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Posts tagged with "Apple Music"

Apple Music Debuts New ‘Get Up! Mix’ Algorithmic Playlist

It doesn’t happen often, but Apple Music is rolling out a new algorithmic playlist today to join the existing Favorites Mix, Chill Mix, New Music Mix, and Friends Mix. Per Igor Bonifacic at Engadget:

Apple is trying something new to keep people’s spirits up during the coronavirus pandemic. In Apple Music, it’s introducing a new algorithmic playlist called the Get Up! Mix that the company says is full of “happy-making, smile-finding, sing-alonging music.” With the help of human editors, it will update the playlist each week with new songs. Think: Discovery Weekly, but with a focus on playing tunes that will encourage good vibes – though there’s the promise of discovering new music as well.

The idea behind the Get Up! Mix is exactly what I would want in a new weekly playlist. Though I’m not in love with the name, I’ve always wanted a positive, upbeat playlist containing both tracks I’m familiar with and a few I’m not. A quick glance over my first Get Up! Mix shows that this is exactly what Apple’s going for. I’ve only rarely listened to the other weekly playlists Apple Music offers, but I think things are going to be different with this latest addition.

The new playlist is still rolling out, so you may not see it in your For You tab just yet. According to the app, the Get Up! Mix will be updated every Sunday, which is when the Chill Mix was formerly updated; the Chill Mix’s weekly schedule now moves to Saturdays.

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Apple Music Debuts Intelligent Sorting of Alternate Album Versions

Apple Music has debuted a small, but valuable new feature that makes it easier to find the exact album version you’re looking for. As discovered by our Federico Viticci, when alternate album versions are available, they’re now listed in a dedicated Other Versions section underneath an album’s track list.

As Federico notes, this feature is a long-time carryover from Beats Music. In a previous story about Beats’ streaming service (which later became Apple Music) he details the service’s intuitive handling of album variations:

However, Artist pages also show some welcome options for music lovers. Albums that have been reissued with different editions (like remasters) are hidden by default

That same behavior is now followed by Apple Music. For example, if you view the Death Cab for Cutie artist page in Apple Music, you’ll see Transatlanticism as one of the group’s albums, but only one version of it so as to prevent unnecessary cluttering of the album list. Open that album, however, and you’ll see the Other Versions section containing the Demos and 10th Anniversary versions.

I’ve never liked how Apple Music’s artist pages were congested by alternate album versions, so it’s nice to see this change implemented. Even if Beats Music solved the problem years ago, it’s better late than never to see that solution brought to Apple’s streaming service.


Apple Music Replay 2020 Playlist Now Available

Last year when Apple Music Replay was introduced, Apple specified that the feature wouldn’t just serve as a year-end collection of your most-played music, but it would also become a weekly-updated playlist that you can enjoy throughout the year. Up until this weekend, however, the 2020 version of that playlist hadn’t yet been made available. Our Federico Viticci first discovered its debut on Sunday:

Once you add it to your library, the Replay 2020 playlist will show your most listened to songs all throughout the year, updating weekly to account for your latest listening data.

Since Replay is a year-long playlist, I’m interested to see if Apple will do anything special with the feature when the year is nearly over. Spotify’s similar year-end feature, Wrapped, generates special content tailored for social platforms like Instagram stories, and it’d be great to see Apple follow suit with Replay when the time comes.


Introducing MusicBot: The All-in-One Apple Music Assistant, Powered by Shortcuts

For the past several months, I’ve been working on a shortcut designed to be the ultimate assistant for Apple Music. Called MusicBot, the shortcut encompasses dozens of different features and aims to be an all-in-one assistant that helps you listen to music more quickly, generate intelligent mixes based on your tastes, rediscover music from your library, control playback on AirPlay 2 speakers, and much more. I poured hundreds of hours of work into MusicBot, which has gained a permanent spot on my Home screen. Best of all, MusicBot is available to everyone for free.

