Apple Music Needs Better AI

By Josh Teder

For the past almost two years, I’ve been incredibly frustrated by Apple Music’s Autoplay recommendations. They just suck compared to what you can get from services like Spotify and YouTube Music.

For example, when I played “Nothing Is Lost” by The Weeknd from the Avatar 2 soundtrack, the entire list of songs Autoplay recommended were songs I’d never listen to.

I know Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and others are incredibly popular, but they’re just not in a genre of music that I listen to. It’s not in my listening history, and these artists and other artists like them are not even in my library on Apple Music.

And this is in stark contrast to what services like Spotify and YouTube Music do. YouTube Music recommends songs from artists I like, like OneRepublic, Taylor Swift, and Elton John. But YouTube Music did another thing here that was really interesting. It recognized that “Nothing Is Lost” is part of a movie soundtrack. So, you know, maybe I’d like to hear other movie soundtrack songs, like “I See You” from the first Avatar movie or “Hold My Hand” from the recent Top Gun Maverick movie, both songs I’ve indicated I like by liking them in YouTube Music and I’ve listened to them in the past on that service.

Spotify gave me similar results: artists I like within genres I listen to, plus a few new things to listen to peppered into the recommendations.

So maybe that song was just a fluke. Let’s try another one, like “Celestial” by Ed Sheeran. Now here, Apple Music did better. I actually recognize some of the songs and artists in the recommendations, probably because a lot of the songs and artists I listen to are within the same genre as Ed Sheeran.

But when I did the same thing on YouTube Music, again, it gave me way more things I want to listen to from more artists I’ve heard of or listened to in the past. And you’ll notice that YouTube Music, unlike Apple Music or even Spotify, actually gives you a way to tune the algorithm that’s generating these recommendations, letting you choose from whether you want recommendations that are more familiar, more based on discovering something new, or more from a particular genre, or a mix of both.

And this is again, after almost two years of me using Apple Music as my main music streaming service. I’ve liked and disliked as many songs as I possibly can, I’ve added stuff to my Apple Music library that I’m like, “Yes, I really like this song.” And I’ve even cleaned up songs, I’ve removed songs out of the library that I’ve had for years from my iTunes days as a high school student that I no longer want to listen to.

But I get the same result, no matter what I seem to play. “17 Going Under” by Sam Fender, another song Apple Music knows I like, it does the same thing. Even with songs more within genres I like to listen to, like Taylor Swift’s new track “All the Girls You’ve Loved Before,” on Autoplay, it gives me Adele, Shawn Mendes, OneRepublic, which are artists I’ve actually listened to, but it still feels way too rigid compared to Spotify and YouTube Music’s recommendations.

YouTube Music was smart enough to figure out that, “Hey, maybe you want to listen to more tracks that Taylor just released,” which of course I do. And it’s astounding how utterly stupid Apple Music is in that regard. It’s like you tell it to play a song by an artist and it’s like, “Oh wow, I guess they don’t want to hear any other songs from that artist.”

I know at this point, you’re like, “lol dude, why don’t you just switch to Spotify already?” Well, the main reason why I’ve continued to stick with Apple Music is sound quality and device support.

Apple Music is the only streaming app on the Mac that lets me AirPlay to a group of AirPlay speakers in my room, which is how I listen to a lot of my music. Until other apps can support that from the Mac, that limits my choice somewhat. I could just use an iPad or an iOS device, but that adds a bit of friction into the experience when I’m just working on my computer.

The other reason I’ve stuck with Apple Music is sound quality. I already thought that Apple Music’s non-lossless tracks just sounded generally better than what I would hear from Spotify, but in particular, way better than what you get from YouTube Music. YouTube Music tracks just do not sound nearly as good as those from Spotify or Apple Music.

And then Apple Music came out with lossless and Dolby Atmos support, which put the other two services further behind. Right now, Apple Music needs better personalized playlists and a better Autoplay algorithm, while on the flip side, Spotify and YouTube Music need to support Dolby Atmos, lossless audio quality, at no additional subscription costs. Until that happens, I’m going to stick with Apple Music.

To see more of my thoughts on all three of these services, including long-term reviews I’ve done of them, as well as comparison videos, make sure you click on the playlist here and consider subscribing to the channel to see updated reviews that are coming later this year.

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