iPlaylist: Apple Music is using your iTunes history to make playlists for you

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Each time you play music in iTunes, you set off a chain reaction of playlist curation. In a recent Buzzfeed article about Apple Music, it was revealed that the streaming service uses iTunes history to customize playlists for users.

As part of the recent iOS 10 update, Apple Music unveiled two new playlists — My Favorites Mix and My New Music Mix — each of which is personalized based on your previous streaming history. In addition to streaming history, the Apple Music algorithm which puts Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off on the same playlist as Kanye West’s Famous also factors in your iTunes history, according to Buzzfeed News.

The My New Music Mix playlist updates every Friday, the same day new albums are released, and includes 25 recently released songs Apple Music thinks you’d like to hear, as well as some it knows you have never played. My Favorites Mix playlist updates every Wednesday and includes songs Apple Music knows the user has played a lot. Your iTunes history influences those choices based on the ratings users have given certain songs and how often the songs are played. Your marathon listening session of Frank Ocean’s Blond is probably the reason The Weeknd’s new single Starboy is all in your New Music Mix.

Mining iTunes data using an impersonal algorithm is a stark departure from the human curation Apple Music championed when it hired the likes of Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor to make playlists more personal. While Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt derided the human curation on Apple Music as “elitist,” Jimmy Iovine — former Interscope Records boss and current record label whisperer for Apple Music — did concede Apple tried to do too much too soon. “We were too ambitious in the beginning — we probably put too much into it,” Iovine said in the Buzzfeed article.

Earlier today, Spotify debuted its new playlist, Daily Mix, a continuously updating playlist designed to mirror the streaming service’s radio functionality, which allows you to like songs you want to hear more of, or ban those you never want to hear again. Mining the 800 million iTunes accounts to make playlists that best suit someone’s musical taste is not as risky as human curation, but may not be as effective. Everyone’s music taste has a general foundation based on what they connected to the earliest, but music tastes fluctuate. People have been using iTunes since Limp Bizkit and Bubba Sparxx were popular, and while those artists garnered years and hours of playback from me, I never want to hear Limp Bizkit’s Rolling song ever again.

On the other hand, iTunes has been the dominant music retailer across the world for the better part of the last eight years.  With its user base of 800 million, and with iTunes predating on-demand music streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal by at least a decade, by now iTunes may know more about your musical taste than you do.

Either way, it looks like in order to move you, these playlists are starting to know you.

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