Any Improvement to Apple Music for Mac Has to Be Better

iTunes was bad… Apple Music is worse

Key Takeaways

  • The latest macOS beta brings an improved Music app.
  • People complained about iTunes, but the Music app turned out even worse. 
  • There are plenty of alternative music apps for iOS, but very few on the Mac.
Someone mixing music on a MacBook computer.

Oscar Ivan Esquivel / Unsplash.com

Apple's Mac Music app is about to get a lot better.

When tech enthusiasts and music lover Dave B emailed Tim Cook to complain about the state of the Music app on the Mac, he didn't expect a reply. But his email ended up with a phone conversation with "someone in Tim Cook's office," and Cook sent Dave B's advice to the Music design team, which must have made them very happy. In related news, the latest macOS Monterey beta includes a newly-built music app that might solve a lot of Dave B's problems. 

"The problem here is that unless you are searching for a well-known artist, you simply are not going to find it," lifestyle company founder and music fan Chris Anderson told Lifewire via email. "Then, once you have found your favorite songs and formed them into a playlist, rather than flow seamlessly, there will be an annoying break between tracks, sometimes lasting several seconds, it breaks the flow. Finally, the app is slow to load, and if you want to view the album covers, you best put the kettle on while you wait for it to download, assuming it loads at all."

The iTunes Angle

Before the Music app, there was iTunes, and it, too, was unpopular. For years, across multiple Mac forums, iTunes was attacked for being bloated and slow and for trying to squeeze in too many functions—it was the hub for not only music, movies, TV shows, and podcasts, but also the way to manage apps on your iPhone, and more. 

But then we got a perfect example of 'be careful what you wish for,' and Music came along. It is indeed simpler, but it is also slower and lacks basic features. Users who want advanced playlist features no longer have them, and folks who prefer a fast, simple front-end to the Apple Music streaming service are similarly disappointed. 

"... the app is slow to load, and if you want to view the album covers, you best put the kettle on while you wait..."

The problem is twofold. The first issue, as mentioned, is that it is neither simple nor advanced enough, but somewhere in-between. The second failing is that Music is essentially a web browser inside an app-shaped wrapper. That's why everything takes so long to load or refresh. You can see this for yourself by clicking on the Artist or Albums tabs in the app's sidebar. These use your local library and are way faster than the Apple Music sections. 

Now, in the latest macOS beta, this is changing. These web-based parts of the app are being rewritten to work like the local parts. This, say beta testers, makes the app much snappier, while looking exactly the same. It's still not simple enough or advanced enough, but at least it will no longer be annoying. 

"Thank goodness! The Music app is... horrible," said Mac and Music user Valentin St Roch in the Mac Rumors forums. "I miss the versatility and speed of the... iTunes app for searching, [and] sorting. So many features present in iTunes were not carried forward to the Music app."

Alternatives

If you use an iPad or iPhone for music-listening duties, then you have a whole ecosystem of alternative apps to choose from, most of which can access your existing music library. Albums and Doppler are two great examples, but there are many more. On the Mac, this list is way more limited. Vox isn’t bad but has a very confusing user interface that requires far too much clicking—although it can also stream from your SoundCloud account. 

Doppler for Mac is slick but still doesn’t integrate with Apple Music. And Musique isn’t bad, but again, it offers no integrations with Apple Music. Even the most-recommended option, Swinsian, doesn’t provide Apple Music streaming.

Doppler Music for Mac and iPhone.

Doppler

None of these alternatives is compelling enough to replace the stock Music app unless you have either very basic or very specific needs. 

So dire is the situation that the best option seems to be to use your iPhone or iPad instead of your Mac—especially as you can now, as of macOS 12 Monterey, stream music from your iPhone to your Mac’s speakers using AirPlay.

Or, for the really desperate, you could quit Apple music entirely and switch to Spotify, although that won’t help with the local music you have on your device. 

Hopefully, Dave B’s email to Tim Cook will begin a new era for the Music app because it sure needs it. Until then, you might even consider a classic iPod.

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