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iTunes 9 Genius: It’s in the Mix

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iTunes IconHaving spent a day with iTunes 9 and OS 3.1 on an iPhone and iPod touch, I find that I am completely smitten with a feature I pretty much completely ignored before yesterday. I’m referring to Genius, which hadn’t lived up to its name until this latest retooling.

Since upgrading to iTunes 9, I’ve used Genius Mixes exclusively on both my computer and my portable devices. Contrast this to the two or three times I ever used a Genius playlist since their introduction in iTunes 8.

Get Your Mix On

First, in case you’re like me, it’s possible you need a little help in getting your Genius Mixes set up in the first place. The key is that once you upgrade your iTunes installation, there’s one more step to take before they appear. Go to your “Store” menus, and click on “Update Genius.” Once Apple (s aapl) delivers your results, your new Mixes will appear in the source menu in the left-hand side of the iTunes window, right under the Genius atom icon.

Update GeniusClicking on it should reveal 12 squares with album cover composite images that show artists representative of the content found in each mix. I say should because I’m not sure if iTunes will necessarily generate all 12 for smaller library sizes, but you should at least have a few to choose from so long as you have more than a couple artists in your collection.

My Mixes

Individual mixes are named so as to give you an idea of what genre of music they contain. For example, some of my mixes are as follows:

  • Indie Mix — Based on: Death Cab For Cutie, Rilo Kiley, The Most Serene Republic, and others.
  • Hip Hop Mix — Based on: Kanye West, Common, The Fugees, and others.
  • Pop Mix — Based on: Ray LaMontagne, Rocky Votolato, Adele, and others.
  • Punk Mix — Based on: Rancid, Rise Against, Brand New, and others.
  • Country Mix — Based on Wilco, Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, and others.

Genius MixesMost of my mixes look like those above. Smart, clearly defined, and pretty much how I would’ve divvied up my library if I ever bothered to arrange tracks into genre groupings. A few seem like collections of assorted odds and ends Apple couldn’t quite fit into the other categories. All are admittedly interesting, and most importantly, useful ways of sub-dividing my music collection, though.

How Well Does it Work?

Playing through these mixes, I found that Apple has indeed improved their Genius engine, since the results were much more impressive than they’ve ever been using Genius playlists based on a single song. My collection is diverse enough that I don’t always want to just turn on iTunes DJ, but a Genius Mix sets the mood perfectly for parties, for work, for working out, or just for relaxing.

Apple still needs to make some improvements before I’m completely sold, though. As of right now, you can only view your mixes in Grid mode, and only the track currently playing is visible. To see what’s coming up next, you actually have to fast forward to the next song. While it’s kind of exciting not knowing what’s in store, I’d much rather be able to see a playlist like in iTunes DJ or in classic Genius mode.

I also don’t like how you have to specifically select the playlists in your Audio settings and sync your iPhone or iPod in order to get Genius Mixes on your device. Genius should be able to analyze the content you already have on your iPhone or iPod and create Genius Mixes specific to the device. Maybe this doesn’t affect people whose libraries match on both, but my computer-based music collections far exceed the capacities of my mobile devices.


As for Genius recommendations, I do find that they’re much better than they were when they were first introduced. Of course, Apple’s had a year to collect data from millions of users to make things better, so it would be more remarkable if there wasn’t any noticeable difference in the returned results. Also, Genius will always be a subjective thing, so it’s hard to determine the efficacy of results beyond just the size of the catalog of artists available.

How are you finding your experience with Genius Mixes? Is Apple’s recommendation and organization engine finally worthy of its moniker?

95 Responses to “iTunes 9 Genius: It’s in the Mix”

  1. i am experiencing some trouble with my genius mixes on my ipod touch (just updated to 3.1.1):
    there are 9 mixes on my ipod
    – elektronic
    -heavy metal
    -rock 2
    -post hardcore
    -rap & hiphop
    the problem is that only heavy metal, rap & hiphop and metal are working, with the others when you press the mix you want to play, the ipod says “onbekend onbekend onbekend” wich is dutch for unknown unknown unknown.

    does anybody know how this is possible and even more important how can i fix it?

    thanks in advance
    (reactions can be send to my email address: [email protected])

  2. Disappointing. Of my 12 mixes I ended up with two “soundtrack” and two “holiday.” Holiday mixes are fine at Christmas time, but not something I want to listen to year round. And the very idea of a mix of random tracks from different soundtracks seems stupid to me. I would never listen to a mix like that. And I have not one, but TWO of them. I’m not sure why, as soundtrack albums certainly don’t make up 1/6 of my library. If there were some way to exclude certain genres from the process this feature might be more useful. Or not. The more general mixes don’t make much sense either. Although they are labeled as rock, country or folk the contents are a jumble of all kinds of songs (including even MORE Christmas songs!). At the very least there should be a way to delete a mix completely and let Genius try again.

  3. @mark, I don’t exclude exactly a 3%. It’s just an estimate. I meant there are certain songs I don’t want in my iPod, though I want to keep them in mi lib.

