The quick answer: Pretty decent actually.
Get past the shameless excuse to push the iTunes music store on you, asking you to download related music you’ll probably like and tracks you may be missing from a particular album or artists discography- the actual playlist creator is pretty decent. I imagine it uses the category/genre, artist, featured artists, producer, label information combined with related purchase history of customers and ratings of that song. UPDATE: I found an entry by Ryan Faas who seems to have more detailed information about how the Genius feature works- basically inline with what I previously thought. One interesting thing I found is that it seems to evaluate each track individually. I found this with the Steel Pulse playlist (viewable at that bottom of page), all the tracks looked legit except you got Mims in there… But, if you listen to the track, that specific track actually is a remix that features Reggae style artists Cham and Junior Reid.
Here’s an example of the first one I tried. Built off the Postal Service – Nothing Better
And here’s one for Portugal. The Man – Gold Fronts – not too bad either…
And One for Saves the Day – Jesse And My Whetstone
So How Smart is a “Genius”?
Now, it’s not perfect, as repeating artists in a playlist is typically a no-no. Especially repeating artists twice in a row. Unfortunately I could not find an option to keep it from repeating artists, however you can use the “refresh” button to regenerate a playlist until one you are happy with is created. All the ones I’ve posted here are the initial playlist generated for each track, I did not press refresh.
Also, in terms of goal, it is definitely a success, although you may do things slightly differently when manually trying to create that “perfect playlist”, part of the stated purpose of Genius Playlists is to
help you discover songs in your library you never knew you had — and rediscover forgotten favorites.
Being a music horder/packrat/scavenger I have a relatively massive library with many tracks I’ve never even listened too yet, it definitely has assisted me in that aspect so far. It also helps me discover specific tracks from artist they did in a style not typical to their own (just a raw example, Mims). It’s great for artists like Broken Social Scene who have a huge variety of styles.
You can also regenerate a playlist anytime along the line- so for example say you started with everything based off of RATM – Bulls On Parade and it gets to Incubus – Wish You Were Here, and you think, hey, that’s a decent mood change, just make sure Incubus is highlighted and click the little atom/genius button again and it will recreate a playlist based on Incubus – WYWH. Pretty cool. You can also do that with any track within the playlist without it actually playing, just select it- but note, pressing the genius button will switch to the selected track (and create a new playlist).
So What’s the catch?
Now remember, for the actual playlists (not the suggestions) you actually have to have the music in YOUR library (I was unable to get it to pull in music from any shared libraries I was connected to). So the accuracy, variety and general decency of your generated playlist will probably be related someone directly to your music library size.
Another catch, to generate a playlist off a song- that song needs to be available in the iTunes store- so tough luck for all you fans of The Beatles and AC/DC. I also imagine that for a song to be indexed by Genius and thus included in a generated playlist it needs to be available in the iTunes music store as well.
When saving the playlists it creates, they remain dynamic- this is good and bad. Good, meaning you can still refresh it and use the dynamic genius options- Bad because, unfortunately, once you refresh it, you cannot revert back to the one you originally saved/generated.
Do you have a good playlist Genius generated? Post it in the comments! Or, have a track you want to see a playlist generated for, let me know, I’ll do my best to get it up.
The IQ Tests
Here are some more playlists I generated for additional examples/reference. I tried to show a variety of music genres.
NOTE: I believe the queries I ran to be pretty fair representations as it was pulling the songs from a library of 21,011 tracks, over 105 Gigs of music.
PS- on the topic of new iTunes 8 features, I’d just like to say, that although an improvement, the “New” iTunes visualizer,
is not that visually impressive. I’ll still take Leopard’s Jelly any day.
UPDATE: I partially take that back. Although Jelly, appears “smoother”- it seems I was using the wrong music to truly see the new improved responsives and upgrades. I put on the new visualize to some chiptune (Stu – chiprape) and it was actually pretty sweet. Really cool.