Apple Music is approaching its first birthday, and while nobody's scoffing at its reported 13 million paid users, this year has been far from flawless. Category king Spotify has only grown its user count (to more than 30 million paid customers), while Apple Music's early adopters felt the pain of Apple's buggy iCloud Music Library. And as an app, Apple Music is kind of a mess, with a lot of good content buried deep down in the menus.
Rumors suggest Apple Music will get a major redesign next Monday (June 13) at the big WWDC event, but we've got five changes that Apple should make that would do more good than a fresh coat of paint. If you're wondering why none of these suggestions include a free tier, it's because Apple's earned some of its major its exclusives by making users pay, and we seriously doubt it would change that policy.
Let playlists be social
Spotify's success is partially owed to its free, ad-supported tier, but it also earned its 100 million active users by deeply integrating social media. If Apple Music intends to attract more users, it should make it easier for listeners to share playlists.
To send a playlist now, you need to tap the share icon for a URL that will open in Apple Music or iTunes. That's great for Apple's existing users, but what about those who haven't downloaded either program yet? If Apple Music could let you hear shared songs on Facebook and Twitter, it could meet users where they are, rather than expect everyone to come to them.
If you want to embed a playlist into your blog, Apple forces you to jump through more hoops. You'll have to visit https://playlists.applemusic.com/ and use a tool made for the music industry, not users. Again, Apple needs to catch up to the simplicity offered by Spotify, where you can easily generate code from its web client (more on that below) or tap share and select friends.
Not only would these changes allow users to promote playlists they've created, but Apple's artist-specific and A-List playlists are pretty damn good, and should be showcased online. If Apple continues to hide its content inside its walled record store, many will not even get the chance to know what's there.
Stop pushing Connect so hard
Do you remember Ping? The predecessor to Connect (Apple's current failed experiment in music-based social networking) also promised to be a digital VIP lounge where musicians posted exclusive photos, videos and other content. Neither service ever garnered headlines for a major exclusive, and today Connect mostly houses links to other Apple Music content.
While I like the concept of getting photos and notes from my favorite artists, Connect has yet to merit its own tab in the bottom row of the screen. Instead, Apple should put a Connect button on the Now Playing screen when a listener is playing a song by an artist that shares on the service.
And hey, if Apple really wants users to give Connect a shot, bring back the customizable menu bar from the previous iOS Music app. Give us the power to disconnect.
Give curated playlists more promotion
Hidden deep down in the New menu, Apple Music buried the curated playlists it heavily promoted on the service's launch. These playlists are created by Apple's own experts, and music industry brands like Alternative Press, Grand Ole Opry and The Fader. But as much as I love these playlists, they don't fit under the "New" section header.
Fortunately, by knocking Connect from the navigation bar (see above), Apple Music can give its best content — curated playlists — a foothold on the home screen. Spotify, Tidal and Google Play all do a much better job of promoting curated playlists, and Apple needs to show its playlists to listeners if they want to give another reason to keep paying $10 a month.
Get Apple Music into web browsers
We don't just listen to music at home where our iTunes library is or on our phones, so Apple Music needs to live on the web where any user can just sign in and access it. The lack of a web client is especially frustrating for those who work in offices that restrict the installation of additional software.
Fix (or Don't Force) iCloud Music Library
I'm not the only user who's lost sleep over Apple's iCloud Music Library. The service is supposed to match and upload your music, but it mixed up metadata, and one user claimed it deleted his files. Apple reportedly sent tech support out to find out what went wrong with that user's account, and may have pushed patches out in iTunes 12.4.
So, at WWDC — or whenever the new version of Apple Music is unveiled — the company needs to publicly commit itself to improving iCloud Music Library. By admitting there were flaws and bugs and proudly stating it's fixed those issues, Apple would take a step to regaining my trust.
And if Apple isn't ready to debut a bug-free iCloud Music Library? The company needs to stop forcing that feature on users who want to save songs for offline listening. There may be legal or technical reasons for this, but I don't see a logical answer for using one service to enable another. They should work independently.