One of the limitations to iTunes Radio is the skip limit: you can only skip six tracks per hour in any given radio station. I’m not sure what the reason for this is; after all, if you don’t like what the radio station is playing, should you be forced to listen to it? No, you’ll just switch it off, or start playing another station.
The problem is that with a limit of six skips, I’m finding myself doing that often. Because not only do skips count – skipping a track by clicking the Next button, because you don’t want to hear it now – but also setting a track to Never Play This Song also counts as a skip.
Here’s an example. I set up an iTunes Radio station to play contemporary classical music. (You can follow this station if you want; click this to add it to your iTunes Radio station list.) But there are some types of music that come up that I don’t want to hear. I love Bach’s suites for solo cello, but if I want to listen to them, I’ll use the Johann Sebastian Bach Essentials station; they don’t really count as contemporary classical music. There are some children’s choirs singing songs that don’t interest me. And, among the vast array of contemporary classical music, there is much that I don’t care to hear. So I either skip these tracks, or choose Never Play This Song.
Another example is a Grateful Dead station I set up. It insists on playing Steve Miller, Little Feat and Jimmy Buffet. So I’ve added these songs to my Never Play list, but each of these counts as a skip. (If you’re listening through iTunes, it’s easy to add an artist to the Never Play list, but last night, I was listening through my Apple TV, where you cannot do this; you can only add a specific song to the Never Play list.)
I find myself quickly hitting my six-skip limit on several stations. Because of this, I move on to something else; or stop listening to iTunes Radio.
Ideally, these iTunes Radio stations should refine over time, after you’ve added songs as favorites and excluded others. But it takes a long time to get there, if every song you don’t want to listen to counts as a skip.
I think the skip limit exists because record labels – and the iTunes Store – choose to promote certain artists and songs. (Why else would so many Mumford & Sons songs come up on a Grateful Dead station?) Apple doesn’t want listeners to skip these songs, because they want to sell them. Remember, much of iTunes Radio is designed not to let you hear the music you want to listen to, but to make you head to the iTunes Store to pay for the songs you want to hear again.
Apple is treading a fine line here between business logic and a frustrating limit that may make consumers go elsewhere for their music. They should drop this skip limit – or at least not count Never Play songs as skips – or many people will give up on iTunes Radio. Listening to music shouldn’t be this complicated.