature: Voice control via Siri. "You can totally ask Siri to play all manner of things — from my favorite band Man Man’s top hits to what song was popular on my birthday, December 27, 1984. It was 'Like A Virgin,' by the way."

As a bit of counterpoint, however, I did manage to find an early review from Esquire's Dave Holmes (June 30), who called Apple Music a "very flawed work in progress."

A big reason for his beef is -- unlike for the above reviewers -- Apple Music did a poor job of predicting his first playlist. "I (like) Pavement, the Monkees, and Billy Joel, give some courtesy taps to Elton John, Coldplay, Donny Hathaway, and the Kinks, and decide to hate nobody, because I am here to spread love. The first curated playlist that comes up is... 'Michael W. Smith: Piano Favorites - Songs that make this Contemporary Christian Music star's heart soar.' Strike one."

Hahahaha. That is awesome.

Esquire's Dave Holmes vows to stick with Rdio for instant playlist making. So will I.

In addition, Holmes said building a playlist was "extremely clunky and frustrating" and vowed to "stick with Rdio for instant playlist making." He later bemoaned the inability to share playlists with other users or non-iPhone owners. (Note: An Android version of Apple Music is expected this fall.)

About Beats 1, he noted all the tracks are the clean versions and knocked it for playing too much Pharrell.

I could see his point there. I'm not a fan of Sirius for the same reason: A flaw with curation for Top 40 or new music is: You end up hearing the same songs ALL THE TIME. The amount of repetition is maddening, especially for a paid service. (Note: Both Beats 1 and Connect will remain free for users, even after the free three-month Apple Music trial period.)

As previously mentioned, I'm an avid Rdio user and frankly there's nothing here that's compelling enough for me to switch to Apple Music, not even a free three-month trial. Full disclosure: I'm a longtime iPhone/iPad user. Last summer, I complained that Rdio does not have an iTunes integration like Spotify, which lets you port over your old iTunes playlists over to the streaming service. I assume that Apple Music does the same. I didn't switch to Spotify for that and I won't switch to Apple Music for it either. Because I've used Rdio so heavily these past two years (every day, for an average of two hours a day), I am happy and I am entrenched. Rdio is a part of my listening routine, my bike/bus commutes, my office workflow, my in-car listening, and my runs and workouts.

We're open to your Apple Music feedback. Please post comments below.

Largely due to iTunes hubris, Apple was late to the streaming party. As such, it is late to MY party as well.

But I'm open to your feedback. In fact, I asked a couple of my co-workers (Diana and Tony) what their early thoughts on Apple Music were. They echoed sentiments of the above reviewers: The value of iTunes historical knowledge, the quality user experience in identifying artists/genres you like/dislike, the ability to find new music via For You, Beats 1 and various mood stations. Do you have any other Apple Music benefits to add? Please post them as comments below. Cheers.

Posted in: Apple iPhone, Industry News, Industry Trends, Product Reviews


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