Redesign Hell

No, not this blog or my music review site.

Unrelated to the main thrust of this essay: I’m having an issue with motivation in writing reviews during the Pandemic. I love doing my radio show but where I thought I would have more time (especially during a furlough) I find I have myriad things to do (maintining our new rental house, unpacking, arguing with idiots on social media, spending quality time with loved ones) that seem to get in the way. I have playlists of You Tube videos and such that still sit there, unseen. I thought I’d watch old baseball and NFL games, too, or full music concerts. Fucking virus is sapping my joys and I’m virus free.

Anyway:

In the past few weeks, a couple of the sites I use a lot are changing. Facebook is moving to a new UX design for its desktop platform and it’s hot garbage. It pulls your eyes in five directions at once and what I deem important (notifications, new posts) are difficult to find or respond to.

But that’s not the worst. The worst is You Tube Music.

A while ago, Google said they were going to shut down Google Play Music and move everyone over to You Tube music. That’s fine – I love watching music videos on You Tube and maybe the melding of You Tube and music streaming would be great.

So, when they announced that we could port over our Google Play Libraries over to You Tube music, I was intrigued and excited.

Soon, I was cursing and stomping about, and wondering why a thing I loved quite a bit was being trundled off to an inferior product.

The transfer process took a long time. Well, I am a special kind of use (power user I guess) where I have about 135,000 tracks and several large playlists. That would take time, for sure.

So after five days (!!) and three converstaions with support, the transfer worked. Hooray! I couldn’t wait to see what it was like.

Oh, fuckity, it was disappointingly wretched.

The layout seemed OK. More in line with the Amazon Prime Music or Spotify layouts. Ok. Sure. Whatever. I’m not really interested in that. I want to know what my library looks like.

So I clicked on ‘Library’.

Here’s where I hit it.

The playlists are displayed first, and they combine You Tube playlists and Music playlists.

No. I know they wanted synergy or syzygy or someother tech buzzword, but no. Music and video are different for me. I want my hot side and cool side separate dammit! I use my music playlists much differently than my video playlists.

In my real job, I aim for simplicity in tables and ease of use. I have to write queries and exports and need to find the elements quickly and if the tables or data elements are clouded with extraneous entries then its takes time. If our end users (non tech people that they are) can’t find what they need in a table, then they won’t use it.

But the worst?

It’s how they display your library. The one that I’ve curated for FIVE years, starting from my old iTunes library and moving forward, dealing with times where I’ve somehow hit an invisible limit of songs that I added to my library from the streaming service. (That’s where playlists come in, and that’s where my Amazon Prime Music subscription kicks in – I use that to kick the tires on stuff before moving to my main catalog).

My largest quibble besides the ‘invisible’ limit (they don’t tell you the ceiling and it changes all the time it seems) was that songs and albums would drop off without notice (at least on Amazon they gray it out so you know what was missing – Google does the same thing with You Tube too – you don’t know what’s gone so you can’t think to look for a replacement).

But on You Tube Music:

It splits your catalog in two. It puts your ‘subscription’ music in one view and your ‘uploaded’ music in another view. AND THE TWAIN SHALL NEVER MEET.

For instance, in my iTunes catalog I had a lot of partial albums because I loaded them in from CDs where I was conscious of the iPod limits on storage, and also got a lot of collections. Using the streaming library I could fill in the cracks for full albums, which became quite helpful when reviewing albums. (I’ve been reviewing more and more collections lately but that’s because I realized I didn’t need every damn Kool and the Gang album in my collection, and they’re a group where the large collections mostly grab the best tracks – singles or not).

But, on You Tube music, an album where I have both uploaded and subscription tracks are bifurcated. So I can’t listen to the entire album in one go from my library. I can’t do an entire library shuffle. I can’t look at my entire album list to choose what to review.

And then, the views of the subscription aren’t sortable, as far as I can see. It’s last in first up. I’m a guy who, despite my work desk, likes organization. (Or organizing the things I treasure). So I don’t want to see Rose Hill Drive or Pylon first. I want to see like 10cc or something first (or ABBA depending on how they sort numbers and punctuation).

And the thing that really chafes me? I can’t change the meta data on my music.

Why is that important?

Well, because it is, and I’ve learned that sometimes the tags have things like “Remastered” or “Deluxe Edition” that causes albums on Google Play to not sync up. Sometimes there are errors in the year (important for me since I review chronologically). And sometimes it’s just…wrong.

I can’t do that on You Tube music. I’m stuck with what they have.

The only advantage that You Tube music has now over Spotify or Amazon is the chance to upload my own songs. And yes, if something is missing on streaming that I want I go grab the used CD, upload it, move it to my cloud library, and go on with life.

There are some streaming holdouts. Not a lot. And some obscure records aren’t streaming mostly due to horrible, outdated licensing agreements. (Many UK hits in the 80’s and 90’s aren’t licensed over here, but I can find ’em on You Tube).

But some of them are important to review, and if I move totally over to Spotify or Amazon it’s not going to be possible to really review them and put them in the catalog I want to build.

However, with the You Tube Music interface as it stands now, it’ll be better for me to move everything over to one of those services, and re-download all of the music I uploaded and store them on another cloud drive.

It’s not just me. In their ‘help’ section many users are complaining about the same thing. The ‘power’ users like me really WANT that functionality. They want to edit, and they want to see their catalog all at once.

Otherwise, why have this product when others are just as teneable and have more users, and more chances to share tracks and ideas.

So, I’m taking a break from writing reviews until I get this sorted out. Because while this may be ‘minor’ to some, my music collection is a major part of my life and has been since my brother and sister shared their music with me.

I hate to stop doing something I love to do right now, but I don’t want to get angry when I want to listen to tracks. So I’m just going to explore the music I’ve socked away on Amazon for now to see what I want to put into my catalog, and hope You Tube / Google wakes up and realizes what they’ve done.

I’m not expecting that, though.

Published by Scott Fendley

I write stuff and things about music.

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