How Do You Request Music Using Siri?

Originally published at: How Do You Request Music Using Siri? - TidBITS

Frustrated by how he’s using Siri, Adam Engst explains his approach to requesting music from HomePods to see if others have techniques they feel are more successful. Is the eventual answer generative AI?

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I still hugely miss the old “genius mix” feature where you could create a playlist of songs from your own library based off of any song. Radio stations are OK, but I want songs from my library, not random stuff from the entire streaming music universe.

Generative AI seems like a good way of recreating the feature – as you mentioned in the article, chatGPT can easily come up with a good list of songs for pretty much any query. These just need to be filtered to match what’s in your music library.

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If you were to say, “Hey Siri, play hard-driving workout music from the 1980s"

At least Siri didn’t pull this up:
Hard Drivin’ (1989) - YouTube


Siri is busted. It’s been working increasingly less well the last 18 months or so.

My first thought is about curation, You don’t have to make playlists, but you need to uncheck Christmas music if you don’t want to hear it. I would strongly suggest you also create a playlist of that music.

Curate by telling Sirii I like this when you hear something you like more than most of your library.

This will encourage Apple to create Adam’s station, which will include music you have liked and similar music. This can be called by name, or you can tell Siri to “play music I like,” which will only play Liked tracks.

If Siri plays something you don’t like, say “I don’t like this.”

Try thinking about playlists in broad categories; music for workouts, music for background listening, etc.

Possibly music by decade.


I agree with Lisa, the answer for me is playlists and curation. I do rely on curated playlists by Apple’s editors to introduce me to new music, I have a playlist called Apple Music Discoveries which I add new material to on an ongoing basis. Then as appropriate I add them to a Focus playlist or a Driving one etc.

I love music but I’m no expert, limited by the decades I grew up through and contexts I’ve lived in. And so I value good curators such as Apple’s, as well as those friends or DJs who guide us to listen to new material. There’s a couple of late evening DJs on our National radio station who consistently play interesting music, and yes, I use “Hey Siri, what am I listening to” and “Hey Siri, add this to Discoveries”.


I echo your complaints about Siri handling music, particularly when requesting albums and artists when driving the car and using my iPhone. It is a frustrating business and I have to keep my temper in check. After I give up on attempts to get make specific selections, I try “Hey Siri, play my music,” and then I get Siri wanting to go to Apple Music, to which I don’t subscribe, and the frustrations continue. I remain certain that the maze Siri creates is designed to push me into becoming an Apple Music subscriber. I am certain that Apple software engineers and the higher ups rarely venture into the real world.

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I had Apple Music (free with a purchase or upgrade of Fios…CRS kicking in) then let it expire. Now, Siri just handles my playlists or shuffle of my iTunes from the networked mac. But I mostly prefer getting music (new and ripped) to my phone, via iTunes store and syncing. Then I use BT for my headphones or earbuds while working. One time, I realized I had a soundbar that would airplay, along with my Homepods, and my Onkyo…so I could broadcast… well… Siri isn’t smart and I’m not getting too complicated just to listen to my music. Sign me up for Siri’s music handling, and while I’m here, iTunes Store is just most convoluted, complex, poorly designed system that is getting costly for songs and not good at finding my artists or similar based on previous purchases. Manually, I have more fun, but time, I don’t always have.

Very frustrating using Siri to play music. I have to pick my words carefully, in the right order, just to get it to find the right tune in my library. On iPhone. Many times it just says it will find me a link online. Apple has really dropped the ball on this one.

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I have been a tidbits reader since the beginning. I have never before logged in to comment, but this drives me so nuts I had to.

As others have said, playlists work. I’ve carefully named my playlist so the idiot Siri can’t mistake them for anything else.

One command I do like is, “hey Siri, play some music just for me”. This seems to play highly rated and or high play count songs.

What really drives me nuts is trying to get Siri to play radio stations. In the morning I want to hear my local NPR station and get the news, then sometime after that we listen to a local college station. Every day, we do the same thing. Every day. And Siri can’t do it.
if you ask for the call letters, KCRW, it seems to grab the W, and Siri plays a station that starts with a W, something from the east coast, some random format, country, news, rap, pop, whatever.
Ask for the station number, and again, you get some random station from somewhere in the world at that frequency, not the local one, not the one you played yesterday. What the heck.
What works is just trial and error. A mix of both name and numbers. Eventually, Siri will say, Here’s KCRW on Air, provided by I Heart Radio. And that’s the secret. In I Heart Radio, every station has a nickname. And you need to call the station exactly by that exact nickname for it to work.

