How to Discover New Songs Using Apple Music Playlists and Stations

With so much music out there to discover on streaming services, it can seem intimidating to try looking for new songs, albums, and artists you’ll love. The Music app on iPhone tries to surface new and old music that matches your tastes, but for Apple Music subscribers, the app is often a mess of tabs, categories, stations, and constantly changing playlists.

Check out these tips on how to find your new favorite songs, dive deeper into your favorite artists, and discover upcoming hits first on Apple Music.

Apple Music Playlists vs. Stations

To make it easier to find music in the app outside of your library, it’s helpful to break it down into two main categories: playlists and stations.

  • Playlists are pre-made collections of songs based on artists, genres, moods, and activities. You can view all of the songs in a playlist and play them at any time.
  • Stations are automatically generated and ongoing mixes based on a song, artist, or theme. You can skip songs as they come up but you can’t see beyond the next song in the queue.

The Browse tab in the Music app is where you’ll find many of the most popular playlists on Apple Music. Meanwhile, stations mostly live in the Radio tab.

Discovering New Music in Apple Music Playlists

Apple Music includes more than 30,000 playlists for you to explore. You can use several types of playlists to find new songs and artists. These playlists fall into a few distinct categories:

1. Curated Playlists

Some of the first playlists you’ll see in the Browse tab are Apple’s curated playlists, which its editors update regularly with new music.

Some of these playlists surface new and popular tracks, while others are based on styles and categories. For example, you can check out Apple’s Today’s Hits playlist to see some of the latest singles and hits from popular artists.

If you’re looking for something more specific (or perhaps, a bit less mainstream), dive into a playlist for a specific genre, such as the following:

Other curated playlists come straight from Apple Music 1 radio shows and their hosts. For example, Zane Lowe’s Playlist is a collection of music the host features on the Zane Lowe Show.

2. Personalized Playlists

Some of Apple Music’s playlists are designed specifically for your tastes based on your likes and listening habits. You’ll find these in the Listen Now tab. The New Music Mix updates weekly with new releases from artists that you’ve already listened to and that you might like based on your existing library.

The Favorites Mix also updates weekly with some of your most-played tracks and similar songs in your library. The more you listen using Apple Music, the better its recommendations will become. However, if you find they aren’t very accurate, learn how to reset your Apple Music recommendations.

Then, there are your Replay playlists, which list your most-played tracks for each year. These playlists update weekly throughout the year and lock in when the new year begins. So, you can go back and listen to your favorite songs from five years ago, or get a live look at what’s been on repeat during the current year.

3. Local Playlists

Maybe you’d like to get a sense of what music the people of New York City, Nashville, San Juan, Bangkok, Copenhagen, or another city are into right now. Apple Music’s City Charts feature the top 25 tracks currently popular in cities around the world. Zoom out further and you can explore the Daily Top 100 playlists from individual countries (or globally) to expand your horizons and see what music around the world has in common.

4. Mood and Activity Playlists

Are you working out, studying, reading, or working? Apple Music has playlists curated to soundtrack a wide range of moods and activities, from Pure Workout for motivation at the gym to Study Beats for chill electronic grooves for focused work.

5. Artist Playlists

Did you hear about an artist from a friend and want to dive into their catalog? If they’ve been popular for a few years already, there’s a good chance Apple Music has an Essentials playlist for them. These playlists collect the artist’s biggest hits and most important tracks—a solid introduction for new listeners and a kind of greatest hits compilation for fans.

For the most popular artists with many albums, Apple creates Essentials, Next Steps, and Deep Cuts playlists that give you an entry point and two levels of deeper dives into a specific artist’s career.

For example, if you know already Queen’s hits from TV shows and sports stadiums but want to hear more, check out the Queen: Next Steps and Queen: Deep Cuts playlists. You can also explore Queen: Influences to hear the artists that influenced Queen’s signature sound and Inspired by Queen to explore the band’s impact on modern acts.

When you’re searching for an artist, you’ll see playlists right in the search results. You can also tap through to the artist’s page to view all of their playlists under the Artist Playlists heading.

6. Apple Music Live Playlists

In the Browse tab, you’ll also find a section called Apple Music Live. This includes live performances from a variety of artists for the streaming service’s live music series as both audio albums and video playlists.

You can add these video playlists to your library, share them, and even add them to other playlists, just like standard Apple Music playlists. You can even add individual songs (as videos) to your library, playlists, or queue.

Using Apple Music Stations to Discover New Music

Playlists are a major part of Apple Music’s catalog and a great way to find new music to love. Another major aspect of the service is its collection of stations, both those hosted by people and those automatically generated by the app.

1. Hosted Stations

The Radio tab of the Music app contains hundreds of stations, starting with the live Apple Music 1 station.

This is Apple’s version of live radio—a 24/7 streaming broadcast of shows hosted by DJs and artists, some based on new music, others on genres and world regions.

These shows happen live on a schedule, but you can catch up on past episodes in the archive, too. Whether it’s Ma, G! Radio by J Balvin, Elton John’s Rocket Hour, or one of the dozens of other artist-hosted shows, hearing the songs that excite your favorite artists is a great way to discover new music.

In addition to these stations, you can check out playlists based on the radio shows in the Apple Music Radio Shows section of the Browse tab. There, you’ll find the playlists that go along with some of Apple Music Radio’s biggest shows, like Matt Wilkinson’s Playlist, Dotty’s Playlist, and more.

2. Automatically Generated Stations

Most of the stations on Apple Music aren’t hosted by people or broadcast live; they’re automatically generated by the app on demand.

If you’re an alternative fan, The Mixtape is a station dedicated to playing indie and alt music both new and old. Jazz fans should try Pure Jazz for the classics or one of the other stations dedicated to the genre.

Similar to its playlists, Apple Music also includes stations based on styles and activities. Stations include:

3. Custom Stations

One of the best features of Apple Music is the ability to create custom stations based on songs and artists. These smart stations will keep playing music that’s similar to your selection as long as you want. To create a station from an artist or song, tap the ellipsis button and choose Create Station. Your new custom station will start playing immediately and continue to queue up similar music.

You can also create custom stations by asking Siri to create a station based on a song, artist, or genre using your iOS or macOS device, your AirPods, or your HomePod. Then, you can find and continue playing recent stations in the Radio tab of the Music app, under Recently Played. Finally, in the Listen Now tab, there’s also the Top Picks station: a station that’s made for you based on your listening.

4. Essentials Anniversaries Collection and Episodes

Sometimes, finding new music is about diving into the past for classics you’ve been missing and hidden gems. An extension of Apple Music’s Essentials playlists, the Anniversaries collection is a cross between a playlist and a station, featuring both albums that are celebrating various anniversaries and radio episodes discussing the impact of those albums.

If you’ve always known a few of the Johnny Cash hits but never delved deeper into the iconic star’s catalog, you can reach all the way back to his debut LP, With His Hot and Blue Guitar, for its 65th anniversary episode on Apple Music. Listen to Strombo discuss this early Cash music and get a better appreciation for the legacy of his career.

Find New Favorites and Expand Your Horizons With Apple Music

With huge, wide-ranging collections of playlists and stations available on Apple Music, you have lots of options for finding more of the music you like and expanding your tastes. Once you understand the differences between playlists and stations, it becomes a lot easier to navigate the app and much more fun to explore.

For even more new music, check out Apple Music’s Up Next section to discover the newest exciting artists that are about to hit the charts.

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