Apple Music Is Already a Social Network

(This is the second consecutive ¡Eia! post I’ve written entirely on my phone, by the way.)

The social media era is literally all over but the shouting, and yet I’ve gotten eight friend requests on a social media app recently, and only half of them are from people I know.

I’m not talking about on Facebook — I deactivated my account on New Year’s Eve. Not Twitter, either — I straight up deleted those accounts almost a year ago.

These requests were on Apple Music, the music rental and sync service that anonymously described itself to the Wall Street Journal recently as “on track to overtake Spotify in U.S. subscribers… this summer.” Notwithstanding the numerous ways in which that is fake news, it’s certainly revealing of Apple’s current strategy.

That strategy was clear enough from their latest product launch, HomePod, which is billed — quite simply — as a home music speaker for iPhone users. It’s another $400 iPhone accessory targeted at the user’s lifestyle more so than their productivity, but which does assist with the latter in a basic way (so far, way more basically than Apple Watch does). Apple must think music is a core part of people’s lifestyles or something; it only says so at the end of every single product keynote, basically.

“Music is part of our DNA.”

Some of us Apple nerds have been struggling to keep that faith in recent years. iTunes feels like a mad scientist’s laboratory where Apple has been experimenting on us live human subjects who bought their first blockbuster product — (that would be the iPod, children) — and has lately left us lying here prone, waiting for the lights to go out. My current library file dates to 2007, y’all, and that’s because that year I learned to migrate iTunes folders to new Macs instead of just copying all the music files. It took all day. So that’s how long Apple’s music products have been central to my lifestyle.

Unfortunately, in other 2007 news, the classic iPod topped out at 160GB of storage that year — at the same time as the iPod Touch came out, would you believe, as well as an Apple cell phone of some kind — and that was seriously the most music storage you could fit in your pocket until the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. I got the iPhone 8, not the X (pronounced “TEH-n”), because 256GB was the iPhone feature I had been waiting for… well, the entire time, and it’s really the only new feature I cared about, honestly. Until a few years ago, I constantly, ruthlessly trimmed my music library down to fit on a 160GB iPod, but I stopped wanting to do that, and I let it outgrow my carrying capacity while I waited for the phones to get more space.

What I’m getting at is, I REALLY don’t want to stream my music library. Why would anyone elect to do that when entire music libraries can fit onboard phones?

Still, I’m an Apple Music subscriber. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I know, I said I was against music rental services, kind of. I believe my exact words were, quote, “Music rental services are immoral and harmful to society,” Well, actually, in the second half of that 2014 post, I mentioned that there is one good thing about music rental, which is discovering stuff you haven’t heard before. Apple Music, while it is deeply not done yet, does reflect at least a passing awareness that one’s local library and one’s streamed music are separate but interrelated places. After canceling the first time around when iCloud Music Library annihilated my decade-old metadata and files — (of course it was backed up, are you crazy?) — I rejoined last year and just keep iCloud Music Library turned off on my Mac. When I add music to my iTunes library, I shut off the iCloud crap on my phone and iPad respectively, sync them both over the wire, wait eight eons, restart them, turn iCloud Music Library back on, and wait 31 eons for my playlists to load. It’s fine. No, really, it is; I only get new music once or four times a month.

The reason I turn iCloud back on is that it allows me to add streaming stuff I want to check out to a playlist called “☁️ Checking Out,” which I have set to automatically download to my iOS devices without adding the songs to my library. This gives me the best of both worlds: I have all my music locally, but I can also save stuff I want to test-drive, and if I like it, I can add it to iTunes later. To listen to ☁️ Checking Out on the Mac, I just hold shift when relaunching iTunes to switch to a separate library file that has iCloud Music Library turned on. It’s fine.

What Will Apple Music Become?

 Here’s what my Apple Music profile looks like

Here’s what my Apple Music profile looks like

So like, I have no idea what proportion of my music listening data Apple is getting or using productively, but I do baaaaaasically have the musical lifestyle of my dreams right now. And you know what? When people follow me on Apple Music, I check out their profile, and if I like the look of their sounds, I follow them back. If the whole point of the algorithm part is to find new stuff, I probably shouldn’t be seeding it with 10 years of data about old stuff. Eventually it’ll learn which new stuff I like, and the recommendations will just keep getting better.

My question is, are we eventually going to be able to post stuff on Apple Music? Will we be able to share music into some kind of feed, maybe with a comment, surely with some emoji? Will we be able to post photos? Location? Fitness data? Other life story stuff alongside what we’re listening to right now?

Much more importantly, what about our own music? If I record a song in Logic or GarageBand — or, hell, any music app — will I be able to post it for my followers to hear? Will I be able to sell it?

I know Apple Music launched with some kind of pseudo-blog feature for certain special ordained artists, but I have deliberately not looked into that feature, and now the app design seems to deemphasize it, if it even still exists. Maybe they’re retooling it to be more democratic? Would the entertainment-advertising complex ever go along with that?

At minimum, a feature general-purpose social media never delivered that Apple Music clearly could is alerts when artists release new music. It already has them, but obviously not for stuff that’s only in my local library, because I almost never get them, and I keep missing releases. Still, this is clearly the successor to those email alerts the iTunes Store used to send, which I don’t get anymore even though I’m subscribed to tons of them.

Am I going to get a HomePod? Well, no, but I do have a Series 3 watch, and even that can hold a pretty hefty amount of local music. I set that to sync ☁️ Checking Out, which I presume it does overnight, and yes, I did manually sync some albums over from my phone, but that took 93 eons.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I have bought one of Apple’s $400 musical accessories in the recent past: the Beats Studio3 headphones. They provide the best all-around classic-iPod-era-style music listening experience I’ve ever had — even without a device in my pocket! And unlike HomePod, they’re also noise-canceling, although maybe there is a sense in which HomePod can do that, too. More on that in a probable upcoming blog post. (Still not buying a HomePod.)

I actually intended to write that post I just teased before I even realized I was writing this one. Apparently there’s a lot to say about sound right now.