Apple Music Needs Better Searching

It’s easy to search for Taylor Swift on Apple Music, but try searching for classical music; it’s a disaster. The reason is that Apple Music – and the iTunes Store – only offer single-criteria searches. There’s on search box, and you can type all sorts of terms into it – album names, artists, composers, etc. – but with no specifying which tag you want to search.

iTunes used to have a Power Search feature, which let you search for specific types of media (music, movies, etc.), and with search terms in fields to match specific tags. So you could search for a term in the Album tag in the iTunes Store, or you could find a movie by searching for the director’s name in the Director/Producer tag.

This search feature was demoted when Apple Music was launched, and with iTunes 12.7, was removed entirely.

Unfortunately, this makes searching for classical music very difficult. After reading Alex Ross’s article about John Eliot Gardiner and Monteverdi, I went to Apple Music to listen to one of his recordings. The problem is that his ensembles are called The English Baroque Soloists and The Monteverdi Choir. So the number of results that come up when searching for “Gardiner Monteverdi” is stultifying. (Yes, Sir John has recorded a lot of albums.)

Sure, there are two Monteverdi albums in that list, but there is a lot more Bach. To make things worse, this search only returns 21 albums, whereas clicking on the name of the artist on one of these album pages – English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, & The Monteverdi Choir – returns nearly 100 albums. But none of these searches return all the recordings that he made with this ensemble.

I know, Apple doesn’t care about classical music. But I’ll still complain that the way the company handles this genre shows contempt for the 5% of people who listen to this music. As I’ve written before, there is little information attached to classical recordings, their classical playlists are often stupid, and classical music is for more than just elevators.

There is a wealth of classical music on Apple Music, and if Apple were to devote some time to providing better search tools and more information, they would dominate the market for classical music streaming. I guess 5% of the market isn’t worth fighting for.

8 thoughts on “Apple Music Needs Better Searching

  1. Come to think of it, Search is the most used feature of Apple Music at my house. Classical isn’t the only victim; catalog music of any genre may be rife with compilations and collections that render clumsy search results. So, effectively, I’m paying 10 bucks a month to make finding music I want to listen to more difficult.

  2. Search is…actually less bad than it was. I think they now have artist IDs!

    A search for e.g ‘blackout’ (no space) now gives two separate artists when you scroll down to artist section with that exact name, which is progress I guess, even if they are not both first in the list.

    Previously it wouldn’t know any difference, and group ’em all together based on the text.

    Britney being #1 *artist * match is still daft of course, along with showing the default grey microphone image instead of bringing up the cover for their latest recording, which they have once you click through.

    And I totally sympathise on classical music specific issues. I’m more into underground hip-hop and metal, where the most relevant things are record label and guest MCs, but I’m not holding out for a search on those.

    At least the ‘recommended for you’ stuff takes that into account when Apple’s advanced machine learning AI comes up with…oh, wait, no. It just repeatedly suggests obvious stuff that any fan of whatever genre will have known about for decades.

    But hey, $10 a month is cheap, and if you know where to look for what you want to listen to Apple will nearly always have it with decent sound quality.

  3. Power search still exists on the server, and it still works with iTunes 12.6.3 if you go in via the web link. Since the store interface is basically html, I wonder if it would be possible to write a stand-alone search engine for it. It isn’t only classical music that apple can’t find, it’s pretty much everything else too.

    Thanks for the link to the article. I love Gardiner, and Monteverdi. I have about 5 different versions of the 1610 Vespers (all from 15+ years ago), and only Gardiner’s dances like it should. The rest treat it more like solemn/stodgy church music, but Monteverdi was a very secular composer even when writing for the church. I have a facsimile copy of the Vespers and I need to get back to it. The old notation is a little hard to follow (especially figuring out the time signatures), and it’s in parts with no score so it’s tricky to see how the parts relate, but it’s not intractable if I’d just spend more time with it. Retirement can’t come soon enough!

  4. I cannot understand why Apple takes out the feature they can be proud of (for example this search feature) and embrace features that only the youngest users might love (a big might). Apple Music was a mess at the start, and now still a mess in my opinion. My local library still holds around 45% of music that cannot be found in Apple Music and iTunes Store anyway.
    What is their direction of iTunes and Apple Music? A pop-only and teenager-only music service?

  5. Have a visit to an apple store, to listen to the elevator music they play, and the answer to your question Shirasaki is yes, the young and irritable music, is all they play, and by extension…their direction.

  6. It has become abundantly clear to me watching Apple’s music initiatives, from the iTunes Music Store through the latest iteration of Apple Music, that Eddie Cue not only has no interest in classical music, but that he has an agressive and irrational dislike not only of classical music, but also a real contempt for classical music listeners. The more I see of him at Apple events the more he comes across as little more that a poser, and is clearly the weak link in the Apple upper management chain. Apple Music, certainly, and Apple itself would be much better off with him out of the picture.

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