As much as I think the Apple Music user interface is still a total jumbled mess, I do think there are also a few features that Apple should add as it simultaneously cleans up what’s already there. A big one for me is the potential for private, collaborative playlists and streaming radio stations.
What Apple Music currently has, as far as users sharing music goes, is the ability to share a playlist, station, album or song from within the app via email, third-party apps or copying the link to share elsewhere. But once sent to someone, the person only receives a link to open the shared selection in Apple Music. It works, but it’s not exactly taking full advantage of the potential for user collaboration and a truly interactive experience that ties together the various social aspects of the service.
The new sharing features could be twofold. First, the ability to have collaborative playlists that one or more other people could contribute to. That’s a feature that some competitive services, notably Spotify, already have, but I’d like to see Apple take it a step further with the ability to create not just collaborative playlists, but private, custom radio stations that stream in real-time…
These would essentially let any user create their own Beats-style stations for streaming content from Apple Music. A private radio station could be shared among friends and family with similar musical tastes and Apple could even automatically generate content based on the entire groups’ listening history (or through manual selection), while public stations could be made available for anyone to search for and subscribe to. Celebrity created stations, for example, could be featured through Apple’s Connect profile pages (and Connect artists could perhaps even feature or debut their own content live that isn’t yet on Apple Music). The custom radio stations could have several contributors separate from subscribers, and Apple could provide some way for users listening to the station to communicate through chat or commenting-like functionality tied to the station.
These features could make Apple Music have more of a community feel opposed to being just the streaming version of the iTunes Store it currently is for the most part.
Apple Music’s current radio station sharing setup
In a way it’s something Apple is already doing under its own control with mostly celebrity shows and features on its Beats 1 station and playlists it surfaces from popular media outlets and other playlist services (pictured above). Users can also share a “radio station” that Apple auto curates based on a song you choose, but once shared, the user on the other end simply just starts the same process on their own based on that song. Users don’t really have a lot of control over that content and after a station is shared there isn’t much interaction between users. Private radio stations would be a community driven feature that could boost sharing and listening of the content already on the service. I love the feel of tuning into a live radio station with Beats 1, but I don’t want to be tied to Apple’s roll-out of radio stations or restricted to Apple’s content choices on its own stations and playlists. I’d like to listen to content of my own choosing with others in the same way.
And these sharing features could also extend to in-person situations with groups for a DJ mode type feature for parties and other social gatherings. This could essentially be accomplished with collaborative playlists, but Apple could make it even more interesting by giving even non-subscribers an easy way to add to your currently playing collaborative Apple Music playlist or radio station through their own device.
Apple Music’s current playlist sharing features
It’s not something the other music services do particularly great and there isn’t really any one third-party app that has broke through as great solution, although there are a ton of apps out there trying to offer similar features for DJ modes or collaborative playlists that tie into the various music services. Spotify has collaborative playlists for example, and Samsung and others have attempted to integrate similar group sharing features for audio and video content.
I’ve been playing with pinwheel.fm, a new in beta Mac app that will offer collaborative streaming radio stations not unlike what Apple could offer (pictured below). Instead of using Apple Music, however, Pinwheel uses SoundCloud content and in the future will integrate with YouTube and Spotify as well. Even in its very early state of development, playing with Pinwheel gave me a glimpse of just how much Apple Music is lacking. Pinwheel shows you users online, and songs “on deck”, while any user can add songs by entering a SoundCloud URL. The station streams in real-time, which means the pause button is really just a mute button for you.
These type of features were harder to do before streaming services. But in a world where all of your friends are subscribed to Apple Music or a similar service, there is big new potential for sharing and collaboration features that currently none of the services are fully embracing. That’s been one of the most enjoyable aspects of streaming services and Apple Music for me in general. Discussing and sharing music with one another is something my friends and I do often, so the ability to send each other links to playlists and songs that we can all instantly listen to without having to purchase or take other steps to download or find, has kept me using the service despite its many flaws. But adding in the collaborative playlist and radio station features above for me would make for a killer feature that the app and its competitors currently don’t have.