Thoughts on iCloud, iTunes, Genius Radio

There’s an iTunes library file just sitting in your ~/music/iTunes folder. It’s an index of everything in your iTunes library: your music, your playlists, your playcounts, your ratings. I think it’s the key to Apple’s iTunes strategy.

Imagine this. You have all your music on your computer at home. That library file gets synced to iCloud. Now you leave your house and go to work. You open up iTunes at work, which is now syncing the library file. It shows you all your music and playlists, even if it isn’t stored there.

You start playing a playlist. Since you have iTunes Match, iTunes starts downloading that playlist in the background. It’s seamless. It feels just like using iTunes at home where your music library is stored locally.

People think that streaming services are better than the iTunes Store. That’s almost entirely true, but streaming services aren’t as good as iTunes on the desktop.1

It’s a subtle distinction.

Rdio, Mog, and Rhapsody want you to put everything in a queue, but that’s not how listening works. I want to be able to listen to a queue and oooh I really wanna hear Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode right now, maybe hit Genius on it, okay I’ve had enough of this let’s go back to the queue where I put that new Death Cab For Cutie album.

Streaming services aren’t flexible enough to do this. iTunes software is.

And forget the “it’s cheaper” argument. If you pirate your music, like a lot of people do, the experience is better on iTunes and it’s still cheaper. That’s what Jeff Price is saying.

How could they monetize this? Why is Genius limited to my iTunes library? Let me hit Genius on a track and use the entire iTunes Music Store to make that playlist, not just what’s in my library. Genius Radio. Maybe you only let me listen to a track once, like Lala did, but make it very easy for me to buy that track immediately.

It looks more likely that streaming may never come to iTunes, at least not the way we know it today. It won’t be called streaming. It’s simpler to call it radio. On Pandora you pick an artist and listen to their station. Same thing on Rdio and Last.fm. On future iTunes maybe you hit the Genius button on a track you like and listen to Genius Radio, sourced by over 18 million tracks from the iTunes Store. You’re bound to hear a bunch of stuff you might like enough to download. It’s the best automated music discovery tool I can think of.

Look at Pandora’s proliferation. Radio is what most people want anyway.


  1. Except maybe Spotify.