Tag Archives: music

More thoughts on Music in iOS 10 (beta)

Last time I left off at the artist listing screen. Today, I want to dig into the individual artist view, album view, and the now playing screen.

One of the reasons I chose to give Music another try in iOS 10 is that Apple has finally given us a proper artist album listing, with albums that drill down into their own screens. This means we can finally choose an artist, then play a single album without it continuing on to the next album. Sounds like a small thing, but I dropped Music altogether years ago for that one reason alone.

Best iPod we’ve ever made, my ass.

Artist Album Listing

Artist Album Listing

Unfortunately, unlike iTunes on the Mac and Windows, Music on iOS still only sorts albums by name, giving us no option to sort them by date instead.

This is one of those head slap moments that makes you wonder if anyone at Apple has ever been a serious music collector. As far as I’m concerned, Apple cannot claim that it loves music ever again until it gives us the option to sort albums by date. No self-respecting music geek sorts albums by name. I don’t care if you hide the option in the Settings app, just give me the option for date, you wankers.[1]

Sorting issues aside, I like most everything else about the Artist page in Music. Album art is square and large, as it should be. There’s a quick option to shuffle all albums, in case that’s your thing. And, as I said before, choosing an album gives you a separate view with just that album’s tracks.

At the bottom of the artist page there’s also a new link “See more by…” that takes you to that artist’s other music on Apple Music. I’m not an Apple Music subscriber, but I guess it’s okay to be able to see what tracks are available without having to bounce into the iTunes app.[2] Unfortunately, any links inside here only give you the option of subscribing to Apple Music. You can’t link over to iTunes to buy any tracks you find. You can’t even preview tracks to see if they’re worth subscribing to get. It’s subscribe, or go screw yourself.

I’m sure the artists love that.

What’s so hard about offering a link, even via 3D Touch, that takes you to the iTunes store to buy a track?

Buy a track? Come on, Joe. Who buys tracks nowadays?

Oh yeah, that’s right. People who LOVE MUSIC.

Once you choose an album, you get the track listing, as you’d expect. Shuffle is right up there at the top again. Okay. Not something I ever use, but I guess a lot of people like shuffle. (More on this in a moment.)

Choose a track, and it starts playing immediately. At the bottom of the screen, just above the tab bar, you get a new bar for now playing, which stays there no matter where you go in the app. I like this a lot. I always hated how hard it was to get to the now playing screen on my old iPod and on Apple TV. This makes it one tap away at all times, which is brilliant. Music also doesn’t assume that once I’ve chosen a track I want the entire screen to be filled with now playing. This is also a good design choice. Once my music is running, I may want to select something else to play next, or keep reading the rest of the track listing, or just go exploring more through my catalog, etc.

At the bottom of the album page, there’s “More by…” again, only this time with albums and images listed. There’s also a “You Might Also Like” section with music from similar artists. Okay, now I’m getting annoyed, Apple. I switched Apple Music off in Settings. I’m clearly not interested in joining Apple Music. Fuck off , already.

Note: “Showing only music on this iPhone” is a lie in this case, Apple.

Note: “Showing only music on this iPhone” is a lie in this case, Apple.

Again, every link in these two bottom sections I didn’t ask for give me no option to even preview tracks from these suggested artists. Just subscribe now.

No thanks.[3]

The now playing toolbar has convenient buttons for pausing and skipping the current track. Another great design decision. One-tap access to pausing is essential, and sometimes you really do need to skip that one track you hate immediately.

Tap into the full-screen now playing view, and you are treated with nice big album art and some more controls in an overlay “card” type view that is reminiscent of Palm’s WebOS. I mostly like what they’ve done with this screen. But there are a few odd choices here.

The big one that others have mentioned before: Where are the shuffle and repeat buttons? For all the emphasis on shuffle being at the top of the past few screens in a row, I get to now playing, and shuffle has disappeared. Turns out, the now playing view is scrollable, and shuffle and repeat are just below the “fold.” Why? No reason I can discern. There’s plenty of room under the volume slider for more than two buttons.

