With the release of iOS 11 and iTunes 12.7, you can now share your listening history and see what your friends are listening to. People can follow you, and you can follow them; or you can keep your profile private, approving those friends you want to allow to see what you listen to. But the whole process can be confusing. Here’s how to set up and used shared listening histories.
The first thing you need to de is set up your Apple Music profile. To do this, in iTunes, or in the iOS Music app, go to For You and click or tap your avatar. (This will just show a head and shoulders silhouette if you haven’t set up your profile.) Tap or click Edit.
You’ll see your name and username; if you haven’t yet set a username, you can do so here. (It’s an @ name, like on Twitter.)
If you want to add a photo, tap the avatar circle and choose Take Photo to take a photo with your iOS device’s or computer’s camera, or Choose Photo to pick a photo that’s in your Photos library.
If you look a bit lower on the screen, you’ll see an option Who Can Follow Your Activity. If you want it to be public, leave the default Everyone checked. If not, tap or click People You Approve. (If you stay private, you’ll get emails whenever someone wants to follow you; it’s up to you to accept them or not.)
Below that, you’ll find playlists that you’ve created with Apple Music, either on your iOS device or in iTunes. You can select the ones you want to share with others (by default none are selected). This is a good way to share your favorite music with friends, who will see the playlists and their contents, including any new music you add, but you don’t need to share playlists if you don’t want to.
The final option on iOS is Listening To; this is set to yes by default. If you don’t want people to see what you’re listening to (maybe you want to have a public profile, and share a playlist, but you don’t want people seeing everything you listen to), toggle this off. In iTunes, you make this change in the General preferences by unchecking Use Listening History.
When you’re done, your profile will look like this. Here’s mine showing some of what I’ve been listening to lately:
Now it’s time to find your friends, to follow them and to see what they’re listening too. Curiously, the way you search for people is using the standard Apple Music search; there’s no specific search for user profiles. Type the name of a friend into the search field in iTunes or in the iOS Music app. You’ll see live results as you search, and if, when you have finished typing your friend’s name, you don’t see a result, that doesn’t mean they’re not found. Tap Search or press Return. For some searches you’ll see a result saying Friend Name in People:
Tap the name to see their profile. You’ll see what they’ve been listening to, as I showed in the screenshot of my profile above. Tap or click Follow to follow them.
If you scroll down a bit, you’ll also see who’s following them, and who they are following. If you find a friend’s profile, you may find other people you know in these lists, and you can choose to follow them.
Back in the For You section, once you’ve started following a few people, you’ll see a Friends Are Listening To section, showing the albums or playlists people have listened to, with small avatar badges at the bottom:
You can tap any of these albums or playlists to start listening to them. When you do, you’ll see a Friends Who Listened section, showing which of your friends has listened to it.
Note that the listening history isn’t very detailed; it doesn’t say whether you’ve listened to just half a song on an album and didn’t like it, or if you accidentally clicked on something, listened to three seconds, then bailed. (I can see from my listening history that this is the case for several albums I sampled.) You won’t know whether your friends like (or love) the music you see, you’ll merely know that they listened.
It would be interesting if Apple were to expand this, to allow people to comment on what they listen to, but only if those comments are limited to followers. You don’t want to be reading a million comments about the latest Taylor Swift record… But that may make things too complex.
This is all fun and games, as long as you aren’t offended by what your friends listen to. If you have a music buddy, someone whose taste you trust and from whom you discover new music, this is a great way to find new tunes as you spy on their listening history. And your friends can benefit from your discoveries.
Note that you can share a link to your profile by tapping the … button, then Share Profile. If you want to follow me, I’m @mcelhearn.