How Apple ruined my music collection

When I was young, I, like many, used to record songs that I liked from Radio 1’s Top 40 countdowns on Sunday evenings. The art lied in capturing as much of the song as possible, while avoiding the dulcet tones of Bruno Brookes. The result was a mini-mixtape that lasted until the following Sunday.

Over time, I moved on to records, grooved circular pieces of vinyl seven or 12 inches in diameter that used to be read by a needle to play music. And then on to CDs.

Throughout that time, I knew what music I owned. Arguably, during the Brookes era, I couldn’t quite tell you what was on the TDK D90 at any point in time. But certainly thereafter, I knew what music I owned, and I knew what music I didn’t own. My CDs were arranged alphabetically by artist. Things were just lovely.

Then along came Apple.

I copied all of the CDs I owned to my computer and uploaded them all to iTunes. In the early days of iPods, storage exceeded my music collection, so I generally kept my iPod in sync with iTunes. The lack of an internet connection on the iPod meant that all music was bought from the computer, and everything was pretty sweet.

Then came the iPhone. Now importantly this came with two features that destroyed my music collection: an internet connection; and more limited storage than its iPod predecessor.

The internet connection meant that suddenly, music could be bought on the move and downloaded to my mobile device unbeknownst to iTunes. And the more limited storage meant that no longer could the two music libraries be kept in sync. My PC-based music collection was bigger than my iPhone could cope with.

So manual sync-ing ensued, as indeed did chaos. There was a manual process in copying items bought on the move back to iTunes. And there was subjectivity and manual intervention in deciding which songs were worthy of transferring to the iPhone.

There was no longer a definitive location for my music. I couldn’t turn to a proverbial CD rack to find an album or song.

The problem has been exacerbated by my recent move away from Apple. In moving to Android, I’ve had to hack my music out of iTunes and into a new format. I’m not sure exactly what’s happened technically, but a very slow process has meant that thus far, a small proportion of my music has made its way across to Songbird, an Android music app. In so doing, for some reason, some songs have lost a split second from the beginning. I’m hoping this is resolvable by following a different process in moving away from iTunes.

But the bottom line is, I don’t know what I own any more. I don’t know where that music is. And I don’t quite know whether music I’ve bought via Apple is legally allowed to be used outside of Apple.

And that’s not good. Apple ruined my music collection.


7 Responses to “How Apple ruined my music collection”

  1. Dave Briggs on March 12th, 2012 08:58

    Haven’t they fixed it again now, though? When I buy something in iTunes on my phone (or did, before it broke last week) it automatically downloads to my iMac next time I switch it on, leaving everything pretty much in sync.

  2. Joe Harris on March 12th, 2012 14:05

    That (or some variation of that) happened to me as well. In the end I just deleted it all and now I use Spotify for everything.

    If it’s not on Spotify then I don’t listen to it. There’s not exactly a shortage of music in the world. 🙂

    It’s easily worth £10/mth to me to **never** manage a music collection again.

  3. Steve on March 14th, 2012 14:57

    I’m with Joe on this one – a momentary Spotification is enough to fulfil 95% of my musical needs. For anything else, I head for the rack of alphabetised CDs from which more unusual items can be plucked. If neither fails to satisfy me audibly then I’ll pop onto Amazon, bag it and add it to the rack – old skool.

    To sound smug, my reason for never embracing iTunes, Apple or indeed any digital download system is precisely as you describe. The potential fragmenting of a collection has never sat well with my “Mr Trebus” hoarding sensibilities and having disparate sections held in binary format would annoy me in the extreme.

    My ‘collection’ therefore is limited to on-tap searching, supplemented by strictly tangible elements.

    As a brief aside, I’m happy to report that in neither format has Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship ever sullied my speakers.

  4. Greg on March 16th, 2012 12:59

    I’ve long since packed my CDs away once ripped to iTunes, and I’ve undergone a ‘virtual’ packing away of my iTunes library now. It has been relegated to my media server (and off my laptop) and I solely use Spotify on my laptop and iPhone. For the occasional album that I want from my library that I can’t find on Spotify, iTune’s Home Sharing feature allows me to pull it from the server quickly.
    I do miss the physical collection of CDs to browse through, but don’t miss the limitations of the physical format. I’m reluctant to delete any of my ripped music, should I ever leave Spotify, but then again storage is relatively cheap and 50-60Gb of music is nowadays small change!

  5. Will on March 16th, 2012 19:48

    Guys, You’re way ahead of me but Dan, I need to know about the move from iTunes. I recently (well, a year or so ago) went iTunes from Win Media but see myself more as a Google-man (like you) and Android. My music collection is not the size of yours but I would prefer not to have the same issues when I follow the same route (NB – I always let you lead on these things!)

  6. Google Play Music: a review : Tangential Ramblings on December 10th, 2012 22:56

    […] All of my digital music was residing on my old, largely defunct laptop which I’d replaced in June. It was sitting in iTunes in a library that I was far from happy with, as I’ve documented in a previous post, titled How Apple ruined my music collection. […]

  7. stevenbennett5 on February 22nd, 2013 11:57

    I will always prefer the physical format, and will always buy that when it comes to albums (given the choice!). An ipod or computer is ‘handy’ for music on the move, and single songs, but i’ll usually listen to CDs via a 200 disc player hi-fi separate at home. I cherish my music, and still like owning vinyl too. Music via a computer feels soul-less to me, it’s more like ‘doing admin’ that enjoying an expressive art. It’s such a pain to fiddle around with files that can get butchered for no apparent reason. It’s akin to someone urinating over your vinyl collection, and is about as much fun as having to sort that mess out.
    A digital ‘collection’ is a supplement to the real collection, not a replacement. Music is for life, not just computers.

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