I have them written down inside a kitchen cabinet door, but they do change from time to time.

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I only use Siri with music on my phone.

Recent updates have made it nearly impossible to get anything while driving. I get a grey image of a car then it goes back to doing whatever it was doing and ignores my music command.

I used to say “Hey Siri play music” and I would get my music shuffled. Now it may not do anything, or I may be told I don’t have any music.

Now I have to say “Hey Siri shuffle all songs”

I also have a difficult time playing an artist. I used to say “Play XYZ" (artist) and I’d get them all shuffled. Now if I say that I may get a song, or I may be told I don’t have anything by that artist.

So I have to say “Shuffle all songs by XYZ”

I’ve also gotten weird responses about songs not being on Apple Music (which I don’t have)

In general Siri has gotten pretty bad in the last year or two (IMO)

In my office I’m still streaming off an older iMac iTunes to BT speakers. There I either shuffle my entire library, or look at albums by artist and select them that way. The latter is how I grew up listening to music. Shuffle is still fun for me, I remember what a novelty it was when I first got an iPod. :)


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I’ve recently discovered under Radio in the Music app a station with my name on it.
I’ve started listening to it occasionally and it’s very good, though often a bit more mellow than I might be looking for. But again the selection is Very Good.
But this is on my phone and I’ve never yet figured out how to get Siri to play it.

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I had a similar experience. My radio station was really good for about a month before diverging into things I would never listen to. My genres in Music tend towards classic rock etc (I grew up on Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, Bowie, Stones, George Harrison and Beatles, and now live on FooFighters, U2, Buzzcocks etc).

Somewhere along the line Music started feeding me Diana Ross and Abba. No offence intended to those who enjoys these artists but I have no idea how they ended up in my radio station.

Agree with the Siri issues as well. I might say “hey Siri, play Foo Fighters” thinking it will play my preferred, downloaded Foo Fighters tracks but it delves off into Apple Music and plays things I’ve never heard of. I don’t understand why the default is to search the streaming services when I have all the music I want right here on my device.

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This, yes, this. Whether your subject is Siri or iTunes (or Music), Adam, they’re both cans of worms for me.

I refuse to use Siri, flat-out. I don’t need the aggravation. It does not learn. Siri is not adaptive, agile or reasonable/logical; I have no more time for it. What a waste of a good idea. Visiting friends who persist in “using” Siri (or Alexa) provide me with ironic humor, like reruns of the commercial “Can you hear me now?”… but it’s been years, come on.

Music, however, is horse of another color. You all are going to laugh at me, but the main purpose of my computer has been, and always will be, to listen to my music. Everything else is just bells & whistles, especially at this stage in my life. I like bells & whistles fine enough, fun stuff. But with over 25,000 song titles in my collection… you get the idea. I love music.

This whole discussion echoes, for me, arguments from years when curated radio was the thing. DJ’s were announcers, usually; program managers were the brains in the outfit and they all worked their butts off glad-handing A&R reps and labels to listen to huge variety of music. Like advertising, no one knew how it worked but a lucrative industry was made of it, and it swung the trajectory of our culture. One thing those guys taught me was to categorize and group artists, mostly intuitively, honing that sense - not necessarily with labels or names, but using colors or numbers to tag them with for retrieval. Retrieval being more important than acquisition, right? Yes, I spend time each week going thru my catalogues of music and books to refine and revisit, maybe like King Midas, ok. I had great hopes when Jobs and Apple came along and cultivated respect for intuition via GUI, but then they got business-happy and lost me.

our culture’s unwittingly made some potent choices to get us here. I miss good ol’ curated radio that not only played favorites but also sprinkled in similars. Today’s like a modern supermarket that’s got scads of aisles of the same thing in different boxes, netflixed into conformity, and most of us rotate our meals from a diminished palate. Radio’s gone now for the most part (and that which persists I support and listen to via iTunes or browser from afar, on my computer). Spotify, Pandora, iHeart, all suck - music on the cheap, algorithms replacing curation like self-serve gas stations and checkout stands: it’s just cheaper not smarter. Even Sirius XM kicked the bucket it had resurrected in the old days, fired the characters who were good at curating, and for the most part became the Walmart of streaming services. (Music, like most of the arts, is about passion; it should never hop into bed with business.) So, this is the bed we made; now just try to sleep in it.


Predictably (every reader uses Siri on mobile; only a few own HomePods), the responses are almost entirely about Siri controlling music on mobile. But while Siri is crap for controlling music on mobile, it’s horrendous controlling music on HomePod. It’s not just awkward or inadequate, it’s well and truly broken.

