Apple Music Lobotomizes Siri

So at the start of the year, I decided to sign up for Apple One. It seemed like a good way to get access to Arcade (to get some games for my kid and myself that weren’t full of ads and in-app purchases) and News+ (which includes my local paper and some other good publications). The expanded iCloud storage space is great–I can actually have devices back to up to iCloud now.

What’s killing me is Apple Music. I have an iTunes library of almost 15,000 songs, mostly ripped from my CDs but with a number of iTunes store purchases. I have a 256 GB iPhone to allow me to have my music with me, and my new-ish Civic has CarPlay. It used to be great–I could use either the car’s voice control button or (later) “Hey Siri” and request music and have it played.

Since activating Apple Music, that process has gone completely to hell. Siri seems to have no idea of what music might actually be stored on the phone. At first, I could play an album using the phone controls or the CarPlay interface, but if I asked Siri to play the exact same album I would be told that it couldn’t be played because I didn’t have cellular data enabled for music streaming. I have tried adding the words “from my library” to various places in my requests to Siri, and it generally does nothing.

If I ask for a specific song, I can often get it–but after the song, instead of continuing on with the album, it goes to whatever the Apple Music algorithm might think is appropriate.

If I ask for one of my specific playlists, using a phrase like “Play the playlist ‘Five Star’ from my library, shuffled”, Siri goes to Apple Music and shuffles something called “Kill Rock Stars/5RC Experimental”.

(1) Is there any way to turn off Apple Music on a single device, so that I can get my phone to work correctly with my music library and just pretend I don’t have Apple Music on it?

(2) Is there anyone who has a decent music collection and a subscription to Apple Music and who has figured out how to use Siri to play music from the library?

At this point, my inclination is to just cancel my Apple One subscription, get separate subscriptions for Arcade, News+, and iCloud space, and live life without any access to Apple Music. That would be slightly cheaper per month, although there is some stuff the kid listens to from Apple Music that I’d need to purchase from the iTunes store.

Am I missing something? What I’d really love is to have Tim Cook ride around in my passenger seat for fifteen minutes to witness how bad this implementation is, but I’m afraid that’s not likely to happen.

Dave Scocca

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You should send exactly your text in an email to


He reads 600-800 e-mails a day and devotes two hours to this every morning. Write to Tim and you’ll get a phone call from an Apple executive. They all get called on by Tim to listen to customers. Apple says they get their best ideas from customers.

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I believe that you should be able to turn off Settings / Music / Sync Library and then use iTunes to sync your music over from a computer to the phone.

Sorry that I can’t help, that’s not something that I do. I do have “Sync library” turned on for my phone. I generally just open the Music app, choose one of my playlists, and hit random play and let it go. That said, I just tried it (“Hey Siri, play the album All the Roadrunning by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris”). After a brief “still working” it asked me to choose which app to use (“Apple Music”). Some more “still working”, but then it started playing the album fine.

Then I said “Hey Siri, play the playlist My Mix on Apple Music” and that worked, too. (My Mix is a smart playlist of all songs that I’ve rated four or five stars.)

I haven’t tried any of these while driving, though. (I do have cellular data turned on for the app, as my 64 GB phone is getting tough if I depend on only downloaded music.)

I have 6531 songs in my library. I’d say that well over 90% is ripped from CD, plus a number of iTunes purchases, plus just a few songs or albums that I’ve added from Apple Music since subscribing.

It has nothing to do with Apple Music. I don’t have a subscription and Siri (on my iPod Touch, which has all my music) refuses to look anywhere else. This is with the latest iOS.

When I told Siri “Play Kansas Song For America”, it wanted to access Pocket Casts (my podcast app) and then said it couldn’t find anything.

When I said “Play the music album Kansas Song For America”, it said that it couldn’t find the album in my Apple Music library. It didn’t even try to look in the local music library.

I’m afraid Apple has decided that Siri will only permit playing music through a paid-up streaming subscription. And it looks like they slipped in this change via an iOS update, whether or not you have an Apple Music subscription.

And the old Voice Control (that used to run when Siri is disabled) doesn’t seem to exist. At least not in a usable form - it seems to be relegated to an assistive service that runs as a part of Siri instead of as a standalone (non-networked) way to send commands to apps.

So when I’m driving, I’m at the mercy of my radio’s controls, which are pretty bad.

You mght try Apple Shortcuts on iOS. You can write a command and assign a Siri voice command to it.

But you are correct on Mac OS I can use Firefox in place Safari, Airmail in Place of Apple Mail and Google Maps in place of Apple Maps

But we’re stuck when it comes to media players. But Shortcuts is coming to mac OS Monterrey soon.

