Music Discovery in Apple Music: My Top 3 Techniques

I can understand Jim Dalrymple's pain around Apple Music.  I know music enthusiasts like Jim with massive, carefully-curated libraries that they care deeply about. I'm a different animal, though, and the flaws that drive Jim bonkers don't bother me so much.

My library is small, 2,685 tracks; but more importantly, my musical tastes are in constant flux, mutating virus-like from one month to the next. I don't care all that much about my historical music library, because I really don't like a lot of the music in it any more! Even my 5-star playlist is too stale to tolerate. So however heinous Apple Music's library curation capabilities are, they don't bother me much.

For me, discovery is the top priority; and there, Apple Music is really delivering. Below are the three discovery techniques I use most often. What makes discovery successful, though, is the quality of human curation that Apple Music is giving me easy access to.

1. "Radio" Tab, Zane Lowe Playlists

Beats 1 is Apple Music's worldwide radio station and Zane Lowe its most influential DJ and music-picker. Beats 1 in general, and Lowe in particular, have a philosophy of just playing great music, independent of genre classifications and music label influence. 

Every week or so, I'll navigate to Apple Music / Radio / Beats 1 / Beats 1 Anchors / Zane Lowe / Playlists, and work my way through several recent playlists. I do my best to keep a completely open mind, listening to every song for at least a minute even if it's from a genre that is foreign to me (e.g., hip-hop). 

2. "New" Tab

The New tab is where Apple Music surfaces all things new, exciting, and hot. New releases, artists, playlists, top songs and albums, special features like "Best of 2015" playlists. New by default shows all genres, but also gives you to select a specific genre.

Here my process is to browse through the various lists, both at the all-genres level and within my (current!) home genre of Alternative, again listening for at least a minute as open-mindedly as possible. 

3. "For You" Tab

For You includes human-curated playlists like "Intro to The Chemical Brothers" and "Drake: No. 1 Rap Songs," along with album recommendations, all based on my behavior and explicit likes and dislikes. The curated playlists are great: I've even spot-checked them by listening to "Intro to ..." playlists for artists I know well and they're spot-on. Here I find myself immersed in specific artists, a different experience from the quick sampling I do under Radio and New.

How Good Is Discovery in Apple Music?

All new except Adele ...

All new except Adele ...

I started using Apple Music on June 30th, and as of December 14th, I've added 180 new songs from 100 new artists.

For me, there's a special psychology around a streaming music service. Since all music is available to me, it's not too critical that I get all the songs I like into My Music. Instead, I add (a) new artists that I like so I can come back and find more of their music later, and (b) songs that I really love, so that For You can better represent what I like. So for assessing the success of music discovery in Apple Music, the new artist count is by far the most important measure.

How good is 100 artists / 180 songs in a little over five months? While I don't have great data on my pre- Apple Music era, I'm guessing that I discovered no more than one new artist every couple of weeks. With Apple Music, I'm seeing discovery rates 8X higher. And I'm definitely having more fun listening that I have for a long time.