Dupe detection run amok and other blunders: A cautionary tale of Apple Music’s bugs

I had been aware of the hype surrounding Apple Music over the past few months. Most of it had been things like how much the artists were going to get paid, and all that. And now it’s here, and according to Jim Dalrymple of The Loop in his article entitled Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it… well, I think the title pretty much says it all.

To make a long story short, Jim quickly found out that Apple Music has duplicate detection. Technically this can be a good thing, but the way Apple implemented it? It turns out it’s a First Class Foul-Up. Jim added albums, noticed not all the songs were added, then noticed the songs had an “Add” button beside them after clicking “Show Complete Album.” This, alone, is a UX/UI fail. But it gets worse:

From what I can tell in my tests, Apple Music is deciding itself, based on your library, that it will not add duplicate songs. For instance, I purchased a lot of Black Sabbath albums over the years, but not all of the compilations. I went into Apple Music and added a compilation album, but it didn’t all get added to my library. When I looked at all of the songs that didn’t get added, they were ones that I already had in my library.

In another example, I added Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” and his “Greatest Hits” albums. The “Greatest Hits” was short three songs—the same three songs that are on “Blonde On Blonde,” so Apple Music chose not to add them to the “Greatest Hits” album. It’s not unreasonable to want to listen to an album in the context the artist wrote it, and then other times, just listen to their greatest hits. It’s my choice to make.

That last sentence is key here. It’s a recurring theme in the Apple-verse: Make it nearly impossible (extremely difficult and potentially hazardous to the warranty) to run apps not in the App Store, to the point most people won’t dare try. Don’t approve apps with porn in them. Don’t approve apps that replace part of the phone’s functionality and/or allow one to sidestep carrier restrictions (Skype and other VOIP apps, replacements for the phone dialer, other web browsers besides Apple’s own Safari). And the list goes on.

Apple has never been about allowing users choice. Now that Apple Music is here, I would not surprised to see many of the other music apps not approved for new versions. If they don’t already, Apple will likely come up with their own watered-down Spotify/Pandora clone, and kick those apps to the curb.

I’m going to shift gears a bit. Right now, my music collection lives on an external hard drive (or two). The vast majority of it is in FLAC format. (FLAC, for those who don’t know what it is, is sort of like gzip or PKZIP, except tuned to compress audio better than anything else. Apple has, or at least had, something similar called ALAC.) I have a lot of duplicate songs. I have intentionally left them intact for exactly this reason; not all of them are the exact same version and I want to be able to listen to both the original album and compilation albums where the same songs appear. So yes, I have things like five nearly-identical copies of The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News, two copies each of two different mixes of Never Ending Story by Creamy, two copies of I Will Remember You by Amy Grant, two copies of both Love is a Battlefield and We Belong by Pat Benatar, etc. I could go on and on, but the point is that duplicates will happen in any music collection of an appreciable size.

And I would be pissed off if my music software decided to go behind my back and randomly remove the “duplicate” songs from my collection. For one, some are not really duplicates; at one time I had Bon Jovi’s album This Left Feels Right in my collection, which had acoustic versions of many of their previous hits. I moved this album back out of my on-disk collection because I got tired of it. Imagine having the original versions of those tracks deleted by a “helpful” music library software, and one can easily see how big of a disaster this could be.

And yes, these tracks were deleted from Jim’s collection, as he found himself some 4,700 songs short when he decided to dump Apple Music for something that didn’t suck. Worse, Jim says “[M]any of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to.”

Moral of the story: Backup early and backup often. Don’t trust the only copy of your music library to any new software. And be especially leery of Apple products.