30 September 2015

Making an Apple Music playlist

The task: I have a list of songs that I want to make into an Apple Music playlist using iTunes on my iMac.

Step 1: Search My Music. If I already have the song in my library, that is likely the version I want in the playlist.

If it weren’t for step 2 below, this wouldn’t need to be a full, separate step. I’d search My Music and—if the song wasn’t there—one click would switch me to searching all of Apple Music.

The good news: If I find the song in My Music, it is easy to add it to my playlist. On to the next song. Otherwise...

Step 2: Search Wikipedia for the song to find which album (or other information) will distinguish the version I want.

Apple Music almost never has just a single version of a song, but it gives me precious little context to help me distinguish them from one another. I’ve learned from experience that things go a lot smoother when I check Wikipedia before searching Apple Music or the iTunes Store.

I’m not suggesting that a service should choose a definitive version for me, but it would be nice if it gave me some useful context. This sort of context seems in-line with Apple and Beats’ “people over algorithms” stance. In fact, I’d argue that this fits it moreso than mere curation.

Step 3: Add the song to My Music. Apple Music doesn’t allow you to add a song to a playlist unless you add it to your My Music first.

Well, I did find ways to do it, but it didn’t really work. The song wasn’t added to the playlist. Or if it was, it remained invisible.

Step 4: Search for the song (again) in My Music, and add the song to the playlist. Finally go to the next song on the list.

Compared to Spotify: Doing the same task in Spotify suffered, of course, from the issue of step 2 as well. Although it benefited from not having steps 1 or 3. Once I’d found a song, I could add it directly to my playlist. My biggest complaint about Spotify when creating a playlist was not being able to see the search results and the playlist side-by-side—which is also a problem in iTunes.

So... Even leaving out step 2, creating an Apple Music playlist with iTunes is shockingly clunky. It is hard to believe creating a playlist wasn’t an important enough use case to get better treatment. And a music service that wants to truly differentiate itself from the competition should perhaps look farther than just algorithms and farther than just curation.

A side note: Apple Music’s curation (over competitors’ algorithms) is touted as a distinguishing feature. I’d argue that Spotify’s shared user playlists are more useful curation that all of Apple/Beats “experts”. The ideal service would have both and ensure they both worked well.

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