Thoughts on Playlists in Apple Music

And I've added the "New Listener" Playlist to Apple Music


I just updated my giant post “Don’t Know Where to Start with Classical Music? Start here” with a playlist made in Apple Music. If you’re – like me – an early adopter of Apple Music and want to try it out, then here’s the playlist link directly. Have fun!

A few thoughts on Apple Music playlists so far.

Their Curated Playlists are Great

In general, I like it. It’s a solid streaming service, and I’ve been able to find all the music I could want (absent a few notable exceptions). It’s very easy to find new music as well. As I write this, I’m listening to a curated playlist for people working. Right away, I’m being introduced to some new stuff, and because it’s human curated, there tends to be a logical and fun assembly.

I honestly think these playlists are Apple Music’s greatest strength. Integration with iPhones and Macs and our iTunes libraries is fine great etc., but we’ve been living with streaming services for a few years, and it’s hardly been a giant imposition to open a different application to stream stuff. But the playlists are very nice, and I’ve heard they’re what made Beats Music special.

Making Playlists in Apple Music: Too Hard

However – and it’s a big “however” – making playlists is way too complicated at this point.

For one, there’s no way to import playlists from other services. I recreated the above playlist myself, and it took about 45 minutes. There are public playlists on Spotify that are many times longer than that, which individuals have been creating for years. Do we expect their owner’s to actually recreate them by hand in Apple Music? No.

The question then arises; why is it so hard to move playlists? Here’s why. Songs that you find in Apple Music can’t be added directly to playlists. They must first be added to your library and then added to playlists. This is not how Spotify – for example – works. I can add music to any playlist in Spotify and not add it to my larger library. Because of this limitation in Apple Music, imported XML playlist files can’t just auto add songs to playlists because those songs aren’t in the user’s library yet.

If you do want to create a playlist, as I just did, then you have to navigate back and forth between the “My Music” and “New” tabs in iTunes. Using the search field while in “My Music” searches your library by default. You must then click the button to specify that you want to search Apple Music, which will then take you to a page with your results. The search field is then erased, so if you want to refine your search, you have to retype everything.

Banging your head yet?

Mutually exclusive

Once you find what you want, you must first add it to your library before adding it to a playlist (even though you are presented with the option to add it to a playlist!!!) by clicking the plus symbol. Then you go to the track and click the three dots (don’t right click, because you’ll get a different menu and different playlist options), and then you can add to a playlist.

Along the way, you might run into a few bugs, which I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say, they slowed me down.

Once you have the playlist, you can share it with a link. There’s no embedding yet, which is a drag, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get that. I hope we do. I also can’t just “publish” it somehow within Apple Music for other people to stumble upon. That’s also a drag. I’ve found some really good playlists made by users in Spotify, and I’d like this to work a little more seamlessly.


I like the service. I really do. I like that my wife and I can have a family account that’s cheap. I’m glad I can mix my own recordings and the streamed ones. I love the playlists. I’m glad they’re paying musicians slightly better. There’s a lot of stuff to listen to. Metadata is decent (I want to write a post about this). I even dig the new icon. All good stuff.

But it has a ways to go yet, and I’m hoping they’re going to iterate it quickly.

Straws to the Rescue

Julia Belluz writing for Vox:

Orbelo suggested the “straw technique” — strengthening your vocal cords by humming through a straw or blowing into one with a liquid (“like when you’re a kid and you blow bubbles in chocolate milk”).

Turns out, it seems everyone in the voice community knows about the magical straw technique — to “reset and free the voice” and “stretch and unpress” your vocal cords and folds.

The National Center for Speech and Voice says the method has “roots in Northern Europe and has been used for several hundred years.” Its popularizer, Ingo Titze — a vocal scientist and executive director of the center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — has published academic papers on the approach.

Apparently, the straw technique can not only give you a voice that’s stronger and more difficult to lose, but it can also relieve a tired voice.

Yup. And here.

via @DrBaritone

“Defend” Music?

Peter Green writing for CURMUDGUCATION: Stop “Defending” Music:

First of all, it’s a tactical error. If your state gets swept up in the winds of test dumpage and suddenly tests are not driving your school, what will you say to the ax guy (because, tests or not, the ax guy is not going away any time soon)? If your big selling point for your program has been that it’s actually test prep with a horn, you’ve made yourself dependent on the future of testing. That’s a bad horse on which to bet the farm.

Second, it’s just sad. And it’s extra sad to hear it come from music teachers. Just as sad as if I started telling everyone that reading Shakespeare is a great idea only because it helps with math class.

There are so many reasons for music education. Soooooooo many. And “it helps with testing” or “makes you do better in other classes” belong near the bottom of that list.

His passionate article independently echoes my thoughts from my article “What is the Value of Music“:

Another genre of manifestations-as-value are those arguments that treat music as an intermediary step for the actual valuable activities of our lives. The “Mozart Effect” and other bullet points about how music improves collaboration skills, language skills, reasoning and so on have one thing in common: they assist some serious sounding but ultimately non-musical goal.

And, please, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of non-musical benefits of music. But – again – these are individual manifestations, they’re not the primary value. They aren’t the valuable kernel that starts our relationship with music and makes us stick with it long-term. The non-musical benefits of music are like the potential health benefits of wine: wine drinkers are happy they exist, but they’re secondary.

His stance really resonates with me. Just ask yourself: why do you do music (either playing or listening)? Is it for any of those often cited secondary reasons, or is it for something else?

That said, I’ve never been a teacher in a public grade school facing budget cuts. I don’t know how I would protect my program under those situations.

Premiere: Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte


Tonight at 4 PM is the premiere of “Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte”, the new family opera by composer Marius Felix Lange and librettist Martin Baltscheit. I will be singing the role of Teo, who is a Schützer at the beginning and end and a Flößer in the middle.

I love this role, and I genuinely love this piece. It is full of charm and beauty, and the production is an opulent world of magic. Toi toi toi to all involved.

More information

Auf Deutsch

Heute Abend findet um 16 Uhr in Opernhaus Dortmund die Premiere “Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte” – die neue Familienoper von Marius Felix Lange und Martin Baltscheit – statt. Ich singe die Rolle Teo, wer ein Schützer am Anfang und Ende und Flößer in der Mitte ist.

Es freut mich sehr, die Rolle zu singen, und ich liebe echt das Stück. Die Oper ist voller Charme und Schönheit, und die Produktion ist eine opulente Welt voller Zauber. Toi toi toi an allen Beteiligten!

Mehr Infos

Overgrown Path: What music would you recommend to a classical neophyte??

Is classical music asking the right questions in its search for a new audience? Should we be debating the way musicians dress, the style of lighting used in concert halls and the rights and wrongs of applause between movements? Or should we be spending more time deliberating over what music will appeal to that elusive new audience? As the name of the game is classical music, my vote goes unequivocally for deliberating over what music to recommend and promote to new listeners.

Source: On An Overgrown Path: What music would you recommend to a classical neophyte??

If you read my earlier post, then you know some of my thoughts on this (which were prompted by, shared with and quoted by Overgrown Path), but I enjoyed reading the other responses immensely. Some of the other musicians had very different ideas than I had, and that’s great. That’s what should happen in a healthy ecosystem. I’ll have some listening to do since they suggested some pieces with which I wasn’t previously familiar.

There’s always more to experience and learn.