    And genious mixes are based on the whole lib, making iTunes sync songs I don’t want to be synced.

  4. Genius mixes are not working for me I have tried e erything to turning off genius and turning it back on to updating genius, but still no genius mix option in the sidebar. I have 150 songs with different artists. So please HELP me to get genius working.
    Thank You,

    • this is what i’m finding too
      i have around 6000 songs and am hearing the same song multiple times in the mix within an hour or less
      could be dups?

      also, is there an easy way to mark a new song with those lovely stars? without clicking on the drop down menu? one really nice thing about genius mixes is i am hearing music i didn’t know (remember) i had….

      i am enjoying these mixes nicely even if i wish it would have given me a few more genres …must have to do with my unorganized library?

  5. Speaking of iTunes 9 (though, sorry, not about Genius mixes), there appears to be a rather serious bug in the way it sorts songs (see There are a number of fairly ugly workarounds, though none too satisfactory as best I can tell. Hopefully this _is_ a bug, rather than something intentional on the part of Apple (a campaign to add more info to their info, maybe?).

  6. Juan Pablo

    I actually have a problem with the Genius Mixes. I like progressive rock and metal.
    First off, they don’t work nicely or me. In ‘Progrssive Metal Mix’, I’ve got Dream Theater and Yes, Tool and Phil Collins.
    So i decided to ignore these. But then, while looking through the mixes on mi iPod, i foun that when you play one of the mixes, no song is displayed, and the iPod displays ‘Unknown’ in Artist, Song Name, and Album, showing the song as 1 of 0.
    Afterwards, i noticed that Dream Theater’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings had wound up with one of the mixes’ composite artwork image as artwork. Also happened for Porcupine Tree’s The Incident Medley.

    Any fixes?

  7. I’ve been playing around with the genius mixes for a couple of days since upgrading to iTunes 9. I like the feature, but it has a ways to go before I’ll be really happy with it. The biggie for me is that I can’t see the mix playlist while in iTunes. I also have the problem that my iTunes library far exceeds what I sync to my iPod — I sync only selected playlists (and now with iTunes 9, also selected artists now and then). A couple of other things I am wondering:

    1) Does it base the mix composition on the genres I am using to categorize my music or the genres it think my music fits into? My mixes seem to be very heavy on “rock” (8 of 12 mixes) even though my library is not nearly that stacked toward generic rock — actually it is heaviest on Alternative and Indie, but I have no mixes with those labels. However I use the genre field for *very* broad genres (i.e. “rock”) and then use the grouping field for sub-genres (i.e. “alternative” and “indie”), which I am thinking could throw it off, unless it is not even using my categorizations.

    2) Is there a way to see/get to the track info on the “now playing” song in a genius mix? This would be a much more useful feature to me if I could rate unrated tracks while listening, but I am not seeing how to see the current rating and/or set a rating while playing a mix track. It would also be nice to be able to see the album name, year, etc. instead of just the song name and artist that I am seeing in the player bar. Maybe I am just missing it?

    3) Would also like a way to exclude certain playlists from genius mixes, or even a feature that would allow you to mark something as “do not include this track in future mixes” when it is playing in a mix.

  8. I think the mixes are good – 3 pop, 2 rock and 1 R&B, which is pretty much the division of my library (I have occasional soundtrack or instrumental but mostly pop/rock). I still use normal Genius playlists with the limit at 100 for some things though.

  9. coffeedude

    You know I have had the same problems as the guy before me. I like Genius mix because I have about 5000 songs in my library and I haven’t listened to everything so it has introduced me to a lot of stuff I didn’t know i liked….however it also shows me a lot of stuff I don’t. For instance, why does my comedy MUSIC genre have Dane Cook, and led zeppelin? I guess they’ll work out the kinks..hopefully. Also the fact that you can’t effect ANYTHING about the mix, not even the name or how they are viewed, is just plain stupid in my opinion. These are my only qualms though, overall I do like the scope of music it gives me. :) Right now I have 3 rock, 2 punk, 2 alternative, rap/rock, classic rock, classical and soundtrack. This is pretty good except i do have a lot o other music that would form great mixes too, like electronica or dance. Anyway, those are my two cents.

  10. My library ist not so diverse, but i have a lot of music, the probolem with it is that it made wierd comnbinations, for examnple i have a trance list, and it says: base on lady gaga, donna summer, beegees, wtf??????????????? lol, this is what i got?

    3 trance mixes
    2 alternative
    2 rock
    2 pop
    1 spanish classics
    1 80’s
    1 R&B

  11. zenarcade70

    I am totally in love with Genius mix. My library is pretty eclectic and here is what I got :
    4 rock mix , 2 goth mix, 2 pop mix and 1 tristesse mix.

    iTunes 9 is a big upgrade for me. I am happy Happy !

  12. I’m enjoying the Genius Mixes, even though it has given me 4 Gospel & Religious mixes, when the Gospel & Religious genre can be broken down into sub categories of different styles, such as Rock, Pop, Hip Hop/Rap, R&B, etc. I might have to change my Genre listings in iTunes, even though I like to use the Genres iTunes gives to each album. My Country mix came out good. Country is country.

