iPhone

Apple Music and the iTunes Nuclear Option

iTunes nuclear

In the span of a few weeks, I’ve gone from doubting Apple Music to going all in and then some. The biggest hurdle to adopting any music service is being to actually use said service. My family uses Sonos and we absolutely love it. We also do most of our listening at home. Although Beats was quick to offer Sonos support, Apple Music wasn’t available at launch, but it is coming soon. Using an ancient AirPort Express, I’ve managed to get Apple Music working on Sonos. Using a Family Plan, my wife and I have already begun digging deeper into the recesses of the service. Apple isn’t always first to a product or service category, but more often than not, they manage to simplify things for the everyday user. It just works. I’ve seen complaints of Apple Music being too confusing and unwieldy. Those aren’t that far off. There are overlapping cloud services like iTunes Match, a merge of existing purchased music with DRM music and this syncs between all of your devices. You can get to the iTunes Store from Apple Music, but not the other way around. For lack of a better term, it’s madness. If you thought iTunes was bloated before, it reaches new levels with the new version. Early on, I opined that it would have been nice to have a lean, mean app dedicated to the service. This would have been the perfect time to cut bait with the anchor that has become iTunes. Alas, that’s not happening, for a variety a reasons. If lean and mean is what you desire, you can opt for the iTunes nuclear option. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it had to be done.

iTunes nuclear

On Twitter I wrote that I had deleted my iTunes library. Normally such a thing would breed fear, panic and rage. But this was no mistake. Having the proper backups in place, both on a local server that’s uploaded to CrashPlan and Google Music, I proceed to select all and delete. I could have created an entirely new iTunes library (hold the option key when opening iTunes and select Create new library), but I didn’t want to disturb my existing iPhone setup and apps. Deleting one’s entire music library? Had I gone mad? Is this what happens to someone after using iTunes for well over 10 years?

Goodbye confusion, well somewhat

Mixing music I own and music I’m technically renting, didn’t sit well with me. It felt like an odd mix of doing things the old way combined with the brave new world of streaming music. My OCD kicked into high gear. When clicking on the My Music tab, there are tabs at the top for Library and Playlists. If you click within an album or song, a small iPhone icon denotes ownership. One would think it would indicate music was available for offline usage, but that’s not the case. These are songs that you have purchased and own, stored locally on your iPhone.

The option to show only music available offline is an option when tapping on Sort menu (Artists, Albums, Songs, etc.), which again shows a mix of your purchased and rented libraries.

Apple Music offline use

Seeing those icons that show it’s stored locally is something I’ll miss. When in an album or playlist, there is no discernible way to see if it truly is offline. I don’t have a huge data plan, so any slip-ups on my end could be costly.

The state of the library

I was the guy with the iPod Classic that carried every song I own. Every. Single. Song.

Old iPod

In the past few years, I’ve gotten smarter about my music choices. I fine tuned my iTunes library by weeding out duplicates. I also upgraded the quality of some older rips using this iTunes Match trick. I started to execute my master plan, which was to start actively rating tracks. This worked well, for the most part, producing excellent “best of” lists. Unfortunately, at some point, it started to feel like work. That’s hardly a great listening experience.

The result of my work was an iTunes library that was clean, optimized, had the proper artwork and was beginning to have ratings that helped drive my playlists. I’d venture to say that my iTunes library is in better shape than most.

Your library is filled with crap

A clean iTunes library doesn’t mean a good iTunes library. Your mileage may vary. Somehow the size of an iTunes library can be a badge of honor. I needed a 64GB iPhone, just so I could fit my music. Now that Apple Music is here, I took a hard, cold look at my vaulted iTunes library. It was filled with crap. Sure there were some great albums, but there was also Milli Vanilli, Vanilla Ice and 2 Live Crew. I asked the question, “Why am I hanging on this steaming pile of MP3s?” And with that, I backed everything up and nuked my iTunes music library.

Hello simplicity

Apple Music is an all you can eat buffet of music. If for some strange reason I want to listen Blame it on the Rain, I can stream it or download it. And when I sober up, I can remove it from my Downloads. I no longer have to work at adding stars to my music in an effort to create awesome playlists. Apple Music offers playlists that introduce you to an artist. This is your standard ‘best of’ and you can go deeper with ‘Deep Cuts’ playlists. These are more than sufficient for my needs, at least initially. There aren’t playlists for every artist, but I suppose those will increase with time. I’m also not adverse to creating my own Tesla best of list.

Making this move saves big time on hard drive space. Today’s Mac laptops start with 128GB of storage. With 500GB of storage on my MacBook Pro, I had been allocating 50GB or so to music. By deleting it, that’s a big space saver. I doubt I’ll even download any Apple Music to my laptop. I’ll stream and if I’m on the go, my 64GB iPhone is more than sufficient to handle and manage my downloads. In a pinch, I could take a temporary hit to my monthly data plan.

I’m less than a full week into Apple Music, but with makeshift Sonos support, one of the biggest inhibitors to joining has been removed. I’m still missing some of great curated lists I find in Songza, which is free, but that might be more of a pilot error. I’m still discovering new music, but might not be looking in the right places. Apple Music isn’t without confusion, but by opting for the iTunes nuclear option, I’ve reduced much of it. Everything in the Music app is on loan and I’m ok with that. I no longer have the 50GB baggage of my highly optimized, yet highly crappy iTunes library. It’s certainly not for everyone, but there’s something refreshing about starting a new service with the purity only found by deleting your entire iTunes library. I’m all in with Apple Music.

Editor’s note: Please make sure you make proper backups if you decide to delete your iTunes library. Things can go terribly wrong when you start deleting files, so please be aware of the consequences.

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