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