When it comes to streaming music services there has been a lot of options available over the years and while many have come and gone it’s hard to deny that we’re left with two major players – Spotify and Apple Music, over the last few months I’ve been flicking between the two to determine which one knows me best.
There are many people who love almost any music, and are keen to hear the latest tracks as they are released and take the lead from the popular culture to be exposed to new artists and music. Let me be clear from the get-go, I am not one such person.
My music tastes were set when I was younger and while there is a bunch of music I’ve loved from the last decade, the majority of my taste still falls back to the 70’s, 80’s and in part the 90’s.
I started using Spotify when it was included in my Vodafone plan. Seemed the perfect way to trail a service and that lasted a solid 12 months or more. During that time I created various playlists, some for the kids and I to enjoy on road trips, others with my favourite songs at any given time and others with specific albums I’d remembered and wanted to hear again and again.
Before this use of Spotify I had been using iTunes Radio quite a lot, my “Trev’s Mix Tape” radio station was kicked off as a “John Farnham radio” which over time evolved into a mix of great favourites.
With that iTunes Radio experience I did dabble in Spotify’s Artist radio playlists, and used this as a way to discover songs I hadn’t heard for years and those songs formed part of my core playlist of songs.
Now let me be clear, that core playlist is small. Perhaps 100 songs, at best 150. My regular playlist of “favourites” numbered much lower, perhaps 30 songs. I’m the kind of person who can listen to those same 30 songs over and over for weeks, adding perhaps one or two and removing one or two along the way.
Trying to break out of that core list, I began to sample the Spotify Weekly Discover playlist. A bunch of songs which Spotify would recommend – based on my other listening habits. It’s my disappointment in this playlist that made me keen to properly try Apple Music once again after the major refresh it’s had in the last year.
My issue with the Weekly Discover playlist on Spotify was the random nature of the songs it would suggest, sometimes foreign tracks and artists (and by that I mean in other languages), and quite often the great songs it would recommend were in fact cover bands.
So over to Apple Music. Immediately I went to the “For You” section of the app, which offers a bunch of suggestions for you, including two weekly playlists updated for me on a Wednesday. For me the “New Music Mix” recommendation was never going to cut it, I gave it a go, but felt little or no interest in the new music.
My Favourites Mix though was a delightful surprise – in fact, bloody awesome. In the first week I felt like it had uncovered a previous iTunes playlist I had used. The second week I notice tracks I’d not heard for a very long time, or versions of a song I’ve most certainly never owned.
And that’s exactly the power of the My Favourites Mix – and in turn, the power of Apple Music – I’ve got my go-to “comfort zone” of music I will more than likely like!
You see, like it or not, Apple know a hell of a lot about me and my music habits. Some years ago I uploaded my entire music library to iTunes and signed up to iTunes Match. This meant all my music was stored in the cloud, and I never needed to worry about having a physical backup of the songs.
Week in, Week out, Apple would suggest 25 songs to me – of those 25 I’m telling you 20 of them were rock solid, two or three were ok but not everyday songs for me and maybe two of them were not my style.
That deep history of music listening has enabled Apple to work out what I love, and what I listen to.
They don’t worry if you skip a song, you might just not be in the mood, but they do notice things like your play count, the star ratings you may have given tunes, the thumbs up and thumbs down you’ve given and of course looking at playlists all the music in your library.
All of this amazing data (call it “big data” if you like) is the key to Apple Music’s close understanding of me.
When you then realise that Apple have staff working in their Sydney office making curated playlists for Australian users (find these on the Browse tab on iPhone), you get the realisation that Apple are taking this very very seriously.
And then – the more you look around both Spotify and Apple Music, the more you realise how amazing it is that we live in a time where for a small monthly subscription you can listen to millions of songs – whatever you like.
While Apple Music’s “My Favourites Mix” is my playlist of choice because I prefer my comfort zone, the “My New Music Mix” will appeal to many.
On Spotify the Discover playlist for some might work well because they are more interested in discovery – I reckon the Spotify computers just throw their hands up in the air when they analyse my listening history. Though it’s well worth checking out the Daily Mix options on Spotify. There are four separate lists of tracks shuffled up each day. I quite liked this feature when it launched, but felt it lacked depth over time.
I’d come back to the Daily Mix time and time again and get no “new finds” to fit that theme. That’s why I’m loving Apple Music’s My Favourites Mix – it’s finding great stuff, every week – I just wish it was two or three times per week instead of just one!