I’m a happy Apple Music subscriber, and I love the direction Apple has taken with the service: fewer exclusive deals, more human curation, artist spotlights, and playlists updated daily. However, I believe the Music app for iPhone and iPad leaves much to be desired in terms of navigation and fast access to your favorite music. While Music gets the job done as a gateway to a streaming catalog, I find its interactions somewhat slow when it comes to playing my favorite playlists on shuffle or getting to albums I frequently listen to. Some of Music’s most interesting mixes are only available by asking Siri; additionally, getting to certain sections of the app or tweaking specific settings often takes far too many taps for my taste.

I created MusicBot for two reasons: I wanted to speed up common interactions with the Music app by using custom actions in the Shortcuts app; and I also wanted to build a series of “utilities” for Apple Music that could be bundled in a single, all-in-one shortcut instead of dozens of smaller, standalone ones.

The result is, by far, the most complex shortcut I’ve ever ever created (MusicBot spans 750+ actions in the Shortcuts app), but that’s not the point. MusicBot matters to me because, as I’ve shared before, music plays an essential role in my life, and MusicBot lets me enjoy my music more. This is why I spent so much time working on MusicBot, and why I wanted to share it publicly with everyone for free: I genuinely believe MusicBot offers useful enhancements for the Apple Music experience on iOS and iPadOS, providing tools that can help you rediscover lost gems in your library or find your next music obsession.

Let’s dive in.

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Apple Announces Winners of the Inaugural Apple Music Awards

The custom-designed awards given to artists.

The custom-designed awards given to artists.

Apple has made a habit of honoring some of the top apps, music, books, podcasts, and more on an annual basis at year’s end, and this year is no different. However, one change to the format for 2019 is that Apple has split out music as its own separate awards category dubbed the Apple Music Awards. There are five distinct awards given, with some winners chosen by Apple’s editorial team while others are determined by streaming data:

The winners for Global Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year were hand-selected by Apple Music’s global editorial team of experts and tastemakers and given to artists who have true passion for their craft, who boldly defy conventions in the category and who embody a sense of humanity, where listeners are drawn as much to who they are as to their music. The awards for Album of the Year and Song of the Year are based on streaming data and reflective of what Apple Music customers have been listening to (on repeat) this year.

The 2019 Apple Music Awards winners are:

In addition to a dedicated Apple Music Awards page inside the Apple Music service itself, Apple will be celebrating the awards with a globally live-streamed performance from the big winner, Billie Eilish, whose breakout album was streamed on Apple Music over a billion times in 2019, the most of any album on the service. Eilish will be performing at the Steve Jobs Theater on December 4 at 6:30 p.m. PST.

The physical awards Apple designed for winners feature, of course, a few special touches. Apple explains:

Each award features Apple’s custom silicon wafer suspended between a polished sheet of glass and a machined and anodized aluminum body. The wafers start as a perfect 12-inch disc of silicon with nanometer level flatness. Copper layers are deposited and patterned by ultraviolet lithography to create connections between billions of transistors. The result of this multi-month process, before it is sliced into hundreds of individual chips, is stunning and distinctive. In a symbolic gesture, the same chips which power the devices that put the world’s music at your fingertips sit at the very heart of the Apple Music Awards.

2019’s Apple Music Awards could effectively be called the Billie Eilish Awards, so it will be interesting to see if a similar trend continues from year to year, with artists earning several of the limited number of award possibilities. It seems reasonable to expect Apple will try to avoid that moving forward, but since certain awards are determined entirely by popularity, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a regular occurrence. You never know which artists may have a major standout year.


Apple Music Introduces Replay, a Rolling Playlist of Your Most-Played Music

TechCrunch reports that Apple Music has added a new automatically-generated playlist called Replay that collects your top 100 songs for each year you’ve subscribed to the music streaming service. The concept is similar to Spotify’s year-end Wrapped playlist but differs in that it is updated every Sunday throughout the year.

According to Sarah Perez’s story on TechCrunch:

With Apple Music Replay, subscribers will get a playlist of their top songs from 2019, plus playlists for every year you’ve subscribed to Apple Music, retroactively. These can be added to your Apple Music Library, so you can stream them at any time, even when offline. Like any playlist, your Apple Music Replay can also be shared with others, allowing you to compare top songs with friends, for example, or post to social media.

