Chris says that iTunes 12 has caused the sidebar to disappear. Leo says it has, and it's likely to never return. Leo thought the sidebar was great, but Apple should really just start over and rebuild the app from scratch. That actually might happen since Apple bought Beats and plans to integrate it. If it does, it could be the end of iTunes as we know it. They've been taking bits and pieces out of it for years, and as such, it's become rather ghastly.
But Chris says that his connection to his device in iTunes "comes and goes." And the icons disappear. Leo says they disappear when they get unplugged. Chris says when he's connected to Wi-Fi, Apple says it should appear. He reinstalled, and it appeared for a few days. Leo suggests trying a new cable.
There are a few alternatives, but they're really not as good for organization and syncing. So Chris is kind of stuck. Leo likes to use Google Music because it backs up songs to the cloud like ITunes Match, as does Amazon. The chatroom suggests VLC, but it's kind of klunky. Vox will play back high res music. But nothing does everything iTunes does.