Also, if you’re going to make this screen a scroll view, some indication that it can be scrolled might be a good idea. I know several people who had no idea that they can scroll this view at all. And that’s a shame, because what’s down below the fold is actually quite nice: an Up Next listing, where you can manually reorder or remove tracks from the upcoming cue.

Up Next is a pretty powerful thing. Setting up a quick one-off track listing for a party, for instance, becomes quite easy. I never use playlists, but I often will select a number of albums to listen to in a row when I’m in a certain mood, or I have people over the house, or when I’m on a road trip, etc. The “Play Next” and “Play Later” options on albums and tracks make setting up a quick cue super flexible and easy.

Overall, I actually like Music in iOS 10. The app is far from perfect, and I really want the heavy-handed Apple Music sales pitch to go away, but otherwise, for my listening style, this app is greatly improved over iOS 9 and earlier versions of Music.

And, lo and behold, since I’ve started adding tracks back to my iPhone, I have yet to experience the old issues I was having with files disappearing, doubling of tracks, tracks that simply won’t play, etc. Maybe the file system bugs I was experiencing are gone? I may just upgrade to a 128GB or even 256GB iPhone in a few weeks. I’d love to retire my old iPod again for good.

  1. They do have a “Sort Songs and Albums” option buried in the Settings app, by the way. But it’s for the songs and albums sort views. It has no effect on the album listing for individual artists. And there’s no “by Date” option, in any case.  ↩

  2. Never mind that I’ve checked the “Show Apple Music” switch off in preferences. I’m getting links to Apple Music all over the app, anyway.  ↩

  3. None of these Apple Music “features” were in the early betas, by the way. I wonder if this is a bug, or if these screens will make it into the GM for non-Apple Music subscribers.  ↩


I’ve been recording music on my Mac for the better part of 20 years. Once I learned that I could combine my love of music with computers, it became my favorite way to spend my free time.

Sometimes I would record individual songs. Entire collections of songs. Half-baked songs that never went anywhere. It didn’t matter. It was always a fun outlet for my creativity.

Whenever I create marketing videos for various Bombing Brain projects or my own apps, my favorite part has always been making the background music. I spend far more time than is probably reasonable crafting short pieces of music to play under videos. Luckily, my cohorts at Bombing Brain have always indulged me, allowing me to experiment with many styles of music, rather than forcing me to stick to the corporate hipster jingles found in most modern product videos.

The other Bombing Brain guys are also accomplished musicians. Bombing Brain has provided rich soundtracks for a few games over the years. And we like to jam for a bit whenever we get together.

So it only made sense to us at Bombing Brain that we take this love of creating music and turn it into a service for others. After all, if we needed background music several times a year, certainly our Teleprompt+ and Setlists customers do, too. Not everyone has in-house talent, and not everyone can afford to hire a musician to produce bespoke background music on demand.

There are other royalty-free music services out there, but none with licensing terms as generous as ours at backdrop.audio. With a one-time low price, you no longer have an excuse not to add some music to your apps, your marketing videos, your YouTube tutorials, your podcasts, or whatever multimedia projects you create. We don’t charge you yearly to renew your license, and we don’t care how big your audience is. Pay once and use the track forever.

We’re starting with a very small catalog, as it takes a lot of time to produce each track. But we will be adding much more over time, in all sorts of styles. And that’s where we can use some help. If you have suggestions for genres you’d like to hear more of on our site, you can contact us to make requests. We plan to create new tracks based on the styles most requested by our customers.

If you have the budget, you can also hire us to make a unique track just for your project. We’re happy to quote you a price.

Our hope is that we make it just a little easier for small indies to get quality background music into their projects. If you occasionally have a need to drop some music into the things you create, check out the catalog backdrop.audio. And let us know what you think.

