iTunes Genius, Or Salesperson In Your Pocket?

When Steve Jobs announced that the big new feature in iTunes 08 was Genius, a music recommendation service, I, and many others, said: “Huh.”
First of all, this sort of technology has been around for a long long time. It was years (6, 8?) ago that I first used Amazon’s feature to find similar artists based on what people bought. I used that to discover new artists, in fact. More recently, Pandora has introduced some very sophisticated music matching techniques that suggest new music based on the music itself. I’ve also used sites like to find out which artists I may like.
But Genius fails in a way that Apple is usually very good at — it really feels like it is selling you something. I feel that it is pushing me to buy music, not suggesting music I may like.
It reminds me of my high school job, which was working at a record store. Now I worked at a cool record store. We didn’t go out onto the floor and bother people by trying to sell them more records. (By the way, by “records” I do mean vinyl). But at other stores you’d get some kid trying to suggest something: “Have you heard the latest Smithereens album?”
Genius feels like that. I feel like telling it: “Don’t bother me, kid, I know what I want.”
And what is with the name? A “genius” is how you would describe someone who takes one song and then suggests others? That’s not a “genius” — that’s just Jack Black in High Fidelity.
I’d at least expect it to be smarter than Amazon or Pandora, but most of the suggestions I got were just for other songs by the same artist. And it doesn’t even seem to know that Anna Waronker was in That Dog — there are no suggestions between them.
And what happens if I select a Beatles song? I can’t find anything! That’s weird on so many levels.
And it has nothing to do with my Beatles songs coming from CD instead of the iTunes store — most of my music is that way. It may have to do with The Beatles not being sold on iTunes, but as a music lover I don’t really care about Apple’s legal issues.
Anyway, I’m sure that Genius will help Apple sell more music. It can’t hurt, right? I’m sure that was part of their reasoning.
But now that I’m not reviewing it, I’m turning it off.

Comments: 4 Responses to “iTunes Genius, Or Salesperson In Your Pocket?”

    9/12/08 @ 3:18 pm


    Don’t turn it off. I agree with what you’ve said. It is VERY much like the ministore, only, targeted. (I HATE the ministore…)

    Instead of turning it off, which will cause you to lose the ability to make Genius Playlists, just stop the sidebar from showing.

    To do this, just hit the button in the lower right hand corner of your iTunes window.

    With the Genius sidebar disabled, I can still make genius playlists (which I really like) without having to tell “the salesman” that I’m just browsing.

    9/12/08 @ 10:39 pm

    This program has a lot to learn. The “playlists” genius offers me are mirrors of the playlists I already have!
    But if a few thousand people let it run, I’m hoping it will learn and get smarter. Turn into like Last.Fm but of course the “salesman” part will always be there and it’s limited to what’s on the Apple iTunes store. That part bites. I hope Apple learn what songs they need to add to iTunes through genius at lest.

    9/15/08 @ 9:37 pm

    The more I think about it and try and use “Genius,” is this just “Shuffle” with a iTunes store added on?

    10/7/08 @ 6:10 am

    apple DO NOT poll other users music to help you select playlists, a month or two down the track and Genius cannot recognise Hey Jude from the Beatles…dont tell me no-one else who has accessed this DB doesnt have it…it’s all about the itunes store!!!

Comments Closed.