Warning: Odds are that you will find this blog incredibly boring.
I’ve been a faithful iTunes user for 7 years now, never even bothering to look at alternatives. With the release of iTunes 11 last November, it might finally be time for me to start the search for a music player that will better suit my needs.
And that’s not as much of a dig on iTunes as it seems. It’s more an arrogant statement of my own music snobbiness. iTunes has also been a user friendly, intuitive music player. It held me for so long solely due to the fact that it was an Apple product, and for that reason alone I figured most other players would be inferior. I have yet to really examine the alternatives so I still can’t make a judgement on that.
Here is the single biggest problem with iTunes as a software: it thinks I’m dumb. At its core, it is designed for users who don’t care to use it well and who don’t care to curate a kick ass collection of digital documents. The ideal iTunes user is the flippant music listener, the one who votes on The Voice by downloading their preferred artist’s iTunes single, the one who doesn’t give a hoot about album art and whose collection consists mainly of greatest hits collections and the last ten Now! releases, the listener who has lots of albums entitled “unknown album” by “unknown artist” featuring tracks like “track 01” and “track 02” and so on.
Did any of that describe you? That’s fine. I don’t hate you, and I don’t look down on you. We just have different priorities, and a huge priority of mine is meticulously organizing and curating my expansive and exhaustive digital collection. I am a humongous nerd when it comes to this stuff. And iTunes is tailor-made for the non-nerd listener. It does so much for you now, like automatically populating album art, song titles, etc. It recommends new music you might like based on what you and others listen to.
My problem is that I don’t want any of that. I want a player that allows me to add in not only the year an album was released, but also the month. That way, I can see that Otis Redding released The Soul Album earlier in 1966 than Complete & Unbelieveable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, and not the other way around because C comes before S in the alphabet.
I want loads of other metadata fields as well though. I want guest artists, associated artists, more robust genre fields (as with most of my music, it is nearly impossible to pick only one genre for a particular artist), the option of tagging songs. I want a music player that allows me to create my own Genius type of networks within my music rather than doing it for me.
3 Worst Things of iTunes 11
1. Syncing issues
I had no idea how frustrating this problem was going to be, much less that it would be a problem at all. With 11, Apple has added a LOT of new iCloud syncing, syncing with iTunes Match, etc. The problem is that it’s not accurate. There are consistently syncing problems, and they happen with zero prompting from me. I don’t use iCloud to sync my music, nor do I use iTunes Match. You’d think that would solve all syncing problems, but for some unknown reason, iTunes will occasionally change my metadata without my knowledge. This eats at my insides. iTunes has no business changing any of the content it holds without me telling it to do so. And this is the single biggest problem with 11. I love Apple products, and I’ve never had this many problems with one single piece of Apple software. It’s 2013 Apple, let’s try and get proper syncing functionality or none at all.
2. The new interface
This is a misleading bullet title because I’m not actually let down by the new look of iTunes, especially the album view. The sidebar is gone (and easy to get back for the whiners), which is also fine with me. There are ways to navigate without the sidebar. All of these are fine, it’s just that with the new interface, there is a severe lack of flexibility that comes along. The album view is probably the coolest new way for me to absorb my very large library of music, but it stops there. I have loads of albums and every single album has the corresponding album art, and the drop down menu feel when I click an album cover is pretty awesome. It’s past this that I can’t do much. I can’t add anything to the album view format at all. When I click an album, all that is displayed is the album art, title, artist, year, track number, track title, and track length. I can’t add anything to this view, not play count (which is the field I most want to add), date last played, etc. I understand why; the inherent space of this view does not allow lots of real estate for extra fields. But by not allowing any fields to be added by the user seems very minimal. I want to be able to do more.
This is just all the minor stuff that’s bugged me, albeit not as much as the other two main problems. For example, in previous iTunes iterations, if you organized your music library by year, it divided the years up with a banner for each, so there was a clear delineation between years. It was so simple, and it looked fantastic. If you organize album view by year in version 11, there are no dividing banners and all the albums are just lumped together. It’s just kind of obnoxious. The whole program seems to run a lot slower than previous versions, although that could very well be my Mac, as it causes every single program to run slowly. It’s a 2008 model, so it makes sense. I also wish songs could be tagged. An iTunes library can essentially get tag functionality with some workarounds (use the comments field, playlists, etc.), but having tags built in so you could just quickly tag a song with whatever tag you’d created would be sensational. Yes, I understand that’s what playlists are for, but how easy is it to accidentally delete a playlist? Actually pretty easy, if you’re not careful. Tags could eliminate that issue. And then they could add a Tag View, which would be insanely cool.
Again, I have done little to no research on iTunes alternatives, but what I’ve done has not yielded any options with features this specific. So I’m giving it back to the genius guys and gals at Apple to take care of this. Get moving Apple, and make iTunes 12 into the music player that blows our socks off with its simplicity, non-bloatedness, and no features that don’t work. Let me know if you need more of my input.