  13. Considering I seem to have a rock band in a rap mix, I think Genius Mixes still leave a lot to be desired. Also, as iTunes seems to tag anything as “Alternative & Punk” if it doesn’t know what it is, I’ve ended up with 5 of that particular mix. Even after fixing the genres, it changes nothing. It’s pretty poor in my opinion.

  14. @Darell
    You can see the numbers/playlist of your Genius-mixes if you turn your iPod/iPhone to make the coverflow visible :-)

    Does anyone know how to disable live-albums and mix-albums from the Genius, Genius-mixes and iTunes DJ? This is awesome!

  15. I agree with you on the problem when your library is bigger that your iPod capacity… in a way. My problem is similar but no because of capacity but because I have a set os songs ( ’bout 3% of my lib ) that I don’t, ever, wanna sinc to the iPod, so I allways sync the iPod with a smart playlist that excludes those songs, giving 97% percent of my lib.

    Well, gen mixes are allways based on the whole lib, making those excluded songs to sinc into the iPod.

    It would be great if you could make a exclude list for gen mixes, or base a gen mix on a playlist.

  16. Rob Scott

    I have been using the Genius feature since, so Genius Mixes is a huge improvement for me. On a small library it does not work that well, so last night I had to add 25GB worth of music to my work PC for it to work. It is great, I love it.

  17. I like the Mixes – definitely something I’m going to use more often than the old version of Genius playlists. The feature doesn’t seem to be working quite right for me though…

    Out of ~11 GB of music, iTunes gives me 9 mixes. 5 of them are rock, plus one classical, one vocal, one pop, and one soundtrack mix. That’s about right for my tastes, so I’ll give it credit there. But the problem is that the “Vocal Mix” isn’t actually vocal music… it seems to be mostly my instrumentals, in fact! I double checked to see that my songs didn’t have the wrong genre on the files or something, but no cigar… Very weird. It’d be nice to be able to customize the mixes, for instance to create an Alternative Rock genius out of my Rock mixes (like a previous reviewer said), but so far I do like the mixes it’s been putting together. Thanks, Apple!

  18. One thing I really don’t like about the new iTunes is the green/zoom button no longer switches between fullscreen and miniplayer, just makes the full screen larger or smaller… a bit useless. You now need to use Command+Shift+M to do the same job.

  19. Genius, while a nice feature still fails for me. The mixes are a nice addition but iTunes makes them too diverse. I might aswel just play the library with shuffle on and get a better mix then.

    So for me, no genius…

  20. I just turned on Genius for the 1st time last night after upgrading to iTunes 9.

    As someone who has stayed away from the feature but gladly used Pandora, I have to say that I LOVE the Genius Mixes. I have a nice selection of 3 Rocks, 2 Punks, 2 Soundtracks, 1 Country, 2 Alternative, maybe something else.

    I didn’t have them synced to my iPhone, so I’ve been using the 1 song Genius feature while mobile today, and, like Pandora, it fits my needs very well. Except its all songs from my library and I don’t have to skip through the odd song on Pandora that I just can’t stand (stop recommending Foo Fighters already!).

  21. I’m rather disappointed. Genius gave me 8 rock, 1 RB/Soul, 1 Pop, 1 Hip Hop/Rap, and 1 Soundtrack. I have scads of country, alternative, and instrumentals (which are all probably higher in counts than soundtracks) but none of those made the Genius cut. I would not say that rock comprises three-fourths of my collection.

    I hope that they figure out a way to show us the mix libraries as well. Basing it on cover art, I have to agree with Carrie that some of the contents don’t really make sense. Dido is in there with John Lennon? I wouldn’t put those together. Nor Men at Work and the Go-Gos. But like you said, it’s subjective, and really, more of the compilations make sense than don’t.

    Plus, you can still use Genius in the old way, by clicking on a song and then clicking on Genius, which did make sense and still does.

    Live up to its name? For the most part, I’d still have to say no. I’d be sold if I had every genre well represented. Then the odd-ball song/artist in the mix wouldn’t bother me at all. I mean, it’s my music, so I like all of the songs (well, not Dido; she belongs to my daughter!).

  22. Adam Jackson

    I just noticed that you can sync those mixes back to the iPhone.

    “update genius”
    click on iPhone / iPod
    music tab

    Select certain genius mixes that you want synced to the device Really great way to auto-fill my iPhone w/o much effort!

  23. I have to agree that the mixes feature is awesome in the fact that it takes the guess and labor work out of doing it. But personally, in my experience with the iPhone Genius Mixes (are they different than desktop – I thought it all depended on music?) the selection of music went down. I would shuffle five or six times and hear the same song twice or three times. Very poor job and not much shuffling either.

  24. i feel the total opposite. genius playlists were much more what i was looking for than genius mixes. my mixes are so random and include so many songs i don’t think are relevant to each other, my collection isn’t that eclectic either (i mean it made rock mixes 1 through 6).