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Posts tagged with "Apple Music"

Mario Guzman’s Music MiniPlayer Lets You Control Apple’s Music App in iTunes 10 Style

Earlier this year, we interviewed Mario Guzman in MacStories Weekly about Music Widget, his Apple Music controller utility that recreates the look and feel of the original iTunes Dashboard Widget. This week, Guzman is back with a similar music utility for macOS that’s skinned to look like the original iTunes 10 MiniPlayer.

Called Music MiniPlayer, the utility is a remote control for Apple’s Music app, not a music player itself, that takes its inspiration from iTunes 10’s MiniPlayer. With the exception of some minor tweaks to the background of the playback controls, Music MiniPlayer is a pixel-perfect recreation of the iTunes 10 MiniPlayer written almost entirely using the Core Graphics and Core Animation frameworks to ensure crisp rendering on Retina and non-Retina displays.

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MusicBox Review: The ‘Listen-Later’ Music App I’ve Been Waiting For

MusicBox for iPhone.

MusicBox for iPhone.

Longtime MacStories readers know how much music is important to me. I Made You a Mixtape, which I published six years ago, continues to be one of my favorite, most intimate things I’ve ever published for a simple reason: it tells the story of the importance music had in my life when I was growing up, the connections it helped me make, and the lifelong memories it created. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel weird inside if I don’t listen to music every day. My love for music – all kinds of music – is also why I spent the past few years rebuilding a personal, offline music library and creating a setup that lets me enjoy music without distractions.

Now, I’ve covered plenty of music apps over the years on MacStories, starting from desktop utilities for music controls to Apple Music clients based on Apple’s official API, music widgets, and even Last.fm scrobblers. But there’s been one particular type of music app, which I’ve always wanted someone to build, that has eluded my coverage of apps on MacStories in over 13 years of reviews: a read-later utility, but for music you want you want to save and listen to later.

That is, until today. MusicBox, the latest app by indie developer Marcos Tanaka, is the “listen-later” music app of my dreams, the one I’ve wanted to use for years and that someone finally made as a Universal app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’s rare for me these days to find new apps that elicit this kind of enthusiasm, but when I do, I know I’ve stumbled upon something special. MusicBox is one of those apps.

This review is going to be pretty straightforward. If you’re a music lover and use either Apple Music or Spotify, and if you feel like you discover more interesting music than you can possibly consume in a day, MusicBox is for you. Open the App Store, spend $2.99 (there are no subscriptions or In-App Purchases in the app), and you’ll get what is likely going to be one of your favorite apps of 2022. Then, if you want to learn more about what the app does, how it integrates with Apple Music, and how you can set it up on your device, come back to this story and let’s dive in.

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Apple Music’s ‘Essentials Anniversaries’ Feature Highlights Classic Albums with Interviews, Editors’ Notes, and More

Update: It turns out that Essentials Anniversaries is not a new feature, but isn’t something that has been heavily promoted in the Listen Now tab of Apple Music before. You can read the original post below.


Apple Music was quietly updated today with a new feature: Essentials Anniversaries. The new Apple Music section features landmark albums from artists organized by their anniversaries, from five-year anniversaries all the way to 65-year-old albums.

The first featured anniversary is OK Computer by Radiohead, which celebrates its 25th anniversary tomorrow, May 21, 2022. The new Essentials Anniversaries section includes Radiohead’s album, a handful of music videos, and something new: an episode of an Apple Music radio show also called Essentials Anniversaries. The first episode is hosted by DJ Matt Wilkinson, who introduces most tracks, providing context and commentary and interviewing people involved in the production of OK Computer.

It’s not uncommon for Apple Music to receive updates throughout the year. Updates to the service haven’t been timed to Apple’s OS update cycle for a while but tend to come in batches. Case in point, earlier this week, Apple began promoting Apple Music Live, a series of livestreamed concerts that start today with a show by Harry Styles.

I’ve been listening to the OK Computer episode of Essentials Anniversaries, which runs for about an hour, and it’s excellent. Wilkinson, who is one of my favorite Apple Music DJs, does a fantastic job providing context for each track and conducting short interviews that provide a sense of the album’s import and place in history.

