We’re done with Apple Music. The whole experience has been a frustrating, bewildering fight against our own devices and music, for virtually no added benefit.

I’ve wasted hours wrestling with weird problems and various amounts of data loss. As I write this, I’m in the middle of another full phone restore, trying to get things back to square one, back to how they were before Apple Music gleefully stomped through and wrecked everything.

Here’s a summary of the most frustrating problems we ran into.

On vacation I spent more than a day trying to get newly bought MP3s to sync from my computer to my phone (you know: the absolutely most basic and simple task of any music player ever made). In this case, it was a prerelease copy that I bought directly from the artist, but it was also listed in Apple Music as a coming-soon release, and maybe that was part of the problem, but I was never quite sure. I’d say “make available offline”, the app would say, “sure thing boss!”, then I’d hop in the car to rock down the road and find: nope. Not there.

Trying to help my wife keep her Jazzercise-instructor playlists in sync with her computer was a constant uphill struggle. And if hers are screwed up, it’s a bigger deal than me being disappointed that I can’t listen to my new music. For her, it means her carefully planned and choreographed class is ruined. Sometimes playlists stayed in sync, sometimes they didn’t. Less than 100% confidence is a deal-breaker, so although I’m just now rage-quitting this aggravating debacle, she’s been off it for a while already.

Having lots of my carefully-tended album art get totally trashed during the Great Upload to the Cloud was really annoying. (This has been complained about by others, as have other iCloud/Match-related woes.)

Somewhere along the line, a bunch of my playlists disappeared. I didn’t even notice when this happened, as they’re static (not “smart”) playlists that I don’t use that often. But most of them are copies of old mixtapes (yes, actual real tapes). I think I’ve recovered the raw data that will let me restore these, thanks to Time Machine backups, but it will be a labor-intensive pain in the ass.

Those were all pretty maddening, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Music app crashed yesterday morning. When it restarted, it was a completely blank white screen. Hmm, that’s not good. Quit the app and started again, then at least there were controls at the bottom, but when I tapped “My Music”, it was a white screen and a “Loading Library” message with a progress bar. It stayed that way during my entire commute to work (no music! See, there is still a case for CDs). I thought it was all right after that, but on my drive home that evening I got a warning about playing music away from wifi, even though I was trying to play my own music, not something streamed. With creeping dread I turned on the “only show music available offline” toggle, and sure enough, everything disappeared. Gone. All gone.

Checking out the disk usage, I found a huge amount of “Other” space. Clearly all that offline music was still taking up space, even though it was inaccessible:


A full reinstall and restore-from-backup later, and it’s fixed. Now all I have to do is re-load the music back on there (and re-enter passwords and Apple Pay credit card info and Touch ID and who knows what else), and then I’ll be back to square one!


Note that all this heartburn is despite the fact that we’re all-in on the Apple Way. We’re using iTunes on Macs, and lots of our purchased music came from the iTunes Store. That is, we’re not trying to do anything weird or bend the rules. And though I bumble around with this stuff sometimes, I am actually a professional computer guy. I shudder to think what kind of shape the music library and iPhone of a “regular person” would be in at this point.

So, we’re out. Maybe it’s for the best. I thought having a blurred-to-nonexistent line between what I own and what I stream would be great, but I never really warmed to it. I use streaming mostly to try out new music, and if I like it, I buy it. So they’re two separate tiers in how I mentally organize my music collection. Having a completely distinct service for that, like Spotify, works fine for me. It will be a little more expensive for our family, but any savings from Apple Music has already been spent a hundred times over in wasted time and frustration. There’s also the recommendations and curated lists and “radio” stations, but I’ve never been much into such services, and during this trial I never found a single new song of interest in those ways. (Which reminds me of a another failure: that “Tell us what you like” bubbles thing and the resulting “For You” recommendations were laughably wrong and completely useless for all of us.)

Update: 8/31 – Still Smoldering

After I thought I’d restored everything, I discovered this morning that my song ratings were all screwed up, too. I obsessively rate the songs in my library. Probably a little too obsessively, but I use those ratings a lot, especially in smart playlists. How the living hell this could have happened, I can’t begin to imagine, but somehow a whole bunch of tracks suddenly had ratings with light gray stars:


The best the Internets could tell me was these are “estimated” track ratings, whatever that means, but more to the point they were wrong. According to the size of my “unrated” smart playlist (told you: obsessive), there were suddenly 4,402 unrated tracks. I didn’t know the right number, but I knew that was way too high. (Once I got stuff restored, the actual number turned out to be 444.)

Thankfully there’s a special directory under the main iTunes directory called “Previous iTunes Libraries”, where Apple apparently backs up your library metadata file before major iTunes upgrades. It’s almost as if they don’t have very high confidence that everything’s going to work. But it turned out to be handy, as all I had to do was dredge up the copy from July 1, that black day I first stepped upon the dismal path of Apple Music, and voila! Except for all the music I’ve added and played and rated since then, I’m back to square one! Again!