Apple Music is the last library focused music service


Back in the days my parents used to listen to cassette tapes and they had this huge custom cassette shelf that my father built. The organization was simple but It still made sense since each cassette was either a compilation of several artists or an album. You could easily find your way through with the labels and the only issue was the integrity of the tapes after several years or the physical space that you needed in the car for a week-end trip.

Fast forward to the Youtube era and things were starting to be more chaotic with hundreds of unorganized music files stored in CDs being the norm. This was the period where I also got my first MacBook and discovered iTunes. You could buy songs, import existing ones and customize, albeit not very ergonomically, your entire library.

Nowadays we are all familiar with the various music services, the catalogue is almost the same, your choice is based essentially on additional features like the ecosystem, lyrics or family pricing. Those services allow for the most part a centralization of our music needs, you can listen to radio stations, share playlists and find the publicly shared ones.

The current trend of consuming music is very similar, in my opinion, to the trend in computer file management as described in this very fascinating article by The Verge. This article explains how students do not follow the same organization paradigm based on folders and local file management. This could be, in part, attributed to the new ways young students learn, which is on online first operating systems or tablets, where by default, the local system is hidden and also where everything is done through applications.

I personally foresee a future trend where everything is abstracted and algorithmic based. If you look closely at the services that we may use everyday it’s clear that this is already happening at a large scale and that we are pushed on either suggestions based on activity or on abstracted search results.

Let’s get back to iTunes or rather Apple Music. With the launch of their music streaming service, Apple tried to include their previous customer with features like iTunes Match and the ability to still organize your library even if you only use their streaming catalogue.

Here are a few features that are available on Apple Music (own added songs and cloud based catalogue) but not on the other big music services:

  • Custom Music Artworks
  • Custom Artists / Producer / Lyrics description
  • Custom rules to ignore songs on random selection
  • Custom rules to select equalizer per song
  • Folder based navigation
  • Smart Folder based playlists
  • Uploading your music to the cloud and streaming them as any other song

This set of features aren’t groundbreaking by any previous standards, yet in 2021, it’s the only mainstream music streaming service that allows that. Sure you can still buy songs and organize everything yourself, through Plex Music for example, but the idea that your own added and cloud based songs could co-exist and benefit from a voice based assistant like Siri or search with Spotlight is quite the commitment from Apple.

I’ll conclude by encouraging everyone to always consider the local first, self managed solutions, this could range from backing up a file on your computer, accessing your connected light switch to organizing your music library.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on this subject, this is a departure from my previous, more technical posts, that I would like to write at times. You can also read my previous posts on Cloudflare Argo and Access on a Raspberry Pi and Setting up macOS for development.