Fast Tips Friday: What to try when Alexa plays the wrong song

Post published 4/26/19 – Lately, I’ve noticed Alexa is getting my music requests wrong quite a bit. Here’s what to try when Alexa plays the wrong song.

It’s all about the keywords

In music requests, Alexa’s sensitive to certain keywords that specify a type or location of content. Consider my recent music request below, for the song “Tongue Tied” by the band Grouplove:

Alexa, play Tongue Tied.

Alexa played the cover version, as performed by the group Vitamin String Quartet. This track is in one of my favorite playlists, and since I play it frequently Alexa probably assumed this was the song I wanted to hear. Here’s my much more specific request, with keyword phrases emphasized:

Alexa, play the song Tongue Tied by the band Grouplove from my library.

I specified the song title, the band name, and the source of the track, and Alexa got it right.

Most people already know about keyword phrases like “the band”, “the song”, “the album” and such, but many don’t know which keywords to use to specify a source for the music. As of this writing, the available sources are Amazon Music, Prime Music, a named outside service like TuneIn / iHeartRadio / Pandora / etc., and “my library”.

“My library” refers to the collection of digital music you bought or got free from Amazon, all of which was automatically added to your “my library” cloud and made accessible to Alexa. Any Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU) music you’ve added to personal playlists is added to your “my library” catalog too, but if it’s removed from the Prime/AMU catalog it will also be removed from “my library”.

Note that the keyword phrase “my playlist” will also point Alexa toward “my library”, because of the word “my”.

Alexa’s music selection order of priority

According to Amazon, where keyword phrases don’t point to a single, specific track Alexa is supposed to search for music you request in the following order:

1. Named service, if included in the command

2. My music

3. Prime music, if the user is a Prime member

4. Amazon Music, for music in the AMU catalog and all other digital music available for purchase from Amazon

I have my doubts that Alexa consistently follows this priority order because I know what music I own and I know how often Alexa fails to find it on the first try, before I revise my command with keyword phrases. Too often, instead of playing the track I bought from Amazon years ago Alexa will play a snippet of the same song from the AMU catalog, followed by an offer to sign me up for a free AMU trial.

This is often due to a different version of the same song by the same artist being available in AMU, but even where that’s the case Alexa is supposed to be looking in “my library” before AMU and should be able to find the track I own. It seems to me that popularity (e.g., sales rank, frequency of playback) is a factor here, but Amazon say so.

Keyword phrases are usually the shortest distance between your request and the correct music.