I Want to Quit Streaming Services

I want to quit streaming services. I really do. I’m getting increasingly frustrated by them. It mostly stems from the fact that I own music, and integrating that into the experience is very difficult. I want to be able to take my music on the go with me, or at least some of it. However, I do value the algorithms around music recommendation and discovery as they do introduce me to new stuff. What I don’t like is how the streaming world seems to be hostile towards people like me who own music.

Back when iTunes launched in the day it was simple: Buy your music, then sync to device. That was it. You could (and still can) organize your playlists however you wanted (manually or via smart playlists). But now we have grown, and if I want to sync my music, that goes against the “Cloud first” mantra. “Everything should be streamed! Nothing on device!” is what the industry wants you to believe. Well, I don’t know what world they live in, but I have a data cap on my cellphone plan, and I can’t afford to be streaming on the go. I can stream at home and at work because of easily available wifi. The only way for me to take my music on the go is to sync offline. Depending on the platform, that is increasingly difficult.

In addition, it is starting to feel like the cable industry. Back in the day, we could watch channels for free, and we didn’t pay. But then cable came along and said “Don’t want ads? Pay a small fee and you get add free TV”. And people bought into that con. Here we are, and we know how that worked out. Same seems to be happening for music. Syncing use to (and still can be) free. But, the more convenient way is the “Cloud first” music library. If you want that luxury, you have to pay for it. Also, in the case of Spotify, paying does remove ads (although, recently Spotify ran malware infected ads).

So here is where I stand. Spotify has a wonderfully simple client on desktop (the mobile client is eh depending on the version). Spotify almost never has any streaming issues, and makes creating a basic playlist a breeze. However, if you wanted to get granular with your music and do things like smart playlist, Spotify doesn’t do that. Even with your own music in the library. Also, if you don’t pay, you can only shuffle on mobile and you can’t store offline in any capacity.

Then there is the monolith iTunes. At its core, it still does all those functions from years back. However, all the ways of navigating to them have been hidden away in menus because they want you to care about Apple Music. Apple Music has proven to be less than enticing in my two months of use. It consistently has trouble starting and stopping songs on mobile, and sometimes on desktop. It puts all my local files in the same library as my Apple Music Library, which means I have no way of differentiating what I purchased and what I added from their library. This becomes increasingly difficult if you sync offline, because now I truly don’t know what I own. In one instance, I had two of the same song. One version consistently crashed iTunes if I tried to play it. The other one would play just fine. I had to do some digging to figure out if the local version was the one I purchased or the one I added from Apple Music. The last thing I want to do is delete things I own. The upside to iTunes is that it allows for that granularity I mentioned earlier, and also syncs your library across devices pretty well if you pay for Apple Music.

I’m not a big fan of Siri or other voice assistants, so the fact that Apple Music lets me control things with my voice really doesn’t matter. I just want to listen to my music. I just want to sync my music and organize my music. Both these platforms get in the way of that. I’m honestly considering just paying for Apple Music for the fact that it allows me to sync my library easily between all my devices. Beyond that, I’ve been using Swinsian as my daily driver for listening. All I have to do is point it at my iTunes library, and I can handle all my local MP3 manipulation and organization that way. I’ve considered the alternatives, like running my Plex box as a music streaming devices, but again I lose the ability to do offline streaming (unless I pay a fee) and granular playlist organization.

The point is, I want an easy way to sync my library across devices, and not all this other crap. Especially in a day and age where iTunes is not the only store front I go to for my music needs. I also buy from places like Amazon and Bandcamp. Integrating this into one unified library should not be this difficult.

Written on November 15, 2016