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Xbox Music - The service I wanted to love...

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  • wkempf

    and can't even like.

    I hesitated to write this post. I know I'm going to be bombarded with comments about how stupid I am not to be able to use the service. I'm also sick and tired of all of the negative commentary on the intertubes. However, this negative commentary isn't just me complaining, but me hoping things can be turned around. As for comments about me being stupid... well, I hope at least some of those will include the information needed to allow me to use Xbox Music.

    Anyway, this will be a long post, as it's been a while in the making for me. When Xbox Music was first rumored, I was excited. It sounded like it would have a lot of features I'd really like. So, the day it became available I tried it out on the Xbox, a laptop with Windows 8, and eventually on my Lumia 920 as well. On all of the devices it's been one disappointment after another. This service simply isn't usable... at least by me. It's frustrating that on all 3 devices there's a similar look, but after that you realize there's nothing similar about any of the apps at all. Each has different features and different ways to use them. "Three screens and the cloud" isn't going to work if each screen is radically different.

    On day one I ran into my first problem. There was supposed to be a Spotify like service for free. Funny, I can't figure out how to use such a service on any of the devices. Everything I've tried on any of the devices seems to lead to needing an Xbox Music Pass to do anything. I'm 100% sure that on this one it's just me being dumb, but I'm a well above average user and have struggled here. To me that says that too many average consumers are going to have similar problems, and just aren't going to bother with the service. Not when there are other options. Simple example, when we were putting up the Christmas Tree I thought I'd try Xbox Music (on the Xbox) to stream some Christmas music. After 20 minutes of trying to figure it out, I gave up and used Last.FM instead.

    Oh well, that's not really the Xbox Music feature I was most interested in. What I really wanted was the cloud locker stuff. Helpfully, Paul Thurrott posted about this one (http://winsupersite.com/article/windows8/windows-8-tip-match-music-144730), because frankly, how it works is HORRIBLE. Read his post and cringe out how music matching works. I followed the instructions with several CDs we own. I ripped the CDs (using the old Zune app, because the Xbox Music app provides no features for ripping music at all!). The Xbox Music app found those, and I went through the painful steps to manually match each and every CD that I ripped, one by one. Some CDs weren't recognized at all (and they weren't really obscure CDs), which was disappointing, but I get the whole licensing stuff and could forgive that. But oddly, some CDs were recognized, but one or two songs on the CDs were not. That really made no sense AT ALL. All the way around, bad user experience. Once done, I had about a dozen CDs ripped and about 8 of them recognized with the cloud icon proudly telling me I could access those songs from any other device.

    The icon lied. Even after several days, not one of those songs was visible from any other device. Not from the Xbox, not from my Lumia, not even from another PC. Paul's article clearly stated that it worked for him, "instantly", but there I was days later and not a single song on any other device. I Googled on Bing and found an interesting report. Can't find it again to provide a link, but supposedly the poster had contacted support over this very issue, and was told that the feature was planned but not currently available. For those who thought it was working, they evidently all had a Music Pass. That seems odd to me. What good is music matching if you've got a Music Pass?

    Oh well, two strikes against me. I finally decided to try Music Pass, just to see how everything would finally work with all of the devices. I signed up using a PC, and everything seemed to work fine. At least on the web site. Went to my phone, and it didn't seem to know I was signed up with the Music Pass. Everything was purchase only, no ability to stream or download. So, I went to Zune on that PC (unfortunately, a Windows 7 PC). It seemed to recognize the Music Pass, as the purchase links were all download links, but nothing would download or play with some obscure DRM related error. I'm sure I could figure that one out, but at this point in time I've lost the energy to do so. More importantly, though, most normal users wouldn't be able to go forward at this point. The OOB experience would have lost you a customer (and rightly so).

    I didn't see how things work on either the Xbox or the Windows 8 laptop last night like I should have. I'll do that tonight. But this morning I was surprised on my phone. All of those CDs I ripped earlier and were supposedly in my "cloud collection" suddenly are on the phone, like they always should have been. I have no idea why. My first guess would be because I signed up for the trial on the Music Pass, except none of the other Music Pass features seem to be working on the phone. Everything in the store is still "purchase" not "download" and "play" just plays samples not the complete song/album.

    I simply don't have the energy to figure out this stuff. The experience is simply broken, even if the features do work (which I question).

  • MasterPi

    Haven't really tried out all the features...I just absolutely hate the Music UI on Windows 8. They were somehow able to make music look incredibly boring. Where's all the color?

    There's also no desktop application for managing music. WMP hasn't really been updated and doesn't connect to Xbox services.

    The free ad-supported music works fine on my tablet but doesn't work at all on my laptop.

    Yeah...I kinda hate it in its shape right now.

  • wkempf

    @MasterPie: The ad supported stuff doesn't work for me on my laptop, Lumia or, most surprising, Xbox. Interesting to hear that it's working on your tablet, but that just confuses me even more. That seems to indicate it's not me being dumb with the interface, but that the service is hit or miss somehow.

