The latest version of iTunes has something called Genius which automatically creates playlists from a single song. When I downloaded the new version, I turned off the genius sidebar and figured it was something I'd just ignore. I was turned off by the need to genius to upload information about my songs to Apple and the idea that it has such strong tie-ins to iTMS.
But yesterday Steve Fulling was raving about it, so I decided to give it a try. In less than 12 hours, I'm a convert. I still hide the sidebar because that's where all the music suggestions are and I don't need to buy any more music right now. The playlists it puts together are incredible. I can hardly wait for one to finish so I can pick another song and listen to the next set that iTunes puts together for me.
I often find songs I like but haven't listened to much on the list and the selections are always diverse and yet somehow hang together. Just one thing--I can't figure out why almost every playlist has "Brandy" (Looking Glass) in it. What's iTunes trying to tell me?
Here's an example of the playlist that Genius created for me when I selected "Melissa" (The Allman Brothers Band):
|Can't You See||The Marshall Tucker Band|
|Long Train Runnin'||The Doobie Brothers|
|Gimme Three Steps||Lynyrd Skynyrd|
|Walk On the Wild Side||Lou Reed|
|Rocky Mountain Way||Joe Walsh|
|Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)||Looking Glass|
|Peace Of Mind||Boston|
|You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet||Bachman-Turner Overdrive|
|Feels Like the First Time||Foreigner|
|House of the Rising Sun||The Animals|
|New York State Of Mind||Billy Joel|
|Statesboro Blues||The Allman Brothers Band|
|Fire On the Mountain||The Marshall Tucker Band|
|God Only Knows||The Beach Boys|
|Somebody's Baby||Jackson Browne|
|What's Your Name?||Lynyrd Skynyrd|
|Take the Money and Run||Steve Miller Band|
|Hey Nineteen||Steely Dan|
|Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald||Gordon Lightfoot|
|New Kid In Town||Eagles|
|Crimson And Clover||Tommy James & The Shondells|
Repeating the same selection and hitting the genius button results in a new, but similar playlist. Don't like the list? Just change the selection or hit refresh and you've got a brand new set of songs. As a bonus, Genius is also available on the iPhone and iPod Touch if you've enabled it in iTunes.
So is Apple mining my music listening? Probably. But they're also giving me value. I'm willing to make that trade. My music is now more valuable to me and more enjoyable and that's not something I can say for the dusty CDs sitting on my shelf.