I’m An Independent Artist And Apple Music Screwed Up My Entire Discography


Let me start off by saying that I’m a full-time, independent artist and have been making the majority of my living off of music for the better part of 7 years (after quitting Starbucks in 08). I’ve released 4 studio albums, 2 live albums and 8 singles. There have been lots of ups and downs. I have never made the majority of my income off of digital downloads, though, and I have never been against streaming purely on principle. I understand that you can’t fight progress and succeed. The reason iTunes succeeded 14 years ago when it launched is because it was convenient. People are willing to pay for convenience and ease of use. Once consumers get a taste of a superior experience they’re never going back, no matter how hard the powers that be try to force a return. Have all music easily downloadable in one place (Napster)? You can’t just take that away and say “sorry, go back to buying plastic discs at brick and mortar stores.” Hence, the birth (and world domination of iTunes). Have all the world’s music easily streamed (without wasting precious hard drive space)? Yeah, we’re never going back to downloads.

So it was nice to welcome another player into the streaming game and bring some much needed competition to Spotify and the bunch. And what better player than the largest music store in the world, Apple?

I installed Apple Music the day it was released and have spent the past week exploring many of the features. Because I’m not really into EDM, Beats 1 Radio hasn’t been for me. For some reason 80% of the time I turned to Beats 1 it was playing some “IN DA CLUB” jam… and at 9 in the morning, no less, where I could do without the heart stopping thump rattling my coffee mug. But what do you expect when DJs can’t curate their playlists to the local timezone? I warmly explored the “singer/songwriter” radio station. And I finally listened to Taylor Swift’s full album, because (full disclosure) I’m a Spotify subscriber and don’t pay for digital downloads anymore (I’m a vinyl fiend though and will pony up the $20-30 if I fall in love with a record).

I didn’t notice too many differences from Spotify. As far as their “Connect” platform goes, so far very few artists have added content to it (and many who have tried have failed). And the music videos on Apple Music? There are more on YouTube. Speaking of Taylor Swift, her world dominating, epic “Bad Blood” explosion of a video is noticeably omitted from Apple Music (probably because she’s making ad revenue on Vevo/YouTube).

Yesterday, I was with a musician friend of mine and needed to reference one of my recordings for arrangement purposes. I opened Apple Music, found my artist profile, opened the proper album and hit play on my song “Last Day.” To my horror, this song (which is my #1 song on iTunes, Spotify and has been featured on a few TV shows) was THE WRONG VERSION. Currently playing, was the live version off of a different (live) album! I tested a few other songs. Some were the correct versions, some were not. Most curiously, another song played the live version off of a live album which I took down from iTunes YEARS ago. It doesn’t exist online anywhere to my knowledge. I was young, and didn’t know what I was doing, and kinda sucked, so I pulled that album. But, there it was, resurrected from the dead in my OFFICIAL Apple Music profile.

I sent my rep at CD Baby a frantic email asking him what to do. He informed me that it played the correct versions on his end. I sighed a moment of relief. Then I thought, well this must just be my Artist profile on MY Apple Music that’s messed up. I clicked over to My Music library and tried the album there, luckily, all the correct versions played, but the album artwork was wrong. My 2008 album had the artwork of my 2009 Live album and my 2007 live (out of print) album had the artwork of my 2005 studio release. Not a huge deal, but nonetheless annoying. And, after some searching, I noticed I’m not the only one this has happened to. But I don’t use iCloud, and up to this point most users with these issues stated they updated their iCloud and in rushed all the problems.

I haven’t been able to test this out on anyone else’s iPhone (because most are holding off installing Apple Music for fear of it ruining their digital music library they’ve spent the last 10 years perfecting). So I’m taking my CD Baby rep’s word for it, that my official Artist profile for users who haven’t already downloaded my music is working.

But that leaves me with all of my fans who HAVE downloaded (or imported) ALL of my albums. Are they having the same issues I am? Probably. I can’t imagine why this is only happening to me. Apple clearly couldn’t understand why anyone would actually buy a live album containing the same songs as a studio album they already own. No one ever does that, right? I mean, why would you need to listen to the live version of “Show Me The Way” on Frampton Comes Alive when you could listen to it on Frampton (studio)?!

