Ask the iTunes Guy: Coping with iTunes features that have disappeared

Reader questions about explicit lyrics, how to shuffle music by artist, and AirPlay and Beats 1 radio.

laptop user

Whenever a new version of iTunes rears its head, new features are added, but also some features get cut. In this week’s column, I look at several of these features that are missing in action. In some cases—such as shuffling all music by an artist in the iOS Music app, or streaming Beats 1 radio over AirPlay—I offer a workaround. For another, I can only lament that certain useful features have been axed.

iTunes Radio and explicit lyrics

Q: My favorite part about iTunes Radio was that you could filter for explicit lyrics. Has that been removed?

iTunes Radio no longer exists as such; it is now called Apple Music Radio. And with the change, Apple cut out many of the features that I felt made iTunes Radio a really great service. In the past, you could:

  • Mark songs you didn’t like by choosing Never Play This Song.
  • Mark your favorite songs by clicking a ★ button.
  • Customize stations by choosing three levels of diversity: Hits, Variety, and Discovery.
  • Share stations, including the tweaks you made using the above features.
  • Turn off explicit lyrics.

Now, not only can you not customize stations, but many of the stations I had set up in the past no longer exist. I guess Apple wants you to use the “curated” playlists of Apple Music rather than iTunes Radio stations. The only stations that exist now are quite limited, though you can still create a station from a given song or artist. That station is merely a sort of genius mix based on the seed you choose.

Shuffle music by an artist on iOS

play next

Add an artist’s music to the Up Next queue by tapping Play Next or Add to Up Next

Q: I wanted to use my iPhone to play an artist and shuffle all their songs. That capability is now gone. It used to be that one could go to an artist, see all albums, pull down and select Shuffle All, and listen to all songs on all that artist’s albums at random. Are you aware of a work-around that can restore this feature?

If you tap the “...” button to the right of an artist’s name, you can tap Play Next, or Add to Up Next, adding their music to the Up Next queue. However, when you start playing the music, there’s no shuffle icon.

Not only has shuffle been removed for artists, but also for songs. You used to be able to shuffle all your songs by tapping Songs in the tab bar at the bottom of the window, and then scrolling down a bit to display the big, very visible Shuffle bar above your songs. But that is no more.

shuffle artist

You can finagle the Music app into playing music by an artist in shuffle mode. Note the shuffle button at the bottom of the screen.

You can, however, get the song shuffle to work, using this workaround, or using Siri, if your device supports the virtual assistant. Just tell Siri to “Shuffle music,” and your iOS device will start playing your music in shuffle mode.

With artists, this doesn’t seem to work. If I tell Siri to “Shuffle music by Hot Tuna,” it grabs music from Apple Music rather than from my iOS device. And even after I turned off Apple Music, it still played music that was not on my device. (That must be a bug...)

But I found a way to get this to work. Start playing any song or album, and then tap the shuffle icon. Switch to the Artists list, and tap “...” after an artist’s name. Tap Play next or Add to Up Next.

Tap the now playing strip near the bottom of the screen, above the tab bar. You’ll see that the shuffle button is visible, and engaged, and the Music app plays songs by that artist in shuffle mode. You cannot, however, turn off shuffle.

This is odd behavior, and it’s probably a bug.

AirPlay and Beats 1 radio

Q: When I am at home I play music from iTunes and stream it to my stereo via AirPlay. However, when I select the Beats 1 radio station the AirPlay control disappears and I can only play it through my computer. As a workaround I can click on the volume control while holding down the Option key, and choose the Apple TV that’s connected to my stereo, but this directs all system sound to my stereo, including beeps, alerts, etc. Is this intentional? Is there any way I can stream just Beats 1 radio over AirPlay?

You’ve hit on something interesting. I use AirPlay a lot too, and I was quite surprised when I first noticed this behavior. Once you start playing Beats 1, the AirPlay icon disappears from the iTunes toolbar. I don’t know if this is intentional, but I can’t imagine why this would happen if it weren’t a conscious decision by Apple; after all, you can stream all the other Apple Music Radio stations.

As you said, there is a workaround. To do this, you must first display the Volume menu extra. Go to System Preferences, click Sound, and check Show Volume in menu bar. You’ll see a small icon showing the current volume level in your menu bar. If you click this icon, you can change the volume; but if you press the Option key, and then click the icon, you can change which output is used.


Press the Option key, and then choose an audio output. Note the AirPlay icons next to devices that support streaming.

As you say, this means you’ll hear system beeps and alerts, but you can turn these off so you can stream just Beats 1.

Have questions of your own for the iTunes Guy? Send them along for his consideration.

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