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).