Star Reviews Random Shit: iTunes Radio

itunes-3I started out using Pandora when I first heard of internet radio, but I switched over to iTunes radio when I got my new car radio installed. I quickly discovered that it suffers from a lot of the same problems as Pandora. Sometimes I think that I’m just waiting out my aggravation with iTunes Radio until I switch back to my own library and play more drag queens songs.

When you first select an artist and start up your radio station, it’s the funnest thing ever. There are all of these great songs and everything is going so smoothly. You might have to skip a song here or there, but for the most part, you’re hearing music that you haven’t listened to in ages and you’re hitting the “play more like this” option all the time.

But then the next day, you get into  your car or set up your computer and quickly discover that you’re listening to the exact same goddamn songs again. And again. And again. There seems to be a total of 20 songs the radio station plays and that’s fucking it.

There’s an option on the iTunes Player to set the music to hits, variety or discovery. Once I switched it to variety, the repetition got slightly better. But only slightly. I still found the same songs being played over and over again, ad nauseum. And it doesn’t even make sense as to why.

On my Girls Aloud station they regularly play three Sugababes songs. The Sugababes have released over 80 songs from over seven albums, not counting bonus tracks, soundtracks and other releases. Why are only the same three songs being played when the artist, that I clearly like as I’ve starred all of their music, has so many other songs offer?

iTunes Radio also suffers from being American. On Girls Aloud radio the most music I hear is from Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. No joke. I don’t even hear Girls Aloud as much as I hear these two Americans. I’ve never starred a single one of their songs and I have taken to regularly skipping them now, but they keep on playing. There are so many great British bands out there, why aren’t I hearing them?

Fair enough that I’m listening to iTunes in America, but Girls Aloud has never released a single song in this country. Never. So clearly, if I know who they are and like them enough to make a station for just their music, I must know, or be interested, in other British artists. I have yet to hear JLS or All Saints or even solo Girls Aloud members on that station. It’s all just Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez!

My recommendations for fixing the station (which I’m sure everyone at Apple is dying to hear) is as follows; once a song is played, take that song out of rotation for 20 play hours. Play more songs by more artists and look for patterns. For example. If someone has a radio station where they keep starring music by girl bands, then play more girl bands.

On my Jem radio station I added Dido, Sarah Mclachlan, Imogen Heap, and Norah Jones. Notice a fucking pattern here? Because iTunes didn’t. It kept playing John Mayer and James Blunt. Again and again. I kept marking the songs to never be played again and another song by the same artist would just pop up.

Also, there needs to be a “never play this artist again” button. The first time Justin Bieber came on my Spice Girls radio station, I couldn’t change the track fast enough. There are certain artists, like Bieber and Westlife, that I just don’t like and never want to listen to again. So don’t force me to keep marking each individual song as something to never play again. Let me just take that artist out of circulation entirely.

The best use of this program that I can make is my classical music channel or my Bollywood channel. I use each one for background while writing or working and I don’t know the music well enough to recognize when a song is being played over again. This is really the only time when iTunes radio doesn’t annoy me.

Overall, I find I’m disappointed with how these stations work. It’s getting to the point where my options are to listen to the same 25 songs on a radio station or just listen to my library of odds and ends. Sometimes I just want to listen to something new and interesting. But iTunes is pretty sure I want to hear Glee’s version of Total Eclipse of the Heart and Kesha songs until I bleed from my ears.

Update: I have finally figured out iTunes radio. After so much frustration, I switched all of my channels to “discovery”. Much to my shock and surprise, my Spice Girls station started playing more British artists, solo Spice Girls, Sophie Ellis-Bexter, Rachel Stevens, Steps, S Club 7, and other artists that I’m familiar with. And there was no repeating! I’ve listened to the station on Discovery for about 3 hours now and there’s no Kesha and no Glee Total Eclipse of the Heart.

I now have to wonder how someone came to the decision to order the stations like this. Here is my idea of how it went down:

Worker: I have a great idea for the new radio feature! We have three settings and we make two completely useless.
Boss: Two out of three settings don’t work?
Worker: Well, they work, they just play the exact same songs over and over again with no regard to the user’s taste or preference.
Boss: Why would anyone want to listen to the exact same songs over and over again?
Worker: Because we keep playing them and they can only skip so many songs per hour!
Boss: That’s pretty brilliant. How do you change to the only useful setting?
Worker: You have to do it through the iTunes program on your computer. You can’t do it from your phone, which is where most people will be listening to the music. There’s also no explanation for how any of the features work. So people won’t know to change them or what will happen if they do change them.
Boss: But won’t that make people frustrated and angry at the program?
Worker: Possibly.
Boss: That’s great! Let’s do that!