How to Find Great New Music, with Spotify

I keep hearing my fellow Mac enthusiasts raving about the “For You” tab in Apple Music, and how music discovery is so much better in Apple Music than in Spotify.  I get it, we’re Apple fans, we are supposed to be excited about new Apple hardware and apps.  And I suppose if someone forced me to speak kindly of the mishmash that is iTunes and is bolted on new addition, music discovery would be the second thing I’d mention (the first thing being the very real benefit of combining, on both the desktop and your mobile device, your streaming music and your owned music).  But I have to say, I hear a lot of people trying very hard to convince themselves that they like Apple Music.

Let’s take a look at music discovery within Apple Music and Spotify.  For this experiment, we’ll focus on discovering music I don’t know about already, as opposed to other similar music already in my library.

First, let’s take a look at the “For You” tab.  Here’s the top screen of mine.

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There are only two records in there I haven’t heard (Hound Dog Taylor and Bob Mould), and no artists I’ve never heard of.  I like The Band, but bombastic and heartfelt classic rock ballads is most definitely not one of my genres.

Now, Spotify.

There are three primary ways to discover new music in Spotify.  First, the “Discover” tab under Browse.  Here’s the top of mine.

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I’ve heard of all those artists too, but I’ve only heard two of the records listed (Otis Gibbs and The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash).  All of these are clearly within my preferred genres.

Second, there’s the new “Discover Weekly” playlist.  Here’s my current one.


Of those 30 songs, I’d previously heard only four of them.  That’s pretty amazing, and while I don’t love all of them, there’s a lot of good stuff to be mined from that list.  It’s closer to what I like than any “human curated” playlist I’ve come across while trying to work my way through the corn maze that is Apple Music.

Finally, there’s the most fun and rewarding way to find new music on Spotify. Surfing around the “Related Artists” links.

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I have spent hours surfing around looking for new music this way.  Most of the stuff in Rancho Radio, my “Kent curated” public playlist, was found that way.

Competition is great for consumers.  Apple Music will make Spotify better, and there’s room for both.  But don’t tell me it’s hard to find new music on Spotify, because I have a thousand or so tracks in my various playlists that say otherwise.

Maybe Apple Music will become the best music service out there.  But let’s be honest.  The announcement at WWDC was a disjointed disaster, and the app is confusing and hard to use.  I’m hoping it will get better (though I’ve been hoping iTunes will get better for years), but there’s a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with Spotify.

Song Ideas Workflow for Songwriters

Song ideas are like dreams: you have to write them down right away, or you will forget them.  I can’t count the number of song ideas I’ve had while driving, that were lost before I got to a place I could write them down.  For example, a few weeks ago while driving home from the farm I noticed, not for the first time, that just about every car I passed had two occupants.  A guy driving, and a girl in the passenger seat.  An idea for a light-hearted, hopefully funny song started to percolate.  The hook was something along the lines of “all these cats with all these cuties, they must be pirates with all that booty.”   [NOTE: I will use this line eventually so don’t steal it!]  I had parts of two verses, a chorus and the beginning of a melody in my head, but everything but the hook was forgotten before I got around to writing it down.

All of this got me thinking, again not for the first time, about a way to capture song ideas before they are lost.  I needed a way to capture a few lines, a hummed melody, or maybe just a concept.  Here is what I came up with.

Using the indispensable and highly recommended iOS app Workflow, I created a “Normal” workflow (this will make sense when you see the app) that does the following:

  1.  “Record[s] Audio” at “Normal” quality (because all we are doing is capturing information), beginning “On Tap” and finishing “On Tap.”
  2.  saves the recorded audio to the “Song Ideas” folder in my Dropbox.


Then I  created a Hazel rule on my Mac to monitor that Dropbox folder and move any incoming files to the “Song Ideas” subfolder in the “Music Creation” folder on my Mac.  This rule also sets a green color label on the file, so I’ll know it came via this workflow.


Finally, I added this workflow, called “Song Ideas,” to the home screen on my iPhone via the Sharing> Add to Home Screen function within the Workflow app.  Now it sits on the first page on my iPhone home screen, for easy access while driving.