A Glutton for Punishment

I’ve heard mixed reviews on the new iOS 10 beta’s music app. Long-time readers will no doubt remember that I gave up playing music on my iPhone altogether a while back, due to the Music app being completely incongruous with the way I listen to music, not to mention constant issues with songs not downloading, going missing, etc. So I’ve been happily using my old iPod Classic for a while now.

And that’s going great, actually. The old iPod is still working. But I’m a tech geek, and I don’t believe in hanging onto the past forever, so with every new iteration of iOS, I am bound to look at what Apple does with Music to see if there’s a chance they may have actually fixed the issues that drove me away.

Right off the bat, looking at Music.app in the iOS 10 beta, I see two things that have me rather hopeful. First, there’s the Downloaded Music section, which shows you only the songs you actually have living on your iPhone, rather than showing your cloud songs mixed in with your downloaded songs. In previous iterations of Music, there was a switch in Settings to show or hide cloud music, but this dedicated space within the app is actually way better. It gives me the option of looking for a cloud album to download when the mood strikes and I happen to be connected without having to drop out of the app and dig through Settings to flip the cloud music switch.

Second and much more important, when you sort by Artist, you now finally once again have a separate screen between the albums and the individual songs. Which means it’s now possible again to play a single album from an artist when sorting by artist. Hooray. Functionality that existed in iPhone OS 1.0 is now back—many, many years later. This alone was the reason I originally ditched the built-in Music app for Ecoute before giving up on Music on my iPhone altogether.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, I’m doing a little experiment. I’ve moved Music.app back to my main home screen, and I’ve downloaded some music to my phone again, via iTunes. Not my whole library, as I only have a 64GB iPhone at the moment, and my whole library wouldn’t fit on a 128GB, anyway. But come fall, when iOS 10 is released, and with it hopefully a 256GB option for the next iPhone, I may finally be able to replace my old iPod Classic for good, if all the file disappearing and syncing issues have been resolved in iOS. I may finally have all my songs in my pocket again, without carrying around a separate, aging device with a hard drive and battery that are due to fail any minute now.

But that point about the file issues is a huge if. Thus, the experiment. So far, I’ve only added about 15GB of songs onto the iPhone, to see if they actually stick. I’ll keep adding more and more as I go and keep a close eye on whether or not the songs are actually there. Will songs simply disappear again? Will duplicates show up for no reason? Will album tracks show up out of order? Will tracks appear to be there, but when I hit play simply skip to the next track? If history is any indication, all of the above are not only possible, but likely. But I have my fingers crossed. After all, I’m an optimist at heart.

The Music app is far from perfect in iOS 10, but just those two simple changes are enough to get me to at least try it again. I’ll write up some of my gripes about what’s still broken in the near future.

Airplane Mode’s First Music Video

Airplane Mode’s first music video goes live today. I can’t even express how much fun this was to make. Nor can I express my gratitude for everyone involved in the process.

I’ll have more to say on the Airplane Mode blog later. Dave has written a wonderful piece about putting the video together from his perspective.

In the meantime, enjoy the video. And if you’re in NYC tonight, come to Subject LES for our release party at 7pm.

And don’t miss our podcast episode about this song. Lots of background info, for those of you who like the inside scoop.

Airplane Mode: Episode 1

I’ve been a musician since before I owned my first computer. Music will always be my first love. To feed my creativity in this way is beyond exciting. I hope you enjoy:

Airplane Mode Episode 1: Let’s Start a Band

There is much, much more to come. We’ve got the songs written and are in the process of recording all of them to the best of our abilities. Along the way, we’ll be documenting our process, our thinking, and everything in between. We’re just getting started.

A very special thanks to Hover for being our first patron in this adventure. They have always been a great supporter of the tech community; to see them supporting independent music makes me respect them that much more. Don’t forget to use “tidalwave” when you sign up to save 10% on your purchase.

And you too can join Hover in patronizing the arts. Sign up for our Patreon here.

Read more from Dave on why we’re doing the podcast here.