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Apple Music Diary: Really appreciating it while my main Mac is being repaired


After a rough start and a mixed early experience, I did finally press the button on Apple Music – a decision I’m grateful for at present as my main Mac is away for repair. This diary piece is as much about that experience as Apple Music, but I will get to music, I promise …

I love a large screen on a laptop, so have stuck doggedly to my 17-inch MacBook Pro, despite the fact that it’s now four years old. It’s a maxed-out late-2011 machine that has been very heavily upgraded over the years, with 16GB RAM and 2TB of SSD storage, and consequently still offers decent performance.

Until recently … 

First, it started really struggling to drive my 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display, something it had done perfectly happily up until that point. That issue was rapidly followed by graphics glitches on the laptop’s own screen, and finally random crashes. I’m awaiting a diagnosis, but all the signs point to the infamous GPU failure thankfully now covered by Apple’s Repair Extension Program.

As soon as the graphics glitches started, I immediately supplemented my normal automated backups (Time Capsule, external drive and Dropbox) with a manual copy of my entire Documents folder to another external drive, so that I’d have more convenient access to files when I’d dropped the MBP 17 in for repair.


I have been accused of being surgically attached to my MBP 17. In addition to use for work, it also contains a big chunk of my life – all my photos and music, for example. I’ll admit I was concerned about how massive a hassle it was going to be without it for the week I’ve been told to expect the diagnosis and repair to take.

But, two days in, the answer appears to be less of a hassle than expected. I’m fortunate enough to have a second Mac: a Late 2013 Core i5 11-inch MacBook Air that serves as my main writing machine when on the move, and also comes in very handy for cycling holidays. For the moment, that machine is now my only Mac.

I’m extremely impressed with how well the MacBook Air is coping with its increased duties. It drives my 27-inch display perfectly – something the 12-inch MacBook can’t do – and despite only 8GB RAM, it chugs along quite happily with a dozen apps open at once. The external drive gives me access to all my documents.

I miss my 17-inch screen a lot. But one thing I haven’t missed is my music.


Thanks to first iTunes Match and now Apple Music, all of my own music is available in the cloud. I had literally nothing to do to get full access to it, exactly as if it were sitting on my MacBook Air. I simply opened iTunes on my MacBook Air and there it all was.

All my playlists are there. Every album, artist and track. Sure, all my own music has a little cloud icon next to it, but on a fast broadband connection, there is almost no discernible difference between the music being on my Mac and sitting thousands of miles away. (It will get rather closer in a couple of years, but still has to cross the Atlantic for now.)

The same is true on my iPhone. Usually I just load it up with a ton of music so I have access to it offline (the main reason I went for a 128GB phone), but if I want to stream or download anything not stored on the device, I can.

Granted, iTunes Match would have let me do all of that before Apple Music came along, but my music listening behavior has continued to evolve. Back when I used Spotify, I still listened to local music around 80% of the time. But as Apple Music’s ‘For You’ recommendations continue to get better and better as I continue to provide it with feedback, it’s now much closer to 50/50. That’s something I couldn’t have imagined when I first started listening to the service.

I don’t know why the out-of-the-box performance of Apple Music was so poor. As I wrote at the end of week one, Apple has so much data on my musical tastes, its recommendations should have been fantastic, right from the start.

iTunes knows more about my musical tastes than my girlfriend. More than my neighbours, who have sometimes been more familiar with my musical tastes than they might wish. More than any of my friends – even the one who kindly ripped all my CDs for me on his high-end PC with multiple DVD drives.

Think about that for a moment. iTunes knows every single artist, album and track I own. Not only that, but it knows which ones I have put into what playlists. It even knows the exact number of times I have played every single track!

Yet somehow it wasn’t.

But that was then, and this is now, and I have to say that I’m blown away by how good Apple Music’s recommendations are now. Unless it’s listening to my own music library, I hardly ever leave the ‘For You’ tab. Its mood-based playlists are great. Its artist-based playlists are excellent. And since I decided to pretend that ‘Intro to’ really says ‘Easy playlist for,’ I’ve even enjoyed listening to quite a few of those.

The albums it suggests do still include more of my owned music than I’d ideally like, so I’ll give those a ‘Must try harder’ rating for now. But really that’s my only complaint.

I’d become an Apple Music fan before, but being able to switch to a different Mac and simply carry on as usual with both owned and streamed music has made me a bigger one.

As always, do take our poll, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

You can read my full Apple Music Diary series here. You may also enjoy my Apple Watch Diary and opinion pieces.

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  1. If you’re serious about music you should keep it on NAS to be able to be accessed by any device on your network at any time. Go one step further and give it access to the WAN side and you can stream from it wherever you are.

    You’ll be able to use it with iTunes and you can optionally install a decent music server platform like Logitech Media Server (formerly Slim Server) and then use a great app like iPeng to play and/or control from any number of iOS devices. Not to mention of course the Slim line of hardware which can still easily be found and is pretty much unmatched in audio fidelity at multiple times its pricing.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I’m very serious about my music, which is why I adopt the best approach for me – and it definitely doesn’t include Logitech Media Server any more!

  2. Drew (@gettysburg11s) - 7 years ago

    Apple Music is indeed very good for what it does. However, its hard to justify 10 bucks a month. I suppose it depends on how much money you have to sink into these things. I seem to do just fine listening to free Pandora. If Pandora was suddenly not free, I might be willing to go for Apple Music.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I view it as less than the cost of one album a month, so I’m happy.

