How to Fix iTunes, Part 9: Gifting Playlists

(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series. If you have any particular gripes about what needs to be fixed in iTunes, drop me a line.)

Back in iTunes 4.5, Apple added a music discovery feature to iTunes. Called iMixes, these were playlists that users were able to create, and then publish to iTunes. There was a section of the iTunes Store which grouped them; you could search among them, and preview their contents, to discover the music that other people liked. You could also buy an entire playlist with one click.

To create and publish your own iMixes, you would just select a playlist, then choose Store > Create an iMix, add a title and a description, and it would be published to iTunes. You could even publish your iMixes to the web, to show people what kind of music you liked.

But when iTunes 11 was released, iMixes were gone, and there was no longer a way to gift a playlist. Now, if you want to send a playlist to a friend as a gift, you need to send them an iTunes gift card, and instruct them to download the songs you want them to hear. You also need to tell them the order in which to listen to them, if that’s important. Or, you can gift individual songs. In other words, instead of being able to send a digital mix tape to a friend, you have to give them detailed instructions on how to do it themselves. Obviously, all the romance is gone with this method.

Gift songYou can give individual songs as gifts, but if you have a mixtape you want to send with, say, twenty songs, it’s a bit of a slog to do this. Your friend will get twenty emails, each one with a link to a song, and they’ll have to download them all, then put them in order.

Interestingly, Apple still has some documentation on the web describing iMixes, but designed for those with affiliate accounts (even though it no longer works). It explains the process as follows:

“Using an iMix is a great way to increase your affiliate commissions while providing users the ability to buy multiple songs with a single click. An iMix is a playlist published on iTunes to which you can send your traffic by using an affiliated link. With an iMix, the user can buy each song individually or, with a single click, buy the whole playlist.”

I don’t know why Apple removed iMixes. Perhaps they weren’t interesting enough; perhaps they were too complicated. Perhaps the fact that any songs that were in your library that weren’t on the iTunes Store didn’t show up in a published iMix made it too sketchy a feature.

I’ve gotten a number of emails from readers recently asking about this feature. Clearly there are some people who’d like to see it return. I never used it, but I can understand how some people like the idea. So, Apple should probably find a way to allow users to gift playlists again; if it can boost sales a bit, it’s certainly a good thing. My guess is they won’t; they’ll tell you that you will be able to share a playlist with the music streaming service that they’ll be announcing soon, and that will be enough.