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Why I don't subscribe to Apple Music

Michael deAgonia | April 4, 2016
Apple's streaming service may have 11 million users, but not everyone is a fan.

When Apple Music was released as part of an upgrade to iOS in June 2015, it marked Apple's first foray into the streaming music business. Armed with a library of more than 30 million songs, a 24-hour radio station and a potential built-in audience of hundreds of millions of iPhone owners and Beats customers, Apple's music initiative seemed like a sure thing for music fans in the Apple ecosystem.

I'm a big music fan, with tastes that range from Daft Punk to Arcade Fire, Bjork to 2Pac. So, why am I still not an Apple Music user?

It's not the price, which is $9.99 a month or $14.99 for a family subscription. That's not much more than other streaming services like Pandora (free with ads or $4.99 a month) or Spotify (free with ads, or $9.99 for premium).

Apple's early music days

Apple spearheaded the digital music movement in the early 2000s, and -- through the powerful iTunes plus iPod combo -- brought the concept of purchasing music digitally to the mainstream. In his initial pitch, then-CEO Steve Jobs argued that people want to own their music, not rent it. So for more than a decade, Apple's music initiatives focused on letting customers buy individual songs instead of being forced to buy complete albums (though that's an option, too), leaving the streaming music market to a host of other companies.

Apple Music
Apple Music offers a variety of radio stations and curated playlists to subscribers.

For music lovers, these services made complete sense: quick access to millions of songs without having to spend thousands of dollars buying individual albums. Streaming services also made discovering new music extremely simple via song and playlist sharing; and with ad-free listening, the ability to skip songs, and the options to listen to music offline, these services offered a compelling reason for many users to subscribe.

When Apple Music finally launched last year, issues immediately popped up. Remember the mass-deletion problem that affected long-time Apple analyst Jim Dalrymple? He lost 4,700 songs (though he did recover many of them later). While the early problems have been resolved, Apple Music remains a work in progress, whether on the desktop, for iOS devices or CarPlay. Though some early adopters may have dropped the service, there are 11 million or so Apple Music subscribers. That, combined with the nearly 80 million active users on Pandora and the 30 million using Spotify, clearly shows there's a large audience for streaming music.

It's about the playlists

Despite Apple Music's popularity, some long-time music lovers who've spent years building up a personal music collection remain unconvinced. I'm in that group; I still want to own the music I purchase. I'm not comfortable with paying yet another monthly fee in addition to all of my other monthly subscriptions. Ten dollars for Netflix here, $10 for Hulu there, another $10 or more for other services elsewhere - it adds up, becoming another recurring cost, whether I use whatever service I've subscribed to or not. And more importantly, once you've subscribed, it gets harder and harder to leave.


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