      • Dil Ribeiro - 7 years ago

        I have to agree with you, I really love Apple Music. I still sibscribe to iTunes Match because i’ve got quite a lot of albums that aren´t availabe in Brazil. But Apple Music little by little keeps getting better.

    • galley99 - 7 years ago

      Music junkies like myself may spend $200 a month on CDs, so $10 is worth it, even its used mostly as an “extended preview service”.

  3. Iven Tenz (@ivenalot) - 7 years ago

    I’m very picky when it comes to Music, not that I don’t like a lot of genres, but I have a specific taste, so I rather create my own playlist with songs that I know where to find and hopefully be able to pick up on Apple Music. Then 2 weeks later, those songs appear on the top charts, but at least I knew of them before. Other then that, I’m still hating how slow Apple Music loads, no matter if I’m on a ethernet connection or on the go with my iPhone, freaking slow.

  4. triankar - 7 years ago

    I’ll second Bruno Fernandes. If you’re serious about music (or anything), buy a NAS and store stuff there. If you’re more serious about things, buy a similar NAS as a backup of the first one, and keep it in a different building / city.

    Now, Apple Music… While I’m about to say… I love it, I’m sure my wallet doesn’t. It has allowed me to discover loads of music for my tastes, especially Jazz. In the latin/salsa department it really isn’t doing brilliantly. Either way, YouTube recommendations are no match for Apple’s.

    Thing is, I ended up buying a lot of the music I discovered. I do that because I maintain my own playlists, which I have been doing so for over 15 years, and I like to keep a local / offline copy, which I can load on my iPad (and syncing those folders to my iPad is a major pain through iTunes, btw). As a music collector, I’ve meticulously ripped, tagged, sorted and categorised all my music from various sources.

    My 3 months will be over soon. On one hand, keeping the subscription will cost both in the subscription and in the music that I will subsequently purchase. I fear this might become an expensive habit, if I don’t “restrain” myself :)

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I used to have a NAS, but because I used to travel a lot, it made more sense to have all my music on board my Mac (one of the reasons for lots of on-board storage). I now have the best of both worlds: all my music, all the time, and I can still play it in (and control it from) any room via AirPlay.

      • Ben, I feel the same. I still keep my iTunes Match subscription in addition to Apple Music, I “outsourced” my whole CD and iTunes library a year ago. Plenty of room on the Macbook and on the bookshelf! And all my music everywhere. I decided to sit out the early Apple Music glitches. And after Apple eventually sorted it out, it’s more reliable now than ever. The album cover art problem was a pain in the a…, now it works like a charm for me.

  5. chrisl84 - 7 years ago

    Since the end of my CD purchasing years in high school I “own” literally no music. Nothing bought from iTunes, so for me streaming service is irrelevant between Spotify and Apple Music beyond user experience. Local music has seemed like a waste of space to me for a very long time when the ability to download for offline use is available instantly when needed.

  6. whitestripe31 - 7 years ago

    Ben – Do you still subscribe to iTunes Match as well?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I still have time remaining on my existing subscription, but must confess I haven’t actually looked in detail at whether I need it any more.

      • Your colleague John Gruber had Serenity Caldwell recently on his podcast. She was explaining whether it makes sense to keep both subscriptions or not. I’ve never heard someone explaining it that good. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the details, all I remember is that I decided to keep both subscriptions.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

        I *think* Match is only needed if you have owned music which Apple doesn’t have in its library. I have a certain amount of that, but I think not a substantial number of songs.

      • Dil Ribeiro - 7 years ago

        Exactly. And it’s also DRM-free. If you use iCloud Music Library to store songs you own, it automatically ads DRM to the tracks. So, get rid of the CDs and forgets to keep a copy in your computer, when you download it back for iCloud Music Library, bang, DRM. It doesn’t happen if you have iTunes Match..

      • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

        I think Apple struck a sensible deal with the labels when it negotiated the rights for iTunes Match: there’s no DRM as such, but it does write your Apple ID into the metadata, so it becomes trackable if someone shares their music on a pirate site.

  7. crichton007 - 7 years ago

    I was very satisfied with Apple Music until I appeared to run into the 25,000 song limit that iTunes Match and Apple Music seem to share. It really bugs me that two different paid services share the same numerical limit. It feels like double-dipping to me. I have an open case with Apple since the combined number showing in my iTunes library is sowing at close but a few hundred below 25,000 but depending on how that turns out I may cancel before my renewal at the end of November.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, that is outdated. Apple has indicated that it intends to increase the limit, but hasn’t given a timescale as yet.

      • PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

        Yes they have; Eddy tweeted it would come this October. So, they failed that, if a tweet is to be considered ‘official Apple statement’.

  8. iSRS - 7 years ago

    Great write up.

    I found Apple Music saved my but during the 9.0 beta. Transferring from the beta to the GM for some reason really messed up my iPhone. Since I had ordered a 6s, I didn’t want to bother with the restore (for some reason, it wouldn’t register my iTunes Match/iCloud Music Library, but Apple Music gave me everything I needed.

  9. Junaid Kureshi - 7 years ago

    Yesterday I signed for Apple music, what a superb experience Having two macs and two ios devices everything cloned within no time, plus I make all my new favorite sings availaible online and placed them in my fav playlist and everything was same everywhere, love you Apple for this. so far so good


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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