Wednesday, July 12, 2023

How Do You Request Music Using Siri?

Adam Engst:

Usually, I like to offer solutions in TidBITS articles, but when it comes to the black box of controlling Apple Music using Siri, I have no sense that my approach is ideal. So I’m going to describe my frustrations, and I hope those of you who have different approaches that work well for you will chime in with suggestions.


The best roundup I’ve found is at Smartenlight, though it’s still not entirely satisfying. The article is from December 2019, and quite a few of the commands didn’t work or worked sporadically for me. Your mileage may vary.


With voice commands directed to a HomePod, though, I have to figure out what I want to listen to without any visual reminders that might trigger a positive—or negative—response, and I’m not happy with how well I’m doing that. I find that I listen to a relatively small subset of music simply due to the limited details I can bring to mind at any given time. Of course, I could pull out my iPhone and scroll through the Music app whenever I wanted to play music—and I do that occasionally, but it’s too much work most of the time.


But given that Apple doesn’t promote how it’s using machine learning to play the best music for you at any given moment, I suspect that it’s nowhere near what the company has done with computational photography and other ML-driven photography features.

It would be nice if HomePod supported Genius playlists. It doesn’t even support my regular playlists. Aside from general reliability issues, the main problems I have with Siri are that many music commands that work on my iPhone don’t work on HomePod and that it can’t answer questions about which music is available in my library. So I pretty much always request music from Marvis on my phone.


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It was a little less chaotic a decade ago.

Now, though, I have to make specially-named playlists before my mother can control music playback with Siri because playlist names like "Bedtime" trigger a "Sorry, you'll need to subscribe to Apple Music first" response. Playlist names like "banana" are fine. I'm sure there is some logic behind this but I shouldn't have to know that. Oh, and be sure to reboot between playlist updates, otherwise you'll get the "pay up" response no matter what.

Thanks, Apple.

Me, I've been using Cesium (and never Siri!) ever since the horror of the built-in iOS 9 Cesium is just like the pre-"Apple Music service"

I’d settle for “Hey Siri, list my playlists,” doing something useful.

“What playlist do you want to play?”

Stay silent and it asks you again.

“Hey Siri, tell me my playlists,” gives the same results.

It’s amazing. Apple Music and iTunes is a disaster. Like look up the band The Sounds, go to their albums, and tell me which one is not like the others. Just an absolute disaster. How can they be competitive with this?

(I have Music “free” until Oct from an AirPods purchase, then I’m back to the also flawed but single indie developer product that accesses your own music files via many clouds. Actually I used Astiga today instead of dealing with Apple, which isn’t uncommon.)

On a side note, I've seen drastic improvements recently when asking for an English song/playlist title with Siri set in French, and vice versa. It used to be comically bad, now it seems way harder to make it fail, but I need more time to confirm the extent of this apparent progress.

I’ve had a couple of HomePod minis for over two years and Siri seems to get worse every iOS update. The only useful thing it does now is to pause/play and change volume.

It simply boggles my mind that Siri has treaded water, at best, even after all these years. So glad I didn't buy into the Homepod hype.

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