If you don’t see your 2019 Replay playlist in Music, I was able to force it onto my devices by visiting replay.music.apple.com, adding my 2019 playlist, and then playing it. A couple of minute later it showed up in the Recently Played section of For You on iOS, though it seems to be taking longer to show up on my Mac.

I’ve always hoped Apple Music would do something like this, as has Federico who took matters into his own hands and created his Apple Music Wrapped Shortcut that you can find in the Music section of the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. I also appreciate that the playlist will be available throughout the year as a snapshot of my current favorite songs.

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How I Keep Track of New Music Releases

I was reading Jason Tate’s (as always, excellent) Liner Notes column at Chorus over the weekend, and his comments on Apple Music’s approach to highlighting new releases resonated with me:

Every Friday I open up the Music app, go to the For You section, scroll all the way down to the bottom and look at the “New Releases” section. This section looks at your library and shows you new albums from the artists you have in your collection. It’s a quick way to see if I’ve missed anything big that I need to post about or want to listen to, as I prepare for this newsletter. There are a few things about this section that drive me nuts: it’s very hidden and hard to get to, it’s laid out weirdly and often misses artists I have in my collection, and it doesn’t have any way to show me singles from artists I like that were released or songs that are on upcoming albums from artists I like that were released over the past week. This entire section could be designed so much better and be so informative. They have all of the information needed to put together an incredibly useful page of new music that I’ve already signaled I’d like to know about, but don’t. The weekly New Music Playlists are nice, and often do include some things I want to know about, but they also are usually full of stuff I’ve already heard and have played multiple times. This missing feature is the single most frustrating part of Apple Music for me.

As much as I like using Apple Music (especially now that it offers time-synced lyrics), I’ve always been disappointed by its treatment of new music releases. I agree with every single issue mentioned by Tate: the ‘New Releases’ section is tucked at the very end of the For You page and laid out as a horizontal carousel that requires a lot of swiping; you can view the ‘New Releases’ page as a grid, which has sections for different weeks, but, in my experience, it only aggregates highlights for new releases from some of my favorite artists. The ‘New Music Mix’ playlist is not terrible, but it often comes loaded with stale data – songs I’ve already listened to multiple times and which shouldn’t qualify as “new” weeks after their original release date. Furthermore, I’ve found notifications for new releases for artists in my library unreliable at best: I occasionally get notifications for new albums, but never for new singles or EPs.

For people who want to stay on top of every new music release from their favorite artists, the tools available in Apple Music alone aren’t enough. And I understand why Apple doesn’t want to invest in this aspect of the service: not everyone runs a music-focused publication or needs to know about every single release for hundreds of artists every week. Since the unfortunate demise of Record Bird – the app that encapsulated my ideal new music release discovery tool – I’ve been building a new system to stay on top of music releases, and I’d like to explain how.

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Apple Music’s Beats 1 Introduces New Music Daily with Zane Lowe

On Friday, Apple Music’s Beats 1 debuted a new Zane Lowe show called New Music Daily featuring the best new music across several genres along with interviews and commentary designed to complement Apple Music’s playlist of the same name.

As described by Apple, New Music Daily is all about what is hot now:

Music moves fast. To keep up with hungry fans and tireless creators, Apple Music launched New Music Daily, our playlist for the latest and greatest must-hear songs from pop, hip-hop, Latin, and beyond. This show, broadcasting live on Apple Music every Friday, is the playlist brought to life: Hosted by Zane Lowe, it features interviews with today’s most important artists, sharp commentary, and, of course, all the new songs you need to hear right now.

The show streams live on Apple Music every Friday at Noon New York time and can be replayed later.

Lowe’s new show is a companion to Apple Music’s New Music Daily playlist, which is updated daily and is a rebranded version of its Best of the Week playlist. Listeners can visit a dedicated page in Apple’s Music app that collects the show and playlist as well as video interviews with recording artists in one place.

