How to see what your friends are listening to on Apple Music

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Apple Music Friends
Friends don't let friends play ukulele.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple is famously bad at social networks. Unless you count iMessage, which is easily successful and popular enough to exist as a standalone business. Or iCloud Photo Sharing, which brings families and friends closer together every day. What’s that you say? Ping? Sure, that didn’t work out, but using it as your sole representation of Apple’s social efforts is lazy at best.

Apple, then, is pretty good at social stuff. It’s just that it’s hidden. For instance, now you can hook up with friends in Apple Music, and spy on what they’re listening to. How? Let’s see.

Apple Music Friends

You get a good amount of control over what you share publicly.
You get a good amount of control over what you share publicly.
Photo: Apple

To get to the Apple Music Friends section, open up the music app, and tap on your account profile icon (find it at the top of the screen in the For You tab). In this section, you’ll see a list of any friends you’re already following, plus a button that helps you Find More Friends. Tapping this will use the contacts stored in your address book to match up any folks on Apple Music that you may already know.

Your friends' music shows up right in the app.

If this is your first time using Apple Music Friends, then you should tap the Start Sharing with Friends to do just that.

If a contact is already using Apple Music Friends, then you can follow them right away. Just tap the follow button next to their name. Some of these contacts may be marked as “private.” If this is the case, then you will have to wait for them to approve you before you can follow them.

Below this section, you’ll find another list. This one shows all of your contacts who are using Apple Music, but who haven’t yet started sharing. If you’re feeling optimistic, you can tap the Invite button next to their names to invite them to start sharing.

To stop following a contact, long-tap (or 3D-Touch on iPhone) to bring up a menu that lets you block or unfollow them.

How to see what friends are listening to on Apple Music

Your friends’ music shows up right in the app.

Back in the main Music app, head to the For You section again. This is where you’ll see what your friends are listening to. This is where, for instance, I discovered just how much love our Cult of Mac editor Lewis Wallace has for ZZ Top and Blue Öyster Cult.

If you want to stalk a particular friend, then head back to your profile page, and tap the icon for that person. You’ll see a new page, showing you what they have recently listened to, and any playlists they have shared. This is where I found out that another Cult of Mac writer, Chris Ward, has surprisingly good music taste.

How to share playlists in Apple Music

When you create a playlist, you can choose whether to make it public. When you create a playlist, you can choose whether to make it public.

When you first start Apple Music Friends sharing, you are prompted to pick who can see what you’re listening to, and which of your playlists you want to share. You can also toggle the Listening To feature, which displays your current and recent tracks to friends. You can edit this section at any time by tapping the ellipsis (three dots) next to your profile icon, and tapping Edit Profile. I like to share one single playlist, with just one song in it: Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.

To share/hide any of your existing playlists to/from you profile, just find the playlist as usual, tap edit, and toggle the Show on My Profile and in Search switch.

Hoffsapce may be the best social network in history.
Hoffsapce may be the best social network in history.
Photo: The Hoff

Apple Music Friends might not be the new Facebook, or even the new HoffSpace, but it has its uses — aside from stalking, of course. If you have a friend with great music taste, you can learn about new music from them. And you can also us it as a way to actively share playlists with groups of friends. It’s super-limited, but that may actually be its strength. Check it out.