How to Use the Genius Mix feature in iTunes

Apple’s new iTunes 9 has a couple of nice new features. One of the nicest is called “Genius Mixes.” Previous versions of iTunes has Genius Playlists, which I knew about but never used because it didn’t seem all that groovy, but Genius Mixes are exclusive to iTunes 9– and they are very groovy.

Before we learn about Genius Mixes, let’s review Genius Playlists so we have something to compare to.

Genius Playlists
Millions of people use iTunes. Apple figures that, on average, people know how to group songs into collections (playlists) that sound good together. Apple lets iTunes users send information about the songs and playlists on their machines to Apple’s servers, and by now, a lot of people have done it. Thus, Apple has a pretty robust set of data from which to draw conclusions about which songs go together and which songs don’t. Apple will generate a list of songs that go together for you, based on any single song you choose, and that’s a Genius Playlist. The default is a 25-song list (pulling from songs you already own) but Genius Playlists can be up to 100 songs long.

Obviously, you’re going to get different Genius Playlists when you choose different songs as starting points. Choosing the “proper” song to use as a starting point becomes a Very Important Thing.

Genius Mixes
Conceptually, a Genius Mix is a lot like a Genius Playlist, except there’s no 100-song limit (in fact, there’s no limit at all), and there’s no need to choose a song to base the playlist on, because Apple analyzes ALL of your songs, then groups them into “mixes” that somehow work together. Play a Genius Mix and the music plays forever, something like your own custom radio station. It’s a neat way to rediscover your music, and since it’s free, you may as well try.

There is no telling how your music will be “mixed” but Apple made four Genius Mixes out of mine: two Country-Western, one Classical, and one R&B. The more music you have the more mixes they’ll make, so don’t be surprised if you end up with more than four.

Enough talk. Let’s make it happen. Remember that Genius Mixes are an iTunes 9 feature: if you need iTunes 9, here’s a link to where you can get it.

Start up iTunes and choose “Turn on Genius” from the Store menu. (If “Turn on Genius” isn’t there, it’s already turned on. Skip down to Step Two.) You’ll get a window asking you (again) to turn on Genius, which you do by clicking a button, signing in to your iTunes Store account, agreeing to Apple’s terms, and finally clicking “Continue.”

Step Two: wait just a few moments as Apple analyzes your music, then click on one of the mixes. Here’s an example (one of mine).
Country Mix Genius Playlist
The Mix will begin to play as soon as you click it. You won’t see a list of the songs in the Mix so don’t bother looking. Just sit back, relax, and listen.

I didn’t think the Genius Mix would be all that interesting but I have changed my mind. Now I find myself turning to the Genius Mix rather than any of the playlists that I created by hand. It might turn out the same way for you. Give it a whirl and see.


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