What is iTunes Genius?Unless you have enabled this feature in Apple's popular iTunes software media player, you may be wondering, "what is so genius about it?" Since version 8, iTunes Genius has been an integral part of iTunes and is design to help you listen to music more effectively. It's a sort of music discovery tool which uses various techniques to suggest similar songs to the one you are currently listening to. It not only suggests other tracks in your iTunes library which are of a similar match, but also songs that aren't in your collection but can be purchased from the iTunes Store. Playlists that are automatically created with iTunes Genius typically contain songs that work well together and are thus similar in style and genre.
How does iTunes Genius Work and What do I Need?Even though Apple hasn't revealed the exact mechanics of how iTunes Genius works it is known to be based on a mixture of user library statistics and recommendation algorithms. In order to use iTunes Genius you need to have an iTunes account (Apple ID) and be connected to the Internet. This is so details of your library can be uploaded to Apple's online database and compared / aggregated with other user's libraries -- according to Apple, this is done anonymously for analysis purposes only. Recommendation algorithms then work out from the iTunes Genius database, your purchase history, play history, etc., what songs are similar to the one you are currently listening to in your library. It is also used to suggest other tracks you may be interested in purchasing from the iTunes Store.
To use iTunes Genius, all you really need is iTunes version 8 or higher, an iTunes account, and music already in your iTunes library which can be from the iTunes Store or other music services -- even audio files from ripped audio CDs count. When you first set up iTunes Genius it may take some time for the information about your library to be gathered and sent to Apple for analysis. However, after this you shouldn't see any further delays when adding to your collection.
What Can I do With it?As previously mentioned iTunes Genius can be a useful tool for automatically creating playlists that contain similar tracks. This can save you a lot of time searching through your collection manually and matching songs by hand. The great thing about this type of playlist is that it can be dynamically changed -- similar in a way to how Smart Playlists work. The amount of songs per playlist can vary, but you can have up to 100 tracks.
iTunes Genius can also be used for creating mixes. Since iTunes version 9, a feature called Genius Mixes has been available for creating mixes based on genre. This type of compilation can be thought of as your own personalize radio station. You get to listen to different music mixes based on style / genre -- online services such as Slacker Radio, Pandora Radio, etc., work in this 'Internet radio' type of way.
Another use for iTunes Genius is for finding songs to purchase on the iTunes Store. Instead of browsing through Apple's vast online library of songs, you can see what iTunes Genius suggests which can make finding the songs you like far easier. The Genius sidebar contains suggestions depending on what song you are currently listening to and updates when you start a new track.
iTunes Genius is also a music organizational tool which can be particularly useful if you want an automatic way of generating and keeping playlists updated. These playlists can then be synced to your portable Apple device -- iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Nano, or iPod Classic.