The inaugural episode of New Music Daily, which runs just over one hour, spotlights a wide range of music and interviews including appearances by Selena Gomez, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and an excerpt from a longer interview with Taylor Swift that will be released next week. New Music Daily’s Apple Music page also includes excerpts of upcoming video interviews with Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

In an interview with People.com, Lowe, who is Apple Music’s global creative director, expanded on his vision for how the playlist and new show will work together:

Our New Music Daily playlist was built in the image of the artist and the fan. Music is constant and it’s in the hands of the artists now. Artists don’t want to wait anymore, and we wanted a really big playlist that reflected that sentiment and could do it quickly. I’ll be in the studio with artists and I ask when they’re putting something out and they’ll say, “I don’t know, in an hour?” We’ve been clearing that space for artists for years, and with New Music Daily as a live show we’ll continue to event-ize music, bringing an audience around shared listening moments, and reflecting the way artists want to release music on their own terms.

One of the consequences of streaming music services is that the release of an album is often not the way people hear the latest music from their favorite artists anymore. Instead, musicians release a steady stream of singles and EPs, only occasionally collecting them as full-length albums. It’s the kind of continuous change that demands a different approach to how new material is surfaced.

Having listened to the first episode of New Music Daily, it strikes me as a formula that will work. The playlist currently includes 85 songs, which is a lot. What Lowe’s new show does is provide context through his interviews and commentary that serve as an entry point into the larger playlist. By sending listeners to the playlist for the latest tracks from pop culture phenomenons like Swift and Gomez, New Music Daily can help spread awareness of lesser-known, emerging artists that included too.

You can check out the first episode of New Music Daily that aired Friday here.


The Future of Apple Music

Sophie Charara interviewed Apple’s Zane Lowe for Wired about where Apple Music is heading next. One answer, interestingly enough, is a greater focus on radio:

Apple doesn’t break out Beats 1 monthly listening figures; various commentators have speculated they are relatively low, the official line is “tens of millions”. What we do know is that one of Lowe’s priorities is to merge the two elements of Apple’s £9.99 a month Music offering: its Spotify-style streaming service and the Beats 1 radio shows.

“I want more people to listen and discover this stuff,” says Lowe. “And I want to integrate what we do at Beats 1 into Apple Music more thoroughly. I would guess there are still subscribers who don’t realise Elton John has done over 200 shows. Those shows are works of art in their own right.”

Apple Music for years has been producing quality radio work, yet the way that’s been surfaced hasn’t been the most discoverable. Promoting existing radio shows in more places sounds like a positive step forward, and I hope another addition would be an option for push notifications when there’s a show you want to listen to live. Apple could put a little bell icon, YouTube-style, on a show’s artwork in the app for enabling such notifications, because unless you schedule a show into your normal routine, you’ll almost certainly never think to listen to it at the right time.

Another potential content area for greater exposure would be the interviews Zane Lowe and his colleagues do with artists regularly, which Apple Music often features in both audio and video forms. To me those interviews feel like a perfect fit for highlighting in Apple Podcasts as well as the Music app. Apple has actually dabbled in that, such as with a Billie Eilish interview earlier this year, but I think it’s an area ripe for expansion.

One other change Apple’s pursuing, according to Lowe, will bring about increased initiatives around live music:

There’s also the matter of how livestreams fit into the picture. After events with Shawn Mendes, French rap group PNL and Tyler the Creator, who did a live performance of his album IGOR, streamed on Apple Music the night before it came out, Lowe says “live music is definitely on the horizon” for the service. It’s all part of the team’s bid to “eventise” – his word – album launches. In the case of Tyler the Creator, “fans can tune in, then after watching it maybe you go to the album.”

Making album launches more of an event could be an effective way to compel a switch to Apple Music over Spotify. If Apple can arrange live content with a wide appeal timed with an album launch, then people will tweet about that live content as it’s being shared, and anyone not on Apple Music will feel like they’re missing out.

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