I’m a musician. I carry all of my music on my iPhone to reference in band rehearsals, rework song ideas on the go, update demos, remember old recordings and (occasionally) get nostalgic reliving studio sessions. I have trusted Apple with my life’s work. And now I’m terrified. When my iTunes on my MacBook inevitably updates to Apple Music, will it ruin my entire iTunes collection as well? Will I not be able to find my new song ideas, demos, old songs, correct versions of my albums and songs? Will I not be able to listen to my own music in my iTunes library?

It’s beyond surprising it took Apple this long to launch their streaming service and then botched it this hard. How did they not test this? So many of the hiccups with the launch are because Apple clearly does not have working, independent musicians as advisors and testers.

+Apple Shines Spotlight On An Unsigned Artist… Who Doesn’t Exist

It’s quite ironic that Tidal and Apple have so much music industry on their side, but mess up their products (and launches) so royally. Spotify is a tech company run by nerds, but the biggest difference between them and the competition is, CEO Daniel Ek appointed a brilliant, independent musician as the official Artist in Residence, and the company encourages open dialogue amongst artists and Spotify through the SpotifyArtists.com support line.

+What Jay Z And Tidal Need To Do To Truly Change The Music Industry

I’m not married to Spotify, and honestly, because everything I do is within the Apple ecosystem, I would have gladly switched my $9.99/mo over to Apple if they provided a better experience than Spotify (and allowed me to import my playlists). But they haven’t and they don’t.

So what now? Will Apple fix these massive problems? Will they pay artists MORE than Spotify? Will they bring some independent musicians onto an advisory committee? Will they give all musicians the respect they deserve by including ALL album credits (not just the featured artists)? Will they allow artists to offer tickets, merchandise, experiences, crowdfunding options and dialogue to their fans (in lieu of higher royalties)?

+How Apple Can Beat Spotify

I hope so. Time will tell. But something tells, me they’re not going to change their ways all that much. Something tells me, we’re in for a long, messy future with Apple.

So for now, I’m keeping my Spotify subscription and hoping I can figure out how to restore my iPhone to the pre-Apple Music settings and bring my life’s work back to center.

+Apple, Tidal and Spotify All Miss The Point. This Is The Future Of Recorded Music


Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

30 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “Will they allow artists to offer tickets, merchandise, experiences, crowdfunding options and dialogue to their fans (in lieu of higher royalties)?”
    Yes. It’s called Connect. You can post anthing you want from there, including outside links to merchandise , or tickets, etc… And it’s associated to your artist profile. Check it out ( you may be the only artist who is not aware of that )

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      I guess, I’m looking for more of the geo-targeted, hyper data focused approach like BandPage and Rhapsody have implemented with automatic ticket/show announcements based on fans’ location. And built in merch options (like Spotify has). Artists shouldn’t have to constantly post everything via Connect. It should live on their profiles like music and video currently do. I wrote out my ideal design here. But, yes, Connect is a great start. Wish it wasn’t so buggy.

      • agraham999

        “Will Apple fix these massive problems?”

        The product/service is just over a week old…there are some issues and bugs…we’re talking about a release that’s one of the largest ever (more markets than any other music service) and they put all this together in less than a year. I’m sure in time they will work out the kinks.

        I can’t believe all the reporting (if you can call it that) expecting that a massive service on the scale of this one has to effectively walk on water before it even learns to swim. Spotify had years to build out their service…I think we could at lease give Apple the benefit of a bit more time.

        • Anonymous

          “And built in merch options (like Spotify has). Artists shouldn’t have to constantly post everything via Connect.”
          Spotify merch options (with Bandpage) isonly available in some countries (US+UK, and some scandinavian countries) , and it seems it will stay that way despite them promising it worldwide for more than a year now. It’s still not available in France , or Canada, etc..
          Apple’s Connect is already available almost worldwide from day one. And the service is just one week old.

          • Ari Herstand
            Ari Herstand

            Spotify and Deezer launched in 2008, Rhapsody in 2002, Rdio 2010. Apple should have seen this coming. Why have they been twiddling their thumbs for the past 7 years? They waited too long. Yes, it should be near perfect out of the gates. It has to be because they are SO FARE behind. Had they beat Spotify to the US, then everyone would be much more forgiving. But they are playing serious catch up. They have to at least be AS GOOD as the competition out of the gates. And they really should be better because they took so long. But they’re not. They’re sub par. I’ve been with Apple for life, I want this to succeed, but it’s frustrating how botched this entire platform is. How long are we supposed to wait? Why not just stick with Spotify then?

