How to collaborate on playlists in Apple Music

I used to enjoy sharing my favorite new music with friends and family via a carefully compiled piece of physical media. Sadly for those of us above a certain age, the switch to digital and streaming music has made the mixtape (or the mix CD) redundant. However, while streaming music apps may have killed off the mixtape, they’ve brought with them collaborative playlists: being able to easily compile a list of tunes with other people, even if those people aren’t in the same physical place you are.

This is a feature that’s been in Spotify for years, but it’s now arrived in Apple Music with iOS 17.3 and macOS 14.3. (So make sure the software on your devices is up to date before you get started).

Collaborative playlists on iOS

If you want to approve your collaborators, toggle that feature on. Otherwise, anyone with your link can join the playlist.

The icon of the contributor is next to each tune.

To start a new collaborative playlist in Apple Music for iOS:

  • Open up the Library tab, then tap Playlists > New Playlist.
  • Give your playlist a name.
  • Tap the camera icon to give your playlist a picture, if you want — you can take a new image with your iPhone camera, or choose an image from your photo library.
  • Tap Create to confirm.

The empty playlist opens up, and if this is the first time you’ve used Apple Music with the collaborative playlists capability, you’ll see a pop-up advertising the feature. Existing playlists can be turned into collaborative ones as well — just open up the playlist and follow these same directions:

  • Tap the icon in the top right corner that looks like a portrait of a person.
  • The next dialog lets you choose the name and photo used for you in the playlist.
  • You can also turn the Approve Collaborators option on. If you don’t want anyone and everyone getting involved, activating this means your collaborators can’t spread the link around without your say-so.
  • Tap Start Collaborating, and you can begin inviting people to join.

There are various options for inviting people to a playlist: you can AirDrop a link, for instance, or send it via iMessage. Following the link leads other people to your playlist, and any collaborator can pass the link on elsewhere. Note that the link is only valid for six days. After that, you need to generate another link.

You can manage collaboration options for each playlist.

Collaborative playlists can have emoji reactions, too.

At this point, anyone you’ve invited (and, if you’ve enabled Approve Collaborators,  approved) can start adding songs to the playlist. You can see next to each track the person who added it via their Apple ID avatar. If a tune  is added that you don’t like, tap the three dots next to it and choose Remove from Playlist. (This can only be done by the playlist creator.)

To make changes to how the playlist is shared, you either tap the collaboration icon or the three dots (both are top right) and select Manage Collaboration.

  • Tap Share Invite Link or QR Code to share the playlist with more people.
  • Select Stop to turn off collaboration for this playlist.
  • If you’re currently using someone else’s playlist, there’s also a Leave option. 
  • The Approve Collaborators toggle switch reappears here as well.

One cool extra you get with collaborative playlists is emoji reactions: you’ll see the emoji button under the album art for a track on the full-screen now playing view. Tap the button and choose an emoji to react, which other people will be able to see.

Collaborative playlists on Apple Music for macOS

The emoji reactions are also easy to access in Apple Music for macOS.

Creating collaborative playlists on a Mac isn’t much different, aside from the desktop interface. Opening up individual playlists will reveal the new collaboration icon — the same small portrait figure silhouette that you get on iOS — and you can click on this to invite people to work on playlists, and to access the Approve Collaborators option.

The same button gives you access to the collaboration management page. From here you can approve or block collaborators, turn off collaboration for the playlist, and generate a new invite link to send out.

Emoji reactions are available on collaborative playlists, too: You’ll see an emoji icon up in the playback controls window at the top of the interface that you can use, or you can click inside the Reactions column (if it’s visible) in the list of tracks.

It’s worth noting that I originally had some issues getting the collaboration feature to show up in Apple Music for macOS — the collaboration button wasn’t appearing for me. In the end, I was able to fix it by following these steps: 

  • Make sure you’ve created an Apple Music profile in iOS (tap your account avatar, top right, on the Listen Now screen to check)
  • Sign out of the Apple Music app on macOS and restart the program
  • Finally, sign back in.

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