Write to Tim Cook and bitch with passion.

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Have you tried going to Settings > Music and disabling Show Apple Music? I’ve done this and Siri seems to work ok in playing my music (also mainly ripped from CDs), but I don’t have an Apple Music subscription, so don’t know if that changes anything.

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OK. This is even weirder. I disabled Siri on my iPod Touch and then re-enabled it and now it seems to be playing the local music collection, but it appears that you need to phrase your request as Siri would like it, which isn’t always convenient.

For instance “Play Kansas Song For America” fails. But “Play Song For America by Kansas” works, as does “Play the album Song For America” or “Play Song For America from the album Two For The Show”.

So it appears I was wrong about Siri only working with Apple Music (at least when Apple Music is disabled on the device), but it is still pretty awkward having to phrase you requests the way Apple wants.

Unfortunately, it still doesn’t help me when driving because as an iPod Touch, it needs to be on a Wi-Fi network for Siri to do anything and I don’t want to tether it to my phone.

This is, unfortunately, the reality of Siri. She doesn’t actually understand spoken language. Talking to her as if she does will frequently give unexpected and unhelpful responses.

Siri tries to parse what you say and find the right interpretation, but the way you word things matters. “Play Kansas Song for America” is actually a somewhat ambiguous request; there’s no clear break between title and artist. “Play Song for America by Kansas” is easier to parse, because “by” implies that what follows it is the artist, so Siri can reasonably guess that the part before “by” is the title.

In either case, Siri doesn’t actually know that “Kansas” is an artist until she finds that in an Artist tag on a song. So providing that contextual identification makes things easier. (She doesn’t actually know what an “artist” is—she just knows that the label in an Artist tag represents an “artist”, whatever that is.)

When AIs get things right, it can seem like they actually understand things the way a human might. They don’t. None of them do. They know only the patterns they’ve been taught to parse, and the responses to those patterns that they’ve learned.


So if I swear at Siri and call her stupid it doesn’t hurt her feelings?

I know I can say “feedback” when she gets it wrong and repeat what I tole her and her answer and that gets listened to by a human.

I understand this, but it seems to me that Siri should be at least as good as search engines at this sort of thing. If I type “Kansas Song For America” into Google or DuckDuckGo or any other search engine, I get nothing but hits on the song.

Siri should be at least as good, since it is using Apple’s cloud services for its back end. When you say “Play”, it could easily perform a search across its databases (e.g. the Apple Music server) to identify likely candidates and then check to see if your local collection has any of those songs.

Clearly, it wasn’t written this way and is really just a front end for a scripting language. Probably doesn’t even use AI for more than the speech-to-text conversion.

The requests aren’t equivalent. With a search engine, it’s just looking for the search terms; it doesn’t need to interpret what they reference. Google doesn’t care whether “Kansas” is an artist, a song title, the state, or my dog. It’s just looking for web pages that reference those words, and virtually every web page that references “Kansas Song for America” is going to be referring to the song. It’s not that Google “knows” that phrase references a song—it’s the web content it finds that “knows”.

When you ask Siri to play something, you’re asking for a specific action performed on a file whose metadata is in separate fields. To Siri, it matters whether “Kansas” is an artist or part of the song title, because those are different fields. If you were instead to ask Siri, “What is Kansas Song for America?”, you’ll likely get results more similar to Google’s.

I agree 100% that Siri should be able to parse “Play Kansas Song for America” accurately, and clearly its algorithms aren’t up to that. But the algorithms to properly parse that kind of request are by nature different from those for a general search.



I have tried adding the words “from my library” to various places in my requests to Siri, and it generally does nothing.

I believe “from my music” is the magic incantation you need.

I’ve always found it frustrating that Siri requests default to streaming instead of local music, which you’d think would be the obvious first choice since that’s what’s been explicitly saved into my library. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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When Apple Music (iTunes Match?) was released years ago I found out the hard way that syncing with my local library was a disaster with playlists destroyed and songs going missing. I had to restore my library from a backup and avoid the temptation to sync with my library.
It seems that not much has changed!
To avoid driver distraction I don’t use Siri to select music while driving as I am likely to have to stop Siri doing whatever it has decided to do.
I have a large “car” playlist and set the iPhone to play songs at random from it. I can use the fast forward button on the steering wheel to skip tracks.

