While Apple Music trumpets the human nature of Beats 1 — a 24/7 radio station curated by the British DJ Zane Lowe — Spotify, in between making some major changes, has been quietly working away on some really interesting data-driven playlists.
In the last six months alone, the music streaming company has released four cool ways of generating unique playlists that will help you discover awesome new music. We’re here to guide you through these automagic playlist makers.
Spotify recently rolled out a new feature: every Monday morning the company presents you with a new Discover Weekly playlist. It’s a collection of roughly 30 tracks to which Spotify thinks you’ll want to listen.
Each Spotify user has a taste profile; it’s Spotify’s way of quantifying what kind of music you like. Every time you listen to a track, try a new artist, skip a song, listen to a song on repeat, or do anything else while using the service, Spotify adds the information to your profile.
Spotify takes this information and, by comparing it to other similar profiles, works out what music you haven’t heard — or at least haven’t heard in a while — that you might be interested in listening to. Some tracks come from artists you won’t have heard of before, while others are lesser-known tracks from your favorites.
As I have mentioned previously, I’m a heavy Spotify user, so for me personally there’s a lot of data for them to work with. I have been using Discover Weekly for several weeks and have been really impressed with it so far. I’ve loved all bar one or two of the songs on each playlist (far fewer than expected). I have discovered new artists, reevaluated my opinion on ones I’d previously dismissed, and been reminded of some great tracks I hadn’t heard in years.
You can have a listen to one of the playlists Spotify created for me below.
You don’t need to do anything special to check out your own Discover Weekly playlist. As long as you have been using Spotify for long enough for it to build up an idea of what you like, your playlist is automatically added to your music collection. Every Monday it’s updated with a new set of tracks for you to listen to.
Over the past few years music has become a lot more international. The top tracks in the United States and Ireland are often pretty much the same. But as Spotify points out on its blog:
“…when most travelers visit another place, they don’t seek out the same food they eat at home, even if they can find it. We travel to experience what makes a place different, and special, by sampling local specialties.”
Using some basic statistical modelling, Spotify has created individual playlists for almost 1,000 cities around the world that feature the music that’s most distinct to them. These are the artists that are listened to disproportionately in those places.
For example, the playlist for my home town of Dublin has a lot of big local bands: Le Galaxie, Ham Sandwich, and the Coronas all appear more than once. All these bands regularly reach the Irish Top 10, even if they won’t be as universally popular as someone like Taylor Swift.
Once again, Spotify nails it. If you wanted to listen to bands that regularly play gigs in Dublin and headline smaller Irish festivals, then the Dublin Musical Map is pretty on point. You can look for your city or check out the full Musical Map here.
Spotify has a lot of deep data on which artists are similar, inspired by, or otherwise related to each other. One of the clever ways they’ve been using it is to create a musical time machine. Taste Rewind is a fun tool that looks at your music collection, and winds back the clock. It takes your current music taste and rolls it back to the 00s, 90s, 80s, and beyond.
To get started, visit the Taste Rewind site and login in with your Spotify account. You’ll be prompted to select three artists from a small collection pulled from your music history. I got offered Scooter, Feeder, Afrojack, Dashboard Confessional, and Fall Out Boy, along with many others. Once you select your three favorites, Spotify will generate a unique playlist for each decade based on those selections. Here is my 80s playlist:
Another tool that uses Spotify’s artist data is Sweet Spot. Sweet Spot is a Valentine’s Day rebranding of a previous tool, Boil the Frog, which I personally loved.
What it does is take any two artists and create a playlist that links them through related artists — it basically calculates the musical equivalent of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Some vastly different artists require 15 or even more steps to connect, while more similar musicians will only need three or four steps.
This was launched ahead of Valentine’s Day with the idea being that you and your partner are both pick an artist each, with Spotify joining them in musical unity. However, singletons need not despair, as Sweet Spot is just as fun on your own.
It’s impressive how easily vastly different artists like Blink–182 and The Beatles can be connected through 13 other artists. No transition is ever too obvious: Blink leads to Unwritten Law, which leads to Lit, while at the other end, The Kinks connect to The Beatles.
Go create your own, or give my Blink-to-Beatles playlist a listen yourself:
How Do You Create Playlists?
Playlists might not be as necessary as they once were but they’re still a great way to listen to music.
With Spotify, you can get playlists curated by other users, you can build your own, or you can try the awesome new tools the service is offering up. I, for one, am a big fan of the automatic tools; I love checking out 30 new songs every Monday morning with my Discover Weekly playlist, exploring new cities, or playing around with Taste Rewind and Sweet Spot.
How do you make playlists? Have you found your Discover Weekly playlists useful and entertaining? We want to hear all about your experiences, so please let us know in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Robot DJ Via Shutterstock