          • There is something...

            Hari, please tell me WHO amongst the competition let me stream in the same app all their streaming catalog + all my digital tracks + all my imported tracks ? I don’t see any service offering that outside Apple Music, and that makes it the top service in my eyes.

            I’d like to see how Spotify or Tidal would deal with importing all my library of songs they don’t own, store it in the cloud and let me stream it inside any playlist mixed with their own catalog. That’s what Apple Music does, so you need to compare Apple with apples… Of course, they need to improve some points, but I can bet than if the competition try to offer the same service down the road, their will be a lot of bugs too.

          • Ari Herstand
            Ari Herstand

            Spotify allows this. I can play all of my music (whether it’s on Spotify or not) in the app and create playlists with my (iTunes) library songs. I can even import my iTunes playlists TO Spotify… but not the other way around. Not sure if Tidal allows this. I didn’t see that option during the trial period.

          • There is something

            Not the same thing at all. You can import songs that are locally stored only. You can’t stream them from the cloud. With Apple Music, now that my songs are uploaded in iCloud, I can stream them on any device, anytime I want without having to store them locally. Huge difference because it saves a lot of time and storage space.

          • Josh

            I’ve been able to do this with Google Music for years.

  2. Ryan

    Totally agree with you on all fronts of Apple Music. I have a few tracks out there on itunes that weren’t effected… yet, but my library is jacked. All the covers and some of the tracks are rearranged. I also don’t like the “trick” of having to search deep through your settings to turn off the automatic charge at the end of 3 months. They should ask at the end of three months if you’d like to keep it and how to pay then. I’m also not sold on the non-streaming off wi-fi without changing over the settings to cell service updates which would then take valuable data usage and run it out in minutes. I had very high hopes for this, but Apple screwed it up big time. Spotify is not perfect, but it’s way better than Apple at the current moment. I’ll keep them until Apple get’s it right. They are not even responding yet to the complaints about library mishaps. They don’t care. I think Apple is on the downslope. Making products with the name in hopes the majority of people will not notice the mistakes, or care. They are hoping music loving nerds are in the small minority and don’t care if they lose our money.

  3. Paul Resnikoff
    Paul Resnikoff

    I’ve read that people (and in particular musicians) are having some success reverting or restoring to an earlier instance or version on your Mac (pick a date pre-Apple Music, for example June 29th or something). I hope that you at least can cordon off a pristine, hard drive version of your catalog, with metadata exactly how you wanted, while you can work on it in the meantime. Make that untouchable.

  4. Zoe Keating

    I’m wondering how long connecting to the Connect profiles are going to take. I have a direct iTunes account and claimed my “connect” profile via iTunes Connect the first day it was possible. It still says “PENDING”.

    • ZK

      I mean the iTunes Artist Profile….or whatever this new Ping is called 😉

      • Anonymous

        “I mean the iTunes Artist Profile….or whatever this new Ping is called”
        Yes it’s the “Connect” profile. I ‘ve claimed mine almost a week after Apple made the announcement , and it’s only been verified 2 or days ago.
        I’m surprised yours is not verified yet if you have a direct iTunes account ( that should have made things much faster).. I’m using an aggregator, Tunecore, wich should probably have slowed down the process.
        Maybe wait a couple of weeks then shoot them a mail if nothing happens ?
        This whole thing is very much a V 1.0 product ( or perhaps a 0.9 )… Still messy..

    • Tony Windle

      Zoe, I am also surprised that you are still pending, all things considered. I wonder if it is a direct account situation? My groove jazz is distributed by CD Baby, and I was verified with Connect within a few days of launch, and my dance music is distributed by Baseware, and it took about a week longer.
      Regarding Connect: I am very satisfied with how easy it is to use via Mobile. I am not sure if anyone is paying attention, but it is a nice idea.
      Ari: my catalog was messed up as well. All of the release dates are wrong. Albums that were issued in 1997 state 2010, and the remixed single is the old version. I opened a ticket w/ my distributor as per Apple’s suggestion.

    • HansH

      Zoe judging by the royalty statements you have shared so far iTunes was a major source of income. I’m using Apple Music now and noticed that all seaches are automatically lead to the streaming service in stead of the iTunes store.It’s like the iTunes Store doesn’t exist. I expect this to have a massive impact on your sales. What is your take on this?

