Sunday, October 25, 2020

atomic music and a gripe about Apple's music search

Apple got its hooks into me in 2004 when I bought my first iPod and ripped my entire CD collection.  At the time I wrote

Being able to put my entire CD collection in such a tiny little's pretty amazing. But besides the road music and trendy group identification, I'm hoping it will bring me back to my music collection in a way I've lost. I just haven't been listening to CDs that much lately. Of course, it won't be like the old days anyway; I'm not much of a music purist, but it seems like the iPod encourages people to treat songs as free floating atoms, not as part of larger album molecules.

Since the days of mixtapes, I've realized that a typical album that I like has 2 or 3 great tracks and 7 or 8 songs of filler.  So I went through all those CDs I ripped, and rated each song, and only 3 stars or above made it onto the limited space of my portable device.

Shortly after started the golden age of music for me - able to purchase new singles at a buck or two per pop (Eventually I started recording the new music I added each month - I like to focus on new songs in my collection before they get lost in the 3000 songs of shuffle.) I like paying artists for their music, but I don't like playing for songs I'm not going to listen to. 

Apple's smart playlists kept me loyal to iPhone over Android - other devices could surely carry and play my MP3s, but would they make it easy to get this reverse-chronological-order playlists-by-rating? It was never worth the uncertainty. 

So I'm wary about Apple's continued support for my prefered ways of living with music. A few years ago iOS dropped the ability to do star ratings on the device (in lieu of a simpler heart/no heart system) but user protest forced them to bring it back (though it's now an extra tap or two away than it was)

Plus streaming seems to be the way of the future - users love the selection and flexibility, and companies love collecting rent.

And, following the loss of the aux jack and a new emphasis on magnetic charging,  I'm be surprised if my iPhone in 5 years had ANY socket - and since I like to keep my files nicely backed up on my laptop, I have to hope there's some equivalent to the USB syncing I now enjoy.

But there's another, odder problem - Apple is just not great with search, even on its own devices. I couldn't remember the title to Rilo Kiley's "A Better Son/Daughter", I just remembered the term "better". I don't know if it's because I have a lot of playlists labeled "better" but for some reason I was only seeing albums and playlists, not song results... and it seems like the gadget cuts off at 20 search results. Searching for "a better" found it, but still, what is this crap?

The new "Music" app on desktop had different sections for Song, Album, Playlist search results so I could find my stuff. But still, their 'iTunes Store' search is weaksauce. It craps out at 100 results, and ends with the insulting 

Less relevant items are not displayed. To narrow your results, use more specific search terms.

Sometimes that is literally impossible to do! If you are trying to browse for a specific version of a well-covered song, or a song with a short name, you lack the information to add in more search terms - and it's just a flat text box, I don't think think there's a way to say 'only where the song title matches', or 'artist name only'. 

Such a simplistic search box and limits on results is an ok 80/20 solution but sometimes that missing 20 is really annoying. 

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