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Discovering Music: Spotify Wins
The For You screen in Apple Music is a great way to discover new music. The layout, derivative of Windows Phone’s live tiles, presents a mosaic of music suggestions. Users can pull down on the screen to refresh the view and get more recommendations.
I didn’t discover much new music on the For You screen. In fact, a lot of the recommendations were bands I already knew. I even bought several albums from these bands on iTunes. Why would Apple Music recommend a band, when I bought all of their albums on iTunes with the same Apple ID?
The playlists, assembled by so-called experts, were often embarrassingly bad. For example, there is one called “Prog Love” which is supposed to be a playlist of progressive rock music. I eat, breathe and live progressive rock. I travel to far off lands to attend progressive rock festivals. Most of it was classic rock. It also featured the worst selections from excellent progressive rock bands. It annoyed me that people would get their introduction to progressive rock with such a poorly chosen playlist. I found this same failing with iTunes Radio. It would play classic rock on a progressive rock radio station. I just tuned in to Aural Moon instead. They are expert curators of progressive rock.
Spotify also offers a Recommendations For You screen, but it is only one of the ways to discover music.
The Browse screen enables exploration of music in many different ways. Spotify assembles their own charts of popular music. Discover Weekly is a custom playlist based on your listening tastes and what others with similar interests are listening to. It’s also easy to browse new releases and discover new music based on preferences.
Suggestions are insightful and have turned me on to music that I’ve never heard. That doesn’t happen often.
I wouldn’t have discovered Michal Urbaniak’s “Fusion III” if it wasn’t for Spotify. I could never really get into Steve Hillage, even though I am a huge Gong fan. Spotify recommended “Fish Rising” and I was simply blown away.
Spotify doesn’t copy Microsoft’s hip, incongruent tiles. Instead, their Recommendations For You screen is clean and organized in a grid. Spotify offers more suggestions and better suggestions.
Playlists in Spotify are grouped by genre, activities or moods. There are over 30 categories. If you want to bang your head, listen to one of many metal playlists. You can fall asleep to relaxing playlists designed to induce drowsiness. Spotify offers a “white noise” playlist that can block out disturbing background sounds. They even have playlists for dinner parties.
Each category features numerous playlists. There are hundreds of playlists to choose from.
Running: Spotify Wins
I’m a runner, and I know it’s often hard to stay motivated. The first 20 minutes of a run are the most excruciating. Music can help motivate runners to perform better and keep their pace. Spotify recently added a feature to do just that.
Spotify’s Running feature is available on smartphones. Simply go to the main menu and tap on Running. Spotify uses the accelerometer in your smartphone to detect your pace and play music that matches the tempo. They even composed some of their own music for this feature. Of course, it includes music from popular artists and users can choose different playlists. Running music options are also based on your listening history.
Apple Music doesn’t offer a feature like this. At best, you can find a playlist designed for running, but it won’t match your tempo. Even the Apple Watch can’t play music based on your running tempo. It’s another missed opportunity from Cupertino.
Both Spotify and Apple Music offer roughly 30 million songs. That’s a lot of music. For the most part, their selection overlaps, but there are a few mutually exclusive offerings. Spotify does not offer Taylor Swift’s new releases. For many music lovers, this is a deal breaker. One thing I miss from Apple Music is the “ECM Selected Recordings IX-XX” box set. It’s a huge collection of music from ECM artists like Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Egberto Gismonti and others. Neither Spotify nor Apple Music offer Pat Metheny’s groundbreaking album “Bright Size Life”. (continue…)