Introducing Town Square, a new series of articles about Microsoft’s ecosystem written by enConnected users themselves. Our first comes from user Michael Becker who has some things to say about the implementation of Xbox Music.

I’ve been a Zune Pass subscriber since roughly 2009ish I believe, maybe earlier, and started using windows phone 7 January after launch.  Everything was happy with Zune Desktop and Windows Phone 7 on both my Samsung Focus and my Lumia 900.  Metadata was good, playlists sync’d, artwork was correct. It was a lovely, functional place.

I recently got a new PC running Windows 8, and I copied over my music library, got Zune setup and my playlists great, had a few minor issues to correct but they were easily fixed by editing metadata in Zune Desktop, and it was working good with my Lumia 900.

Xbox Music app in Windows 8 on the other hand was a mess.

There was about 10 playlists missing from Xbox Music that were in Zune Desktop, and what playlists did show up many had songs missing. Also, there are many mismatches with Songs/Albums trying to match to things in the Music Marketplace.

Due to this mismatch, if Xbox Music Cloud Collection is enabled on the phone and desktop, artists will show up as available in my collection for streaming that I do not know.

Example, I personally recorded a song and album named “The Butterfly Effect”.  This is NOT in the Xbox Music marketplace, and shouldn’t be matched with anything in the store. It shows up on my phone as an album by Tim Gerwing, who I’ve never heard of.

Another example, I have a playlist called “Nightwish Set” containing 15 songs.  14 of the songs are available in the Xbox Music store, 1 track is not.  On Zune Desktop, and Music app this list is correct.  If I turn on Xbox Cloud on the my phone, it shows 14 songs, not 15.

Continuing testing and attempting to get playlist syncing working:

Now, using the Windows Phone Desktop app, the artists section is correct, and I am able to sync an artists album to the phone no problem. However, playlists do NOT sync properly.

For testing, this now has cloud sync disabled on the phone.

If I select the “Nightwish Set” playlist and sync to the phone, it appears to go through the motions of syncing with no errors, though far to quickly to actually be copying data.

When I open up the sync’d playlist on the phone, it only contains 10 songs.

My first thought was since some of them were possibly downloaded as part of my zune pass, it wasn’t copying those over, however the very first song in the playlist is a purchased song from the zune/xbox music marketplace, as such it is a DRM free MP3 file, and that song is NOT being sync’d in the playlist.

If I repeat the steps with Connect with Xbox Music disabled on the device, the result is the same.

At this point, from what I can see there’s several issues at play.

  1. Music for Win8 is not properly seeing data from our Zune libraries, and is also attempting to do some sort of automatic cloud matching which is failing, and we have no ability to override it
  2. Playlist syncing in the Windows Phone Desktop app is broken and failing to generate the proper error messages to report to the user what is happening.

Now I’m currently rebuilding album by album and playlist by playlist complete the entire music library inside the Music app.

Here’s what I’ve found so far while rebuilding:

Album art support is inconsistent:  This one is a surprise honestly.

I have a mix of mp3’s acquired from various sources (amazon, iTunes, zune, cd’s, ripped cassettes of old bands demos) and it seems hit or miss as to how the art shows up.

The one that surprised me the most is this: I purchased the single “Fight’em Til You Can’t” by Anthrax from the Zune marketplace. It now resides on my hard drive as a DRM Free mp3 file.  This file has the album art embedded, as well as these files in the folder:

ZuneArt_{B5FA4960-BFAF-4697-8362-F3F8B99824B6}.jpg

AlbumArt_{F3A90AF9-AF56-45EA-8AF9-1802E3B91310}_Large.jpg

Cover.jpg

Folder.jpg

This single and the album its from have both been removed from the Zune Marketplace, I can only assume due to licensing or some such thing.

Now this of all files you would expect the app to read the album art for, however it comes up blank, and unable to match it in the store.

I have other MP3’s with embedded art from old bands I was in that show up fine in Xbox Music, that have no additional .jpg files in the folder.

I also have another album by the Alex Skolnick Trio titled “Goodbye to Romance” that matched to the store, but upon matching removed the existing album art it did see, and put nothing in its place. Oddly, this one DOES have cover art in the Zune Marketplace in Zune Desktop, but NOT in Xbox Music.  I’m at a loss to explain that one.

Continuing on with the testing, I’ve loaded roughly a hundred albums back in to Xbox Music now (the A’s of my collection.)  I’ve been attempting to manually match as I go to see the results, which have been mixed at best, this by selecting the “Match album info”.

Several albums have found a match and now show the happy cloud icon.  Several others show a cloud icon with a sync arrow that has persisted through several restarts of the application.  Others still found matches when I searched, and it corrected song titles and track numbers, but then fails to give any indication of if it is cloud matched or not (no cloud or cloud syncing icon.)

I’m going to continue my testing to see what results I get, including creating new playlists from inside the Xbox Music app and see if behavior is different in the WP8 Desktop Sync client.

Overall, I’m a big Windows Phone and Zune fan, but this current setup feels like a huge step backward.  Would’ve been much happier if we could just slap an Xbox Music icon on the Zune Desktop app and call it a day.

 

Zune Customer Support (Zune****@css.one.microsoft.com)

To: *****@live.com

 

Greetings Michael,

 

Thanks for the summary. There are a couple things that are going on here that might be the source of the issue. First off, music downloaded from the Zune software is not fully compatible with the Xbox Music app on Win 8. We are currently suggesting that customers should search for their music and redownload. I know this is not ideal, and can be a major pain point, however we are looking into this. The second issue to go over is with the cloud collection. Currently we are tracking some issues with that feature. You might temporary consider using the Zune software solely for music.

 

I hope this explains what you have been seeing. Please feel free to contact me with any other questions.

 

Kind regards.

We’ll let that last bit speak for itself. If you’ve got an opinion you’d like to share on Microsoft’s entertainment ecosystem, we want to read! Send it to theateam@enConnected.com with “Town Square” in the subject line.