      Hope you will share you future statements to see how Apple Music affects your sales

      Sorry for this off-topic response

  5. Tcooke

    Artists must take the power back. Look. I am not important to the industry. It makes no difference. This is how a business works. All actions taken are to benefit the bottom line. That’s fine. No problem there, but lines get crossed all the time. Artists have control over their own actions.
    What follows is this: all artist actions are to benefit the common goal of artists. Much harder than a business objective until the objective is defined. I think the objective should be complete independance from corporate governence. And so, the lines crossed in this case are seceeding to corporate interests.

    No eutopia in any life will ever be achieved. Rather, objectives are set and actions taken follow in line to effect the said objectives. Adam Smith — Karl Marx. Theories beauty, and life has defects to add. There are no big deals in life. Take the action to achieve the objective. The end result will be unknown to some extent. Nonetheless, do what’s in your heart.

  6. Deborah B.

    I updated iOS, and my phone playlists are JACKED. Most of the art disappeared, even for tracks purchased through iTunes. What art remains is 25% incorrect. Some were reformatted to a size that doesn’t display in full.
    It’s incredibly disrespectful to both artist and consumer, and I agree with Ari that these are problems that shouldn’t exist even on a first pass. I have friends who unfortunately upgraded iTunes and have 100,000 mislabeled and rearranged files. They use these for a living, and are screwed. Apple is continuing to show its disregard for actualizing the superiority it lays claim to.

  7. Verified and loving it

    geez ari- did you bother using the Artist Connect support options? One email is all it took for Apple to contact me directly, go over all my questions, and help me get set up. Maybe if you weren’t so excited to bash Apple for click bait you could have found that out on your own.

  8. Anon

    Take your music off.

    It’s easy. There’s no reason not to–since there is zero income from Crapify and Apple Music, there’s no loss to take it down either.

    This is not rocket science.

  9. scorn100

    “I carry all of my music on my iPhone to reference in band rehearsals, rework song ideas on the go, update demos, remember old recordings and (occasionally) get nostalgic reliving studio sessions. I have trusted Apple with my life’s work. And now I’m terrified.”

    Why do you trust anyone with something so precious? Especially when there are so many other ways to access your music (e.g., dropbox, hightail, soundcloud, etc., etc.). I can certainly appreciate your frustration in thinking that your fans might not be getting the right tracks. But to depend on a company as unresponsive as Apple for your life’s work is simple not responsible.

    Remember when bands and artists used Facebook exclusively to promote themselves only to realize that they don’t own the fan/consumer relationship? Some bands built massive followings and still had no email list. Or worse yet, in the old Myspace days, some bands or artists woke up one morning to find their myspace page gone or given to someone else.

    When people ask me if a website is really necessary anymore, I always say a resounding “yes”. You need to own your own brand and its conduit to the consumer because you can’t rely on free services like Facebook or Twitter to do that.

    I know that you may come back and say that you are paying for Apple Music. But that’s not my point which is you can only trust your own actions and infrastructure that you can control.

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      Soundcloud could die. As could dropbox. So that’s hardly a better option. You know, I thought iTunes was my own library that I controlled – I did up until last week. Are there better/other music libraries for the computer/iPhone? How else can you store music on an iPhone? Pretty sure their music app is the only way (that doesn’t require streaming). I guess I’ll dig my old iPod out…

      • Josh

        Put everything on a hard drive for back up, or it on a cloud storage platform (Dropbox, onedrive,Box,Copy, etc) and sync that folder to your phone.

  10. JC

    Sorry you have had so much trouble with Apple Music Ari! I have been using distroKid for my newest releases https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/giant-1/id957529535 and so far so good. They sent me an email asking if I wanted to have the music on Apple Music and I logged in and clicked, they did the rest. I hope CD baby is able to help you get this straight with Apple. As your distributor, I feel as though they should be in contact with the right people to get everything straight. Let us know how it turns out.

  11. Craig

    Scorn100 and Josh have it right, Ari.
    You need to store you own stuff on your own harddrive solutions. Massive hardrives are cheap! Then bavkupvto cloud and sync as you like.
    Apple is for consumers. You are a pro.
    Also, many prefer Android and Windows for reasons of flexibility and local control. Apple’s ecosystem is efficient, but they control it.


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