    Nothing about Xbox Music makes sense to me. In it's current shape it has to be a miserable failure. I'd suspect that not only are they failing to acquire new users, but existing (i.e. Zune Pass) customers would likely be going elsewhere as well.

    I want this service to work, so I'm not trying to be like many of our resident trolls, but honestly, this service right now is literally unusable. WTH?

  • svelasquez1​23

    I had some of the same frustrations.  I was a zune pass customer, i purchased a lot of music through amazon when I discontinued my service last year.  I'm using an htc 8x and it seemed like nothing was working after setting up my xbox music pass.  I read a post somewhere saying to restart the phone once signed up and boom, everything was working fine.  The Soundhound app works great with xbox music app on windows phone too.  A lot like the Soundhound integration with Amazon Music store on Android.

    My only frustration now is you need a PC running windows 8 to set up playlists, at least from the instructions in the app itself.  If anyone has anyway around this, would be glad to hear it.

  • wkempf

    @svelasquez123: Argh. I'm certain I tried cycling the phone before this, but on a whim after reading your post, I cycled again and everything's working. That simply can't explain why the cloud collection stuff started to work, though.

    Well, I got something out of posting this, even if I'm still left with more questions than answers and features that I can't use on all devices. Thanks.

    Edit: By the way, it's clunky, but you can create playlists. Add music to Now Playing, go to the Now Playing queue, and there's a menu option to save the queue as a Play List. http://www.windowsphone.com/en-ca/how-to/wp7/music/create-a-playlist That link is talking about WP7, but it works the same on WP8.

  • MasterPi

    , wkempf wrote

    @MasterPie: The ad supported stuff doesn't work for me on my laptop, Lumia or, most surprising, Xbox.

    The best part is, it plays the ads just fine! Mad

  • Harlequin

    I'll stick with MediaMonkey for a long time to come. Works on my home computer in Windows 7, and at work with Windows 8. And it's stable with huge music libraries, unlike the Zune software, which itself was the nicest looking music player out there, but add more and more music to it, it crawled to a halt.

  • wkempf

    @Harlequin: You're strictly talking about a player, though, while I'm looking for services. Especially services that make it easier to use music on all of my devices. MediaMonkey is great, but isn't usable for any of the scenarios I'm looking for solutions.

  • DeathBy​VisualStudio

    @wkempf: Great write-up. Sorry for your troubles but thanks for going to the trouble of outlining your experience. I almost jumped into the W8/WP8/XBox eco-system this year but found it's just to shallow and unfinished to make the jump for me and my family.

  • wkempf

    @DeathByVisualStudio: I can't agree with that. Two years ago we "cut the cable", and the all around best option (aside from do-it-yourself media PCs, which is far more complex and expensive) for replacing that cable company provided box is the Xbox. It's not a complete solution, by any means, but it's far more complete than any of the other options. And it's getting better every day. That's part of the reason why I found (find) Xbox music to be so frustrating. Everything else has "just worked." My non-techie wife and young kids are very happy with this ecosystem.

  • ponsaelius

    @wkempf:I wanted to like Xbox Music. I got a one year sub last june based on Zune. it was easy to use, great music discovery, synced well, ripped cds and worked with Windowsphone 7. This could only get better with Xbox Music - right?

    No. Almost everything is broken to one degree or another. The cloud concept doesn't work so you need decent syncing with Windows 8 and Windowsphone 8. Unfortunately you don't get that in the new world of Xbox Music. The Zune website also allowed streaming when you were not at home on your own PC and that has gone. Podcasts don't work outside the USA.

    Right now I am managing music with iTunes as the best Windows based tool for managing music on Windows 8. I have a subscription until June now. Unless they rapidly improve things I am going to Spotify once they have a Windowsphone 8 app. My other alternative is to dig out an ipod and use that! I can't believe Microsoft have made such a mess of music....

  • warren

    Rdio has a Windows Phone app.  It works, but has some bugs. They're busy working on a brand new version right now, but it's still a few months out.  The iPad version of Rdio is pretty solid, and my car has an iPod cable connection anyways, so that's the version I use when I'm on the go.

    Their music selection is excellent.... I literally haven't opened iTunes or played anything from my own collection since I got a subscription with them a month ago.

     

  • ScanIAm

    , wkempf wrote

    @Harlequin: You're strictly talking about a player, though, while I'm looking for services. Especially services that make it easier to use music on all of my devices. MediaMonkey is great, but isn't usable for any of the scenarios I'm looking for solutions.

    But the zune did do that, too.  I actually grew to like working with it for moving music and podcasts to my phone...and then xbox music got rid of podcasts Sad

  • giovanni

    @wkempf: I can only speak for the free Spotify like service, as it is the only music related thing I use on my only Windows 8 tablet (Surface RT). I just hit play and it worked: I was never advertised the service in any way! So yes, this is a great feature, but not advertised anywhere!!! If I head not read about it before, I would be completely confused.

  • Harlequin

    MediaMonkey does have a "Net Radio" in the leftnav tree I never noticed...looks like there is a "Shoutcast directory in there. Click that and you can see "49,474 Free Internet Radio Stations"....

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