It was almost two years ago that Apple announced it was acquiring Beats by Dr Dre, and by the end of August 2014, the acquisition was finalized. The most common rumors were that Apple was going to use a digital headphone jack instead of the traditional round analog headphone jack in all future iPhones – and the only headphones available initially would be Beats. The other common theory was that Apple was going to launch its own streaming music service.
At this point, Apple has not yet introduced digital headphone jacks on iPhones, but that is a rumored feature of the iPhone 7.
Beware Apple Music
However, Apple does have its own streaming service built on what it got in the Beats acquisition and what it already had in iTunes. Apple Music was announced on June 8, 2015 and was available at the end of the month. The subscription price ranges from $4.99 per month for students to $14.99 per month for families. Best of all – or maybe not – Apple offers a free three month trial of Apple Music. All you need it an iPhone or iPad with iOS 9.4 or later, a Mac running OS X 10.9.5 or newer, a PC with Windows 7 or more recent, and a device running at least Android 4.3.
That said, we’ve been seeing reports online of Apple Music stealing people’s music collections since last summer. Even if this is a user error, Apple needs to do something to make this very difficult to do.
Catch 1: All Your Music Are Belong to Apple
There are some catches to Apple Music that are not immediately obvious, and Apple has buried them deep within the end user agreement, so many Apple Music users may never realize that Apple has synced their iTunes music library to its iCloud servers, uploaded music not on its servers from your device to Apple’s servers, and then deleted the tracks from your hardware.
All of your music in your iTunes library, including tracks you’ve ripped yourself, original tracks you may have created, and so on. Worse yet, in some cases it will link to a different version of a song because it’s already on Apple’s servers. That rare early mix of a favorite song could be gone forever.
I don’t know for sure, because I refuse to try it with my music collection, but I suspect that once you sign up for Apple Music, it’s going to do this to every device linked to your iTunes account. That would mean erasing it from my MacBook.
I don’t know what it means for iTunes libraries on Macs running older versions of OS X, such as 10.6 Snow Leopard on my Mac mini and my wife’s MacBook Pro. Again, I don’t want to take any chances.
Worst of all, Apple music doesn’t give you an opportunity to opt out of having your music hijacked, removed from your hardware, and stored on its servers.
Catch 2: Online Only
Once Apple has removed the music from your iTunes library, the only access you have to it is via the Internet. No WiFi? No ethernet? No 4G LTE? No music.
Poor form, Apple. At work we like to listen to streaming music services such as Pandora, Slacker, and Spotify. Problem is, the network sometime gets overly busy and cuts our streams. With music on my device, I can choose to listen to a playlist. But with all my music in the iCloud, that won’t work.
Catch 3: No Tags Back
Let’s say you’ve tried Apple Music and decided it’s not for you. Does Apple give you back your music?
No, it does not. Unless you’ve got a backup, say sayonara to your entire music library.
If you’ve purchased tracks from iTunes, you should have no problem downloading them all over again. If you’ve ripped tracks from your CD collection, you should have no trouble doing it again, although that could take a lot of time.
Anything else? Well, good luck with that. Apple is under no obligation to give you back the unique tracks it has stolen from your iTunes library. It’s in the end user agreement.
You’ve also lost your playlists, your track ratings, your play counts, and who knows how much else just because you tried Apple Music “for free”. Yeah, that’s a pretty high price to pay for a “free” trial.
Catch 22: You Agreed to This!
In the end, by signing up for that free trial and clicking Agree to the lengthy use agreement that nobody has the time to read, you gave Apple permission to do this.
If you’ve signed up for Apple Music, I sincerely hope you have a backup. Time Machine is good for this.
If you haven’t given Apple Music a try, after reading this article and the ones linked below, at least you’ll be making an informed choice.
And if you share your iTunes account with others, warn them as well. If they sign up under the account you use, your iTunes library goes to iCloud. Do not pass Go. Do not collect your music if you ever quit Apple Music.
iTunes Match May Help
If you sign up for iTunes Match, a separate service from Apple Music, you may be able to recover a good portion of your iTunes library. But only if you use iTunes Match, which costs $24.99 per year. Longtime Mac expert Jim Dalrymple reports that even with iTunes Match, he was still missing about 1% of his iTunes library.
Unlike Apple Music alone, iTunes Match uses digital fingerprints to match your music library with Apple’s library instead of relying on metadata alone.
If you use the iCloud Music Library, it may change metadata tags and album artwork to match what’s on Apple’s servers. If you delete files from your local iTunes library, you can restore them, but only as 256 kbps AAC tracks. If you had higher quality tracks or MP3 tracks, you’ll still get 256 kbps AAC tracks.
As long as your original files remain on your computer, Apple Music is not supposed to remove them. However, iTunes has grown into a very complex ecosystem, and it’s not always easy to understand which options do what.
In the end, be aware that in some cases Apple Music has deleted local iTunes libraries from users’ computers. It may not happen very often, but I don’t want to take that chance with the 3,727 track music library currently on my MacBook.
- Apple Music Doesn’t Delete Your Music Files. Kirk McElhearn, Macworld, 2016.05.06
- Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously. James Pinkstone, Vellum, 2016.05.04. Pinkstone lost 122 GB of music from his hard drive because of Apple Music.
- Beware: Apple Music Is Back at Stealing Your Music. Rob D. Birch, Kirk’s iTunes Forum, 2016.01.27
- I Got My Music Back. At Least Most of It. Jim Dalyrymple, The Loop, 2015.07.24. “I’ll admit, I’m still trying to get my head around how this works.”
Keywords: #applemusic #itunesmatch #ituneslibrary #icloudmusiclibrary
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