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Apple Music: What Went Wrong?

Nearly a month after Apple’s streaming music service launched, popular Apple commentator Jim Dalrymple declared Apple Music a nightmare.

Dalrymple detailed how his personal music library was a mess after enabling Apple Music’s matching service. Songs were missing, duplicated, or placed in the wrong album altogether.

After countless hours of trying to correct the problem, Dalrymple eventually just turned off Apple Music across all of his devices. The result? 4,700 songs disappeared into thin air, or so it appeared.

A few days after his scathing post, Dalrymple met with Apple in an attempt to troubleshoot his problems. That helped some, but he was still missing roughly 100 songs; he has been assured by Apple the rest of his issues will be addressed soon.

Widespread problems

He’s not the only one experiencing issues with Apple Music, however. Other commentators have complained. And regular users have too: Take one look at the official Apple Music support community and you’ll quickly find lots of similar complaints.

“I’ve noticed Apple Music has downloaded random tracks [to] my Music library,” one user wrote. Another aired frustration about adding music to the My Music section of the service, only to find the music was never truly added (or if it was, only partial albums were added).

User JSdaSM poses the one question on everyone’s mind, “Whatever happened to ‘it just works’?” when talking about Apple products.

I’ve experienced similar problems, if not all of those encountered by others. Just yesterday, after listening to a John Mayer album suggested in Apple’s Music’s For You section, I decided to give it another listen later in the day. I already owned the album, so I pulled it up in the My Music section only to find duplicate songs within the album. As you can see, some of those copies are stored locally on my computer, while others are now available in the cloud.

Why, Apple? Why?

Let’s say for argument’s sake that such problems can — at least in part — be blamed on the the learning process for new users. The interface for the iOS Music app has to be one of the most confusing layouts Apple has ever produced, so maybe we just don’t know what we’re doing yet.

The Wall Street Journal aptly described the Music interface as “Russian nesting dolls: menus within menus within menus.” Maybe, just maybe, those random tracks being added to music libraries are due to user errors brought on by a confusion.

(Speaking of design confusion: What’s up with the fact that some songs in Apple’s curated playlists aren’t actually available for listening? These playlists are at least in theory made by human beings, not by random algorithms. So why to those human curators include songs that aren’t available? But that’s another story.)

The new Apple Music service is itself confusing, in part because it co-exists with two other related, but separate, music services from Apple: iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library. In some ways, these three services collaborate; in others, they work independently. Apple has done a terrible job of clearly explaining how the separate components of its music ecosystem work together—how each operates and where each stores music files. That confusion in messaging has led to confusion among users, which has led to some of the problems we've been seeing.

What you can do about it

So what does all this mean to you, the user? You have a few options:

  • If you already signed up for the free three-month trial, you can't quit it. But you can make sure it doesn't auto-renew: For example, on an iPhone, you can go to Settings > iTunes & App Store, enter your Apple credentials, tap View Apple ID, select Subscriptions then Manage, and turn Automatic Renewal off.

  • In the meantime, you can hide Apple Music: First, be sure you have an up-to-date backup of your local music library. Then find Show Apple Music in your desktop or mobile settings, and turn it off.

  • Get educated. There've been plenty of how-to stories written about how to safely manage your library while using Apple's various services (Apple Music, iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library). A couple of Web searches should help you solve any problems you might run into. But let us repeat: Have a good back-up of your music files before you do anything.

  • Help Apple fix things by giving the company feedback about your experiences, good or bad, using the company’s feedback portal. That site currently lacks an Apple Music category, but you can still submit feedback by selecting iTunes in the OS X Apps section.

There’s a bit of a silver lining right now: Users have yet to pay a single dime for Apple Music. By the time the initial three-month trial period is up and users have to decide whether the service is worth $10 a month, Apple will have had plenty of time to fix the issues. That doesn’t excuse the problems you might be having, but it does take out some of the sting.

Jason Cipriani is a freelance technology journalist based in Colorado. His work has appeared on CNET, Fortune, and PC World, among other outlets. You can follow him at @MrCippy on Twitter.