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Apple Music’s New Discovery Station is Really Good

I’m a long-time Apple Music user. In fact, I had fully switched away from Spotify to Beats Music and was enjoying that service in 2014 when it was announced that Apple was purchasing the whole Beats brand with plans not only for the iconic headphones, but also for the music service.

Since then, the company has done a great job growing Apple Music into the #2 music streaming service in the world. And though still second to Spotify worldwide, according to some analytics reports, Apple Music has risen to take the #1 spot in the U.S.

And though Apple’s music streaming venture has been wildly successful, I’ve always found it lacking in its ability to recommend new music for me to listen to. That has changed in a big way with the service’s new Discovery Station, which launched this week.

Strengths and weaknesses

I’ve tried and spent many hours with Apple Music’s competitors. Most recently I’ve developed a very high appreciation for YouTube Music. And the reason I’ve strayed multiple times in the past away from Apple Music to competitors like YouTube and Spotify is that those two services seem to have much better algorithms for learning the types of music you like and recommending new music that you’re likely to enjoy.

YouTube Music in particular has one of the strongest custom radio station algorithms I’ve tried and the app consistently surfaces albums and artists I’ve yet to listen to and end up adding to my library.

Apple Music’s strength, on the other hand, has been its iTunes-like focus on the library and full albums. Everyone enjoys music differently and a lot of folks out there prefer consuming music through playlists. I like listening to radio-like playlists, but I don’t really like listening to playlists created and shared by others, or creating my own. I much prefer to listen to full albums.

In fact, there are lots of songs I like that I don’t listen to very often because I didn’t like the rest of album. Note: I am certainly in the minority here. I would venture to say 70% of people out there prefer playlists to listening to whole albums all the time. But because of my preference, Apple Music has always been my preferred service because its design is much more accommodating to around and consuming whole albums, while Spotify and YouTube both have designs that prioritize serving up playlists. Which makes sense because that’s what they’re good at!

A solid foundation

I do need to mention one of my favorite Apple Music features of the past few years, however, and that’s the personal radio station. This is an algorithmically curated radio station that shows up in the Listen Now section of the app that primarily focuses on serving up songs and artists the service is very confident you like, based on your listening history and what’s in your library.

It’s good. Sometimes, it’s really good. But other times, not so much.

For instance, metal, punk, bop jazz, and classical are among my favorite types of music. When I go to listen to that personal station in Apple Music, however, the station decides that it wants to play jazz. Maybe I’m not in a jazz mood. So I hit next. But it just keeps playing jazz. From what I’ve found, the station really tries to guess what mood you might be in. And rather than be able to adapt on the fly to skips, it just keeps serving up songs that line up with its original assumption. The result is very hit or miss.

So, when I first saw reports and positive reviews of Apple Music’s new Discovery Station, I was excited to try it. I was immediately reminded of how good the personal radio station can be. And upon spending a few hours with Discovery, I can tell you that the personal radio station appears to have been a foundation to build upon. A solid one at that.

Regardless, they finally did it: Apple Music finally has an algorithmic recommendation playlist that is not only as good as Spotify and YouTube, it might be even better.

All killer, no filler

What I was most taken aback by was just how well Discovery seems to understand not just the genres of music I like, but the structures of the music I like. No joke, the first five songs that Discovery recommended were songs that I immediately loved from bands that I had never heard of.

In my experience, the hit rate of its recommendations isn’t 100%, but it’s not far off. I’d say Spotify hits around 40% while YouTube Music hits around 70%. If I had to venture a guess, I think Apple Music’s higher hit rate has to do with a more complex algorithm.

Spotify and YouTube’s algorithms seems to work because they recommend songs liked by people with similar libraries and tastes as you. But as I noted above, I like a wide variety of music and just because I like some metal doesn’t mean I’m going to like a specific niche of metal. Spotify and YouTube aren’t quite smart enough to understand that.

But Discovery seems different. It’s not hopping between genres or “moods” to serve up recommendations. Instead, the algorithm seems to be taking the actual content and structure of songs into account. I don’t pretend to know exactly how the service would do this, but I do know that services are able to select songs with specific sound or beat signatures. For instance, Spotify has long been able to create playlists with beats per minute that match how quickly you’d like to run.

It seems like Apple Music may be doing something similar with other sonic signatures. In my first session with the playlist, it was able to quickly identify that I’m a sucker for big, swelling instrumental breakdowns at the end of a song. Most of the first songs it recommended to me had that type of ending.

What makes this type of analysis so effective is that Discovery was able to recommend new artists in several different genres successfully, because it doesn’t just understand what types of music I enjoy, it seems to understand deeper sonic preferences.

So, yeah. Apple Music Discovery is really good. With a single playlist, Apple has caught its service up in a major way to Spotify’s offering. Moving forward, I want to see Apple break out the recommendations and learnings from within Discovery and place them within the Listen Now and Browse tabs to improve those experiences.

But even as it stands, Discovery is a phenomenal experience that I have kept coming back to in the last 24 hours. Make sure and check it out.

OWC Wayne G
the authorOWC Wayne G
Tech lover, multimedia creator, and marketing manager for OWC's Rocket Yard and Mission Control blogs.
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  • How do I access the Discovery channel in Apple Music? The nearest thing I see is my own station…

    • If you open up Apple Music on and head to the Listen Now tab, you should find the Discover station either in the top row labeled Top Picks, or, you might have to scroll down a bit to Stations For You. It’s labeled Discovery Station and has the same artwork that we show in the top image in this blog. Thanks for reading!

  • Read your article – Interesting – Feeling really stupid. How do I get to Apple Music Discover?

    • Hey Bill, thanks for reading. If you open up Apple Music on and head to the Listen Now tab, you should find the Discover station either in the top row labeled Top Picks, or, you might have to scroll down a bit to Stations For You. It’s labeled Discovery Station and has the same artwork that we show in the top image in this blog.