Pandora. Spotify. Google Music. Amazon Music. Apple Music. There are no shortage of music streaming services now, and they all compete pretty fiercely amongst themselves. For several years, I had no interest in subscribing to any of them. I have a library card and Amazon Prime Music; I considered that good enough, and figured paying for a streaming service wouldn’t be for me.
My iTunes library… is not what you would call “typical”. I assumed there wouldn’t be any streaming music service that would fit my tastes that I would be willing to pay for. When I got my HomePod several months ago, Apple started to get pretty pushy about its three-month trial of Apple Music. Yes, there was something Apple made that I had no interest in being one of the first to have – and if you really know me, that probably comes as a bit of a shock. Because of my music tastes, for quite a while I declined the trial push; Apple’s marketing made Apple Music appeal to the exact opposite of my music tastes: rap and hip-hop. There are only two genres of music I actually loath, and rap is one of them.
Eventually, I got tired of having to decline the trial offer almost every time I opened the Music app on my phone. Back when I got my Sonos, Apple was bundling a three-month subscription to Apple Music at no extra charge to promote Apple Music on Sonos that I never redeemed. Since Apple really wanted me to try Apple Music, I figured, “Screw it, I have half a year of it on Apple, might as well finally give in.”
Well, the end of my three month trial hit at the start of this month, and I forgot to redeem the three-month credit that came with my Sonos before the first of the month hit. I’ll redeem it before the start of next month, but I didn’t go rushing to cancel the month I had paid for by mistake. Instead, it took the full three months, but Apple actually did it: they won me over, and I now plan to keep my Apple Music subscription.
Apple likes to push as part of its Apple Music marketing that it gives you access to 45 million songs. Turns out quite a few of them are from genres I like. Well, more than a few. Maybe fifty albums worth. So far.
If you’ve never seen my iTunes library (and chances are you haven’t), it’s filled with Classical music, some Jazz, and a ton of video game music, Vocaloid music, and J-Pop. Classical and Jazz I figured Apple Music would be able to dish out fairly easily, but I never expected it to serve up a considerable amount of the latter three genres.
This past week, my “For You” section was full of anime and J-Pop playlists, something I’d never expect to see available in the US so easily. Those I’d expect to find on my iTunes Japan account, not my US. I don’t know how exactly Apple Music learns, but I’d guess it looks at play counts, song ratings, and artist metadata. It does ask you to pick genres and artists you like when setting it up, but I found early recommendations to be pretty poor. Within a few weeks though, recommendations started getting better just based on artists and songs I asked for. Actually using the “For You” section made recommendations get substantially better.
In short, I’m impressed with Apple Music, more than I thought I would be. It did take time for the service to actually make recommendations I liked, but it caught on faster that I was expecting. I’d say the service is best to choose if you already use iTunes and have Apple products. If you don’t, there may be a better option out there, but I can’t vouch for one.