I’d love to think I was wrong on this, but there’s simply too much evidence to support Theory #2. If Apple wanted to offer exclusive music to subscribers it wouldn’t buy a label that records so many works in the public domain. This is the first warning sign.
My favorite offerings on the BIS label are the Bach cantatas recorded by Bach Collegium Japan under Masaaki Suzuki. (I recommended them last year in my article about the cantatas.)
The BIS label has also released the full Beethoven symphony cycle—performed by the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, as well as lots of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and other core contributors to the classical repertoires. However, unlike the cantatas, these other BIS albums are seldom the most esteemed versions on the market.
But how many music fans searching for Beethoven or Mozart on streaming are picky about conductors and orchestras? If the first search results are the Minnesota Orchestra are they really going to dig deeper to find the Berlin Philharmonic?
Of course, some unique offerings can be found on BIS—especially of obscure Nordic composers. But do you really believe that Apple made this acquisition in order to corner the market on Kalevi Aho or Geirr Tveitt?
The very idea is ridiculous.
If Apple wanted to offer exclusive music, they would cut a deal with Taylor Swift. They have the cash to do it. They wouldn’t waste time on locking up Kalevi Aho. That’s so obvious I shouldn’t even have to say it, but (given all the smoke and mirrors here), I really do.
So we’re clearly dealing with the bad Apple here. And the fact that the company refused to comment on the deal, when CNBC tried to get more details, is revealing. If they really were proud of their sexy new classical label, they would take the opportunity to boast.
In my opinion, Apple Music is the least worst option for streaming music in the background while doing something else. That’s not saying much, of course. I’ve hated everything about the streaming age since it began. For me, the last straw was going to one of my playlists and seeing that one of the songs had been greyed-out and couldn’t be played. OK, fine, that’s always been the condition of using their service. You don’t own any of the music you download through their app. You pay ten bucks a month for the privilege of listening to whatever they have to offer. But if they decide to stop carrying a certain artist, album, or track, you’re out of luck. In this case, I just went to Amazon, bought the mp3 for a dollar, downloaded it to my hard drive, and uploaded it back into my iTunes library. Ah, but you see, iTunes and Apple Music are not the same thing. When I tried to add the song back to the playlist, I got a pop-up telling me that if I persisted in adding this foreign element, the entire playlist would be removed from Apple Music and I would only be able to listen to it on this computer.
Over time, I have ripped all my music, my movies, and my TV shows and put them into Plex. It doesn’t matter where the files originally came from — be it DVDs, downloads, or even my iPhone (for home movies) — Plex is agnostic as to the source of the material, and it’s capable of playing pretty much any filetype you throw at it. Once it’s up and running, adding new material is as simple as putting it into the relevant folder on your computer, and then entering the metadata so that it shows up nicely in your apps (this is largely automated, but occasionally you need to intervene and correct its guess).
Why do this? Well, because while Netflix, Hulu, Disney + and so on are terrific — and I subscribe to all three — I have no control over what they keep in their library, and how. There’s something nice about having a large collection of media that can’t be removed at some else’s whim, especially given that the scolds have started to scour old material and remove anything from the canon that they consider offensive. In effect, Plex gives me the best of both worlds: I don’t have 5,000 DVDs and CDs cluttering up my house, but I’m also not reliant upon mega-corporations for access to my entertainment. If you have the interest and a little technical know-how, I’d highly recommend setting it up.
By which I mean, I pitched the idea to the Lady of the House as the sort of fun technical project that she loves, and she set it up while I sat there looking pretty and offering moral support. The important thing is, though, that now I have all my music library in one location, backed up on a detachable hard drive, and synced up so that any track I purchase from any source goes straight into my library. I highly recommend it for any other music-preppers who rightly distrust the reigning corporate dictum of, “You will own nothing and like it.”