It appears that Essentials Anniversaries is still rolling out worldwide, so you may not see it on all of your devices, but if you want to check it out, here’s a link to the new section.

This and the introduction of more live music with the concert series that Harry Styles kicks off later today are exactly the kind of thing Apple Music needs to fuel discovery and renew interest in the service. I’m looking forward to seeing where both of these features lead next.


Apple Discontinues the iPod touch

Apple has announced that it is discontinuing the iPod touch.

As the last iPod in Apple’s lineup, the end of the iPod touch marks the end of an era for Apple. The iPod, which debuted in 2001, played a significant role in Apple’s comeback as a company. The iPod touch was introduced in 2007, the same year as the iPhone, as a sort of phone-less iPhone that became an entry-level iOS device for kids and others who didn’t need or want the iPhone’s mobile phone functionality. Over the years, though, the touch has been updated less frequently as its role was absorbed by hand-me-down iPhones and other products.

Although the timing of Apple’s decision makes sense, it’s still a little sad to see the iPod touch go. Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Greg Joswiak, had this to say about the legacy of the entire iPod lineup:

“Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared. Today, the spirit of iPod lives on. We’ve integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV. And Apple Music delivers industry-leading sound quality with support for spatial audio — there’s no better way to enjoy, discover, and experience music.

With a month to go before WWDC, now is the time that Apple often clears the decks for bigger announcements. Is the end of the touch a precursor to something bigger coming with Apple Music, the HomePod, or other products? I hope so. As Federico and I discussed on this week’s episode of AppStories, there is plenty of room for improvement with Apple Music, and the HomePod mini feels like part of an incomplete lineup after the original HomePod was discontinued. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.


MacStories Starter Pack: Taking Apple Music Discovery into Your Own Hands

Editor’s Note: Taking Apple Music Discovery into Your Own Hands is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple Music’s tools for discovering new music could be better. A lot has been written about the problems, which I’m not going to rehash here. Instead, I’ve got a long list of tips, apps, and workflows you can use to discover new music now.

I’ve collected these apps and tips over many thousands of hours of listening and written about some of them here and for Club MacStories members before. However, this is the first time I’ve gathered and expanded those tips and workflows in one comprehensive story.

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Apple Recaps Its 2021 Services

In a press release today, Apple shared an update on the success of its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services:

Apple’s world-class portfolio of services proved essential in 2021, as people worldwide sought new ways to keep entertained, informed, connected, and inspired. With over 745 million paid subscriptions, Apple continues to connect the world’s developers, artists, and storytellers with users across more than a billion devices, delivering powerful tools, content, and experiences that enrich their lives in profound ways every day.

Apple says that developers have earned more than $260 billion on the apps and games sold through the App Store since its inception in 2008. That’s a $60 billion increase since last year’s services announcement. The company also reports that 2021 was another record year for sales, and the Christmas to New Years Day period saw double-digit sales growth. However, unlike past years, sales numbers weren’t shared for the week between Christmas and New Years Day or for New Years Day.

Apple has created lists of 2021’s most downloaded apps and games, if you are curious about which apps resonated with the most users last year.

Apple’s press release recaps a long list of achievements of its other services, too, recapping the highlights of 2021, including the nominations and awards won by Apple TV+, the expansion of Apple Pay, and the recent additions to Fitness+. Having followed this annual services press release since its earliest days, what’s most impressive is how long the list of services has grown. What was once primarily an App Store and Apple Music recap now covers a much broader range of services.


Nick Heer on Apple Music and Last.fm

Nick Heer perfectly encapsulates what I also think about Apple Music’s lackluster recommendation engine as opposed to the old-school simplicity and pleasure of Last.fm:

Apple Music is a remarkable deal for me: spending ten bucks a month gives me access to almost any record I can think of, often in CD quality or better. There are radio features I do not use and music videos I rarely watch, but the main attraction is its vast library of music. Yet, with all that selection, I still find new music the old-fashioned way: I follow reviewers with similar tastes, read music blogs, and ask people I know. Even though Apple Music knows nearly everything I listen to, it does a poor job of helping me find something new.