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I have nearly 100k of music as an x DJ back in the 80’s & 90’s I had a lot of albums and then a lot more cd’s - ripping and or digitizing them is still going on but I have less than 100 left - in any case I have suffered the above results with duplicated tracks and playlists to the point that returning to Mojave and restoring then starting a new iTunes library and then syncing so that with iTunes Match I can play all my music shuffled and that’s true on any device - my issue currently is - I cannot get my home pods to play music shuffled from my library or iCloud music library or whatever - I created a smart playlist of “My Music” and it will not play it - I have to play it from one of my Apple TVs and add the stereo pair of home pods to it so that the automations in home work - when I leave music stops - when I get home it comes on - when I go to bed it stops when I get up its on - my other issue since the last update is that my music library which used to play continuously randomly for nearly a year without having to be restarted is not getting restarted almost daily - there must be a time limit on the playlist or library as it seems to take a random number of songs to create a shuffled playlist and if your gone from the car for too long it has to be restarted with a new loading then play and sometimes it repeats a song even tho repeat is turned off - I’ve heard more AC/DC in the last year than I have in 10 years and its frustrating - they have replaced my home pods - had me buy a new router and after multiple videos and screen shots of the phone and pictures of the home pods and videos of same being uploaded and nearly a year of significant effort for me I am told eventually “its a known Issue” - no it will be fixed with this update - no your os is too old which they tried when I downgraded from Catalina to Mojave but “its a known issue” - that is not apple under jobs - that is the new apple that we have to suffer with as a little bit better than the many iterations that fall under the windows platform - just my rant since I saw the Siri and iTunes title - I am still enjoying the automations of the home app and shortcuts orders my coffee from Starbucks pretty well and when I say I’m being pulled over - 5 people get a notice with the video to follow so - there is a lot to cheer for and hope it eventually comes together in a cohesive working machine!

forgot to say apple music and iTunes Match are two different things and must be purchased together - when I exceeded the 100K limit they blamed that on me and altho they initially insisted that apple music didn’t count against that 100K limit once all apple music was deleted my library started working again - so - adding iTunes Match to your Apple One subscription might allow you to play all your music shuffled or however you want to play it from your phone as a streamed service from iCloud - I get that having local music which I do on external drives at home that I can take to a party and play from my laptop blah blah blah - the music streaming service allows for much more than it used to and data is not affected such that most plans are unlimited and I occasionally get notified of my possibly reduced speed if I exceed such and such but I’ve never exceeded that limit with AT&T so - just some considerations and thoughts - enjoy!

this is why I’ve (reluctantly) maintained 2 libraries: one with over 100k tracks is on my desktop Mac, and is available on my local network, and a second smaller library on a laptop & external drive that uploads to iTunes Match etc., available wherever WiFi is available, and for use with a HomePod/AppleTV setup etc.

A pain, sometimes, but at least I know my main carefully curated library won’t get messed up (by Apple anyway).

Recently I noticed that when I was looking at the song view in my Music library on my iOS devices that the song names were all messed up, with weird, random names. However, the album view of the songs always showed the proper names, and the iTunes and Music app libraries on our MacOS machines were all fine. I tried a lot of different things to try to fix this, but the only fix that worked was to delete the songs and re-rip them from CD. I spent the better part of May and June doing this for the 198 CDs that had this problem.

I now have an archive external disk stored in a safe place with a copy of my iTunes library and all of the media files in case this happens again.

I have no idea how, why, or when this happened, or whether it’s an issue of iCloud Music Library or iTunes Match, but I’m hoping whatever it was never happens again.

I hear ya and did the same for years - then became trusting and wanted my whole library available everywhere I went - not just on wifi but cellular on any device so - altho it has been a pain to keep collated and or organized after getting messed up its still all there - lucky my backup of the main library quickly got disconnected when I saw the main library was toasted - didn’t re connect the backup until restored and then resumed copy nightly as I make changes typically daily to media one and media two is for backup of one which is the one that gets disconnected whenever an os update goes wrong - as for the wrong items displaying with your music re “Doug Miller” - I see that fairly frequently and assume its apples side of the issue as I don’t have it anywhere else - they put the wrong album cover on 10% of my albums - mostly the uploaded ones even tho I have put the correct one on my desktop in iTunes - they choose their own album cover to display on mobile so I just ignore it - never had the characters or spelling etc of the artists names go wonky on me - glad too as my only recourse is to use my back up of the main library to reset iTunes to its former glory - I update iCloud music library several times a day tho so it stays fresh!

  1. Not to my knowledge.
  2. I use other apps. The other apps still have (most of ) the access to your local library but don’t have access to Apple Music so they, (notably Cesium, but I use several others), just behave the way Music used to. (I’m not sure about Siri. I (almost) never use it.

You didn’t mention it, but it’s now exceedingly difficult to actually buy music from Apple, I’ve discovered. I’m ready for some other service, frankly.