Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Playlist Makers

Reggie Ugwu of Buzzfeed scored interviews with the teams who make the playlists for Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play, and the resulting article is a fascinating look inside our expectations for what playlists should be:

Music fans, [Apple Music curator Scott Plagenhoef] argues, echoing Iovine, can smell the difference between a service where much of the product is dictated by algorithms or charts and one that is guided by more knowledgeable but equally passionate versions of themselves. By building its house on a foundation of experts, Apple Music has bet that it can be marginally more trustworthy to users than the competition, and that that margin could make a tie-breaking difference.

“Music taste is so nuanced, it’s so personal,” Plagenhoef says. “I think one of the worst things you can do to somebody is get really close to who they are and then present them with something that’s close to what they want but not quite there. You don’t want to be the people who say, ‘Well, you like Fleet Foxes, so you must like Mumford & Sons.’”

Plagenhoef’s statement is rather peculiar considering the number of times I — and other Apple Music users — have seen “Intro To…” playlists for artists that we’re deeply familiar with. The title of this kind of playlist has since been changed to “Essentials”, but it amounts to the same thing. Spotify’s playlists aren’t much better for me, though that’s likely because I use it far less than I do Apple Music. The playlists may be made by hand, but the method by which they’re served is still entirely automated, and it doesn’t work well enough.

Back in the days of iTunes Radio, there used to be a slider that would allow you to set whether you’d prefer to discover new music or listen to more familiar songs. I’d love to see that in Apple Music, too, but as a setting within For You. And I would really like for Apple Music to use my Genius library data.