Apple shouldn’t inject ads into its Apple Music playlists

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There are now ads for first-party Apple radio shows in the paid Apple Music service – and there absolutely shouldn’t be.

The ads themselves appear to be first-party spots advertising Apple One radio shows. However, they do not appear in a Beats or Apple One radio program, nor do they appear in user-saved playlists.

Instead, ads play between songs in auto-generated or curated playlists, such as those for specific genres. And it doesn’t matter whether they are selected with Siri or via the touch interface.

AppleInsider tested behavior with users who paid for Apple One subscriptions and the Apple Music family plan, and received several commercials for radio shows in automatically generated and curated playlists. We tested in the US and UK, and had the interstitial inserts in both regions.

Examples of commercials we received on Apple Music.

Inserts apparently started showing up in Apple Music for a number of users at some point after the cheaper $4.99 voice plan was introduced. However, ad spots still display for subscribers at a higher level.

Humans running a channel need a break for whatever reason. We know, because some of the AppleInsider staff have had live radio gigs before. We will gladly take and accept announcements on this type of programming.

While the ads in the algorithm-generated stream are skippable, they’re still annoying — and unexpected — for listeners who pay a premium for music from an unmanned channel.

What’s going on with ads in Apple Music playlists?

There are two possible explanations here. The feature may be a bug affecting playlists when they should only appear on radio stations. Even though the feature started appearing after the launch of Voice Plan, Apple announced that this cheaper plan was also ad-free, so there’s no excuse for this plan to have first-party ads.

The second explanation is that Apple does not consider these ads at all. He can consider them as part of his curation strategy or as a “discovery” feature. There is evidence of this, as ads for relevant radio shows will appear in genre playlists.

Either way, the behavior must stop. Apple cannot advertise Apple Music as ad-free if it keeps those ads in the service. These may be first-party “Discovery” announcements, but they are still announcements.

One of the main draws of Apple Music is the fact that it’s an ad-free streaming platform, unlike the free tiers of Spotify and Pandora. Apple Music isn’t free either – you’re paying for the fact that you don’t have to listen to commercials.

Showing first-party ads to customers is also not a good look as Apple faces antitrust criticism. Apple is growing its first-party ad business, but has repeatedly denied claims it seeks to boost that segment while crippling rivals with privacy features.

Apple is unlikely to maliciously stifle its competition in the advertising market, given the small size of its own advertising business and its pro-privacy stance. However, placing your own ads in an exclusive ad spot in a paid service is bad optics.

The fact that these ads appear in playlists is unacceptable. A “discovery” commercial for a radio show makes sense for radio listeners, but not for people who just want to listen to music without an annoying commercial interrupting them. Apple shouldn’t even have these ads in its cheaper Apple Music Voice plan unless it explicitly stops advertising the service as ad-free.

If Apple wants to place ads for its own radio shows in Apple Music, then it needs to set up a free tier with access to playlists, tracks, albums, and songs. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea for Apple, although it seems unlikely given the company’s desire to offer a premium service. Of course, the advertisements do not belong to an “ad-free” service, even if they are proprietary advertisements.

Apple should offer a completely ad-free premium service, including Apple’s own, which costs money every month, like Apple One, Apple Music Family Plans, or Apple Music Single User. It should also have a cheaper tier like Apple Music Voice with those interstitials, or it can have a free and heavily ad-supported tier like Spotify’s free plan.

AppleInsider is engaged in a conversation with Apple about this. We will update this article accordingly as information comes in.

We hope this is unintentional behavior.

George L. Hernandez