I’ve always loved music, and over the years the overwhelming majority of my listening time has been, by necessity, done in the car. Still, over the past decade my listening has become far more heavily weighted towards audiobooks and podcasts, and away from music.
Part of the difficulty is in discovery of new material. Terrestrial radio, with its ratio of something like 12 ads per each song has truly sucked for a very long time. I’ve never gotten into satellite radio - it’s always seemed a bit of a gimmick oriented towards selling higher end features on cars - and while I’ve enjoyed Pandora quite a bit, one has to take care to “like” the right songs on a given station, or your Jethro Tull station will soon be full of hip hop (which I like, but it’s not what I’m looking for when I click on the one-legged flautist). So, often, I just ended up listening to my own collection of music. That represents a fair amount of variety, but like a lot of people my age I stopped collecting new material in earnest more than a decade ago.
But in the past week I’ve listened to more music - and more unfamiliar music than I have in month prior. The reason: the release of the new Apple Music service on June 30, 2015.
There are several new features to Apple Music, most of which are detailed in many, many other locations. Beats Radio, Apple’s live, DJ operated music feed, has gotten a great deal of attention, at least in my Twitter feed. I gave it a try, but that lasted a grand total of about three minutes for me.
The feature I am loving is the For You area. Here, based upon what you both initially indicate are your artist presences, and upon the songs you “favorite” (with a heart), you are given both album and playlist recommendations. And these, so far, have been delightful. Playlists are themed along multiple different lines - some are mix of familiar material with completely unfamiliar artists or songs blended in for discovery: Rock Hits 1977 includes much of what you would expect (Carry on my Wayward Son and Paradise by the Dashboard Light are featured), but also includes a song by UFO, a relatively obscure British heavy metal band. For a Prog Rock fan like myself it offers up playlists such as The Best of British Prog 1973–1975, which is full of bands I’ve never heard of, like the Strawbs, and Caravan, and Nektar. I don’t love them all, to be sure, but I like a lot of them and I’m hearing things that I would never have encountered before.
The other type of playlist that I’m truly enjoying are the introduction to and deep cut playlists. I’ve played the Intro to Rush playlist several times - it’s given me an opportunity to listen to a healthy cross section of music by a band I’ve always been curious about, but unwilling to take the dive to purchase any given album, being unsure whether I’d enjoy it. It’s looking like I’m pretty much gonna dig some Rush.
One of the other features of Apple Music is the fact that you can save things that you like into your own library - including these playlists.
It’s not that there aren’t clunkers in the mix - Apple has access to my music library, so it should know that I don’t really require an Intro to Jethro Tull Playlist; and a foray into a deep cuts playlist on The Police has only shown me that I don’t really love The Police (though isn’t that why we explore, what we want to know?). But overall, Apple Music has me listening to far more music - and discovering far more new music - than I have in years.