This workflow allows me to quickly record and save any song ideas I have, from anywhere and in very close to real-time.  While I created it specifically for songwriting, you could use this workflow to save and manage just about any information.

Mac Power Users


I joined David Sparks and Katie Floyd on the latest episode of one of my very favorite podcasts, Mac Power Users.

Anyone who has asked me for help setting up their new Mac or transitioning from the horror of Windows to the wonder of Mac knows that one of the first things I do is show the initiate how to listen to podcasts and subscribe to Mac Power Users.  It’s a must-listen for all Mac users, from beginner to expert.

We had a great discussion about integrating your Mac into a Windows corporate environment, and other Mac-related topics.

Here’s the information on the latest show, here’s the iTunes link, and here’s the RSS feed to use to subscribe to the podcast in your podcast app of choice.  I use Downcast.

Give us a listen.

Using Tweetbot and Lists to Make Twitter Useful


As many of you know, I have been occasionally hot and usually cold on the Twitter experience.  Yes, I share hand-curated links *** to my Twitter followers, but much of that takes only a couple of clicks from within Feedly, my feed reader of choice.  But I have never embraced Twitter as either a consumption or a conversation platform.

*** If you’re interested in tech news and topics, you should consider following me, not because I am so interesting, but because almost all of my tweets are links to tech topics and apps I find interesting.  It’s the best stuff from my very large reading list.

For probably the fifth time, I recently embarked on a project to better understand Twitter, both the bad and the good parts.  Some of this is ongoing, but from a content consumption perspective, I knew I had to filter and divide my Twitter feed, to slow the roll a little so I can find the content I care about.  I decided to do this via a third-party Twitter app and some topical lists.  Eventually, I’ll have more lists and the lists will be fully populated, but here’s where I am so far.

tweetboticonI chose Tweetbot as my third-party app.  There may be better choices out there (if so, please let me know), but I keep reading about Tweetbot, so I decided to give it a try.  Installation is easy, and you can get up and running quickly.  It takes some trial and error to figure out how to manage the columns and how to administer lists from within the app, but it’s not a difficult learning curve.

Next, I decided to start with three lists, on three topics I’m interested in: breaking news, Mac & Apple talk, and Wake Forest sports.

I added some of the obvious candidates to each list, and I tweak the lists as I discover new sources or realize some sources simply regurgitate too much quantity and too little quality (I’m looking at you, Houston Chronicle).  It’s early, but clearly this is a system with potential to work.

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Using lists, I can separate my feed into topics and can manage the content within those topics.  This allows me to better consume content via Twitter, and to be more interactive.  I’ve probably retweeted more in the last week that in the years before, simply because I can see things easier.

I also like the way Tweetbot lets you arrange your columns, and switch to Mentions (so I can reply or retweet if appropriate), Messages (though I really don’t like Twitter Messages as an email substitute), and a search function.

I’ll have more later, but for the moment I’m hopeful that the fifth time will be the charm.

If you’ve already made some good Twitter lists, let me know.  I’ll take a look.

Don’t Get Too Excited About this Outlook on Your Wrist Business

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When the web goes nuts over some new app, device or feature that works, but only for a small portion of the potential universe of users, I wonder if the people going nuts are unaware of the limitation or just ignoring it for headlines.

Such is the case with the new Outlook app that might be able to give you Outlook functionality on your Apple Watch.  First a question:

What percentage of Apple Watch wearing, iPhone enthusiasts choose to use Outlook, and what percentage of such people have to use it because it’s on their locked-down, corporate Windows computer?  I’d say very few of the former and a ton of the latter.  In fact, find me a Mac user who voluntarily chooses to use Outlook, and I’ll devote an entire podcast to learning why.  The large, large majority of iPhone users who use Outlook are doing so because they have to.

And they have to because their companies require it.  And those companies lock-down both their desktop computers and the mobile devices used by their employees.  Which means that a whole lot of the folks who eagerly install the Outlook app on their iPhones and excitedly log-in in anticipation of replying to Outlook emails from their Apple Watch are going to get this:

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So, if you’re on a locked-down corporate system, don’t get too excited about Outlook on your wrist, because it’s probably not going to happen.