When I saw yesterday that Spotify is adding yet another discovery-focused feature in from of the ‘What’s New’ feed, I was immediately reminded of just how far behind Apple Music is when it comes to surfacing new music.
It’s not a novel trope that Apple Music lags behind the competition regarding music discoverability. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons that Spotify users cite when explaining their decision to stick with the service. With superb recommendation algorithms and features like Discover Weekly, Spotify is hard to beat in the discovery department, and What’s New only extends its lead.
“What’s New makes it easier than ever to catch all the latest songs and episodes from the creators you follow. Plus, it’s even updated in real time, so you know you’ll get to listen to new content just as it’s released.”
While I’m perfectly happy not mixing the streams when it comes to music and podcast content, and I do prefer the Apple Music UI, Apple ecosystem integration, and the fact that it saves me money in the Apple One bundle, the discovery of new music on Apple Music leaves a lot to be desired.
Sure, the New Music Mix playlist (heavily influenced by Discover Weekly), which updates every Friday, does an okay job at surfacing some music I like based on what sort of music I listen to, but it doesn’t capture every release by artists I have saved in my library and often includes tracks that are several weeks old or miss the mark.
Confusingly, there are also two places in Apple Music named New Releases that are designed to help you discover music you’ll like with varying degrees of success.
The first is halfway down the Listen Now (formerly For You) page, which is also very much a riff on Spotify’s home page. This spot primarily shows new albums, singles, and EPs from artists you already have in your library, though it doesn’t show every release, and there’s no way to customize it. It also only shows about a dozen entries, so some stuff will probably drop off that list before you ever see it.
On the Browse page, you can scroll partway down the page to see another section of New Releases, though this does not seem to learn at all (or, at least, not very well) from your listening habits. I have a bunch of albums in there from artists I have never heard of, plus several that were released months ago.
Neither of Apple Music’s New Releases sections act at all like the “real-time” What’s New page in Spotify that is laser-focused on the content you like. And that’s exactly what Apple Music is missing.
This is all before you have pre-saved an album from an artist or band you want to hear on day one of its release. On quite a few occasions, I have experienced inconsistency with pre-saved albums actually downloading on release day and have had to delete the partial album from my library before searching for and re-downloading the full record. The release day notifications are also inconsistent.
As an avid music fan, I want to know of every release by my favorite musicians, and I’ve even taken to using third-party apps to ensure I do (previously Record Bird, and now MusicHarbor). The average user won’t do this and, frankly, shouldn’t have to.
Spotify’s What’s New appears to achieve the goal of informing the listener of everything new since they last checked for new releases without the user having to come up with their own solution. It also gives die-hard fans yet another reason not to switch to Apple Music.