As Adam says, you can’t make it play genre, and you’ll grow tired of shuffled favorites. The only viable solution is Playlists, and they need to be huge so you don’t get bored.

So I created a “Jazz” playlist with everything tagged genre:jazz. I’ll eventually do the same for other craved genres. Maybe “Upbeat”. Maybe “Reflective”.

And I created a “Gutbucket” playlist with everything except spoken language, holiday music, random “New Music Tuesdays” promotional music, and anything else that might be weird shuffling in while friends stop by for drinks. That one gets a lot of play (on “shuffle”), and didn’t take long to set up.

Massive go-to playlists are the answer for creating ambiance. And to play an artist, you have no choice but to go to your phone (at least on HomePod).

Now if I can only figure out why my phone sometimes randomly disconnects from HomePod in mid-song…


On my way to climbing tonight I wanted to play the only Buzzcocks song in my library and had this dialog with Siri:
“Hey Siri, play Buzzcocks” —> starts playing song I’ve never heard and says “Playing Buzzcocks from Apple Music”.
"Hey Siri, play Buzzcocks from my library "—> plays another song I don’t know and says “Playing Buzzcocks from Apple Music”.
“F#@k me Siri” —> Sorry, I won’t respond to that :slight_smile:

All this while driving and it’s soooo distracting as to be dangerous. Siri (and Music) is seriously broken - essentially useless unless you do everything manually in playlists.


I am so glad I’m not the only one! I use Siri while driving, biking and washing dishes. I do not want to be touching the phone then!

Someone mentioned a personalized radio station? Are you subscribed to Apple Music to see that? I looked and don’t see one but I don’t have a subscription. I also inadvertently hit something and Lizzo started playing. As a 60s-70s classic rock junkie, I did not like that.

In the early iPod/iTunes days, I made playlists and they are still around on my phone. But that was when it was easy to manage your library on iTunes on a computer. Has it been improved? I have a Big Sur machine but honestly only use an older version on Sierra.

I miss the old radio stations that were in iTunes 10+ years ago. I used to pick up good songs from there at times (and easy to buy from there). Regular radio is a joke these days!


Some old-school radio fans here I see. Any good shows for music to check out?

Two I enjoy on this side of the Atlantic are:
The John Creedon Show -
The Mystery Train with John Kelly -

Yes! I’d forgotten about that feature, but that’s exactly what I want a lot of the time.

I do have a playlist of Christmas music, and it turns out that I have unchecked those songs (which explains why they’re grayed out in Music, which was confusing me for a bit; since songs no longer in Apple Music are also grayed out).

My guess is that the occasional Christmas song that plays during shuffle is something I added more recently that isn’t tagged with the Holiday genre. I’m not sure there’s any way to find them other than searching/scanning the entire library. Ugh…

I do this when I particularly like something new, but otherwise it’s extremely haphazard because I never remember that I’ve done it and I feel silly potentially repeating myself.

This happens only when Siri completely biffs a request and plays something I truly hate. I never get so far as saying “I don’t like this,” because I’m usually yelling, “Hey Siri, STOP!” in an irritated voice to get it to shut up.

This has just never worked for me in my normal listening. Even when I can come up with a bucket in my head for such music (I can think of only one at the moment—music I listen to while doing physical therapy in the bedroom in the morning), I don’t have the time to select (and deselect) music for it. Decade doesn’t work for me for anything but the 1980s, though a fair amount of what I consider 80s music was really from the 70s. I might like some stuff from the 90s and later, but I have no sense of the temporal oeuvre.

I used workout music as an example because I do in fact control the music at a twice-weekly group workout at Ithaca College, but we use their computer and Spotify/Pandora setup. Pandora was halfway decent at starting automatic playback based on an artist, but Spotify seems largely random in that regard. Plus, I’m always working quickly on a staff Windows machine so it’s hard to focus on it. My current plan is to bring a Lightning-to-headphone adapter and plug into their sound system and then use Apple Music from my iPhone, since at least that will get rid of the ads and I’ll be able to control it from my Apple Watch if necessary.

This is an interesting thought—smart playlists that automatically collect certain genres in my library. I’ll have to see if they map to songs I’d want to listen to together.

So if you tell Siri you don’t like a song, does it stop playing it all together? Again this is in my library so one could question why I have a song in my library I don’t like? Answer is some songs I don’t like as much but they are good filler when working in the office where I listen to music more quietly.


I had my Christmas music on a separate Mac and old iTunes and would just bring it up during the holidays, but because I have iTunes Match, they are still out there in the cloud and play at odd times. I will try to uncheck them and see if that helps.