Here is what I mean: there are five playlists generated for me by Apple Music every week. Some of these mixes are built mostly or entirely from songs it knows I already like, and that is fine. But the “New Music Mix” is pitched as a way to “discover new music from artists we think you’ll like”. That implies to me that it should be surfacing things I have not listened to before. It does not do a very good job of that. Every week, one-third to one-half of this playlist is comprised of songs from new albums I have already heard in full. Often, it will also surface newly-issued singles and reissued records — again, things that I have listened to.

And on Last.fm, Nick adds:

So: Last.fm. There are a few things I like about it. First, it seems to take into account my entire listening history, though it does give greater weight to recency and frequency. Second, it shows me why it is recommending a particular artist or album. Something as simple as that helps me contextualize a recommendation. Third, its suggestions are a blend of artists I am familiar with in passing and those that I have never heard of.

Go read the whole piece – I was nodding in agreement the whole time.

As Club MacStories members know, after years of inactivity, I re-activated my Last.fm account a few months back and started scrobbling everything I listen to again thanks to the excellent Apple Music client for iPhone and iPad, Marvis. Not only is the Last.fm website more fun to explore than Apple Music, but the reports they generate (on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis) are actually interesting in a way that Apple Music’s barebones ‘Replay’ summary just isn’t.

It feels somewhat odd to type this in 2021 2022, but if music still is in Apple’s DNA, there’s a few things Apple Music could learn from the simplicity and care that permeate Last.fm.

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Managing Music From Your Mac’s Menu Bar

As Club MacStories members know, I use my Mac’s menu bar sparingly. With Bartender, our MacStories Selects Mac app of the year, I limit my menu bar to a handful of frequently-used apps and system controls that take up as little space as possible. That cuts down on clutter and means everything will fit when I’m using my MacBook Air in laptop mode.

However, every rule is meant to be broken, and for me, I break my menu bar rule by tracking and controlling my music from the menu bar, which takes up a lot of space but is worth it. You see, I listen to a lot of playlists as a way to discover new music, but that also means I find myself flipping to the Music app frequently to see artist and album information and perform simple tasks like adding a song to my music library or liking it. The constant context switching was a distraction I didn’t need, which led me to look for a better way.

Apple's Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn't do much.

Apple’s Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn’t do much.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options depending on your needs. The simplest solution is to drag the Now Playing widget out of Control Center on your Mac and use it as a standalone menu bar item. That works well if you want simple playback controls and song information, but the functionality of Apple’s control is limited and requires a click to do anything.

The two third-party solutions I prefer are NepTunes and the recently-released Looking Glass music remote. Both apps live in your menu bar and offer different sets of features that will play a big part in which app will suit your needs best.

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Apple Announces the 2021 Apple Music Awards

The Apple Music Awards are back, honoring artists in several categories. This is the third year Apple has held the awards and, as was the case the past two years, honors were bestowed for Global Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Top Song of the Year, and Top Album of the Year. This year, however, the company also named five Regional Artists of the Year for Africa, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia:

“The past 12 months have proved to be a remarkable year for music, and we’re thrilled to honor the artists who are shaping culture and connecting with fans around the world on Apple Music,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “This year we’re also recognizing more regional artists, showing the world the impact of extraordinary talented musicians who are making waves globally.”

Each Apple Music Award is commemorated with a unique award featuring a 12-inch silicon wafer suspended between a sheet of glass and anodized aluminum. Similar to last year, Apple is celebrating the annual awards with “interviews, original content, and more” on Apple Music and the Apple TV app beginning December 7th.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

The 2021 Apple Music Awards winners are:

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

It’s not surprising that Olivia Rodrigo won multiple awards this year. Few artists have had the immediate impact on music streaming services that Rodrigo has. It’s also good to see Apple add regional Artists of the Year for the first time. Music is a global media force, but that hasn’t diminished the importance and impact of the medium on a regional level. I hope Apple expands the regional Artist of the Year category to other countries and regions in the future.

Also, it will be interesting to see what Apple has in store beginning December 7th. Events like the Apple Music Awards are the sort of opportunity for integration across multiple Apple services that the company hasn’t done a lot of to date. I’d love to see interviews, live performances, music video collections, playlists, album commentaries by the winners, and podcasts brought together in a unified package that makes it easy to access all related content.