I “Like” Music

I’m still really enjoying Apple Music these days, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of music on there.  I love having choices, but the more stuff I listen to and add to my library the more some of it starts to feel like clutter.  So I started looking for a way to weed out all but the really good stuff.  What I landed on was the Like button.

Apple Music, like Apple News and iCloud Photos, has a simple heart-shaped “Like” button for songs, playlists, and albums.  In Apple Music, these are used to refine the suggestions in the For You section.  They work similarly in Apple News, refining the articles you get in your main feed.  This is great, but what I really wanted was a feature like in Photos.  All the pictures you’ve liked in Photos are congregated in a single album.  This makes it really easy to find and look at just those photos.  I wanted the same thing in music.  Fortunately, that’s totally possible, just not exactly simple.

Basically, you have to set up a smart playlist in iTunes on your computer.  In order for this to work, your iTunes installation has to have iCloud Music Library turned on, so that all your playlists sync over the cloud.  Just make a new smart playlist that has the condition “Loved” set to true (yes, oddly enough it’s called Loved in this menu).  I also like to use the “limit to” feature to sort them.  I “limit” the playlist to 10,000 songs, or something else that’s basically unlimited, and then sort by date added.  This means the newer songs float to the top automatically.

Here’s the catch: smart playlists only grab songs that have also been added to your library, so if you find a great song in Radio mode, you have to Like it and add it to your library.  I really wish liking would add the song to your library automatically, it would just make the whole thing a lot simpler.  Spotify has a smart playlist called “Liked from Radio” which, as you might guess, shows all the songs you’ve thumbs upped in Radio.  I wish that worked here.  But aside from that minor hiccup, the Liked playlist works great.  It’s a fun thing to shuffle if I don’t know what I’m in the mood to listen to.

But here’s where things get really cool.  I’ve set the Liked playlist to be available offline, so anything I like automatically gets downloaded.  This is the only music I have downloaded, since I have T-Mobile and streaming music doesn’t count against my data.  What this means is that I can set my iPhone to only show offline music, and it will only show music I’ve liked.  For example, I have a ton of music by NEEDTOBREATHE (whom you simply must check out if you’ve never heard them).  It’s all good music, but if I only want to hear the stuff I absolutely love, I just flip on the offline switch.  Then I just shuffle all songs in that artist!  ••


How Apple can “Beat” the Competition

♦ This post is one of the Best of 2014

Apple has a lot to gain from their rumored purchase of Beats by Dr. Dre.  Even if you don’t think you know what Beats are, you’ve probably seen people wearing them.  The super-trendy headphones aren’t cheap either – they start at $169.95.  I don’t understand why the average Joe would need headphones that expensive (though I could understand someone in the music business wanting them), but Dr. Dre must know something I don’t.  I see those headphones everywhere.

So obviously, if the headphones are selling, it’s a good buy for Apple – just because it’s a money maker.  However, I think Apple has their eye on something else: Beats Music.

Beats Music is a recently launched subscription streaming music service.  With the rise of Spotify, Pandora, and other streaming music services (both paid and free), it is clear that people are becoming less and less inclined to buy individual songs and albums, and instead stream music buffet style.  We saw the same thing happen to movies with the rise of Netflix, and I personally think that streaming music is just getting started.  I for one know that internet radio is great when I’m really tired of all my music (even though I have a ton of it).  From what I’ve heard about Beats Music, it’s a great service.  Like most other internet radio services, Beats Music has computer algorithms to determine what kinds of music a person likes based on their listening history.  What’s more unique is that Beats brought in industry experts to hand-craft playlists of songs that go great together.  Supposedly, this features makes all the difference when listening.

Last fall, Apple tried to get into the streaming music business when they launched iTunes Radio.  I’ve never used iTunes Radio, but right off the bat I can see the benefits of using an Apple service.  For starters, you don’t have to make any new accounts, since pretty much everyone with an iOS device already has an Apple ID.  Second, I’m sure Apple made it very convenient to buy the song you’re currently listening to, in case you decide you want to own it.

For whatever reason, however, iTunes Radio hasn’t really caught on.  It may be because so many people already use Pandora, and they just didn’t bother trying out iTunes Radio.  I’ve also heard that Apple started iTunes Radio and then sort of let it fall by the wayside, instead of continually making improvements like every new service needs.

This is why Apple needs Beats.  Just as Netflix has revolutionized the way we watch movies, somebody is going to revolutionize the way we listen to music.  Apple wants to be that somebody, and Beats by Dr. Dre might be just what they need to succeed.  ••