I really like what Spotify has been doing since it acquired music data company The Echo Nest. It has been steadily releasing a ton of great features that make the most out of the data it now collects on a daily basis.
The first one was released a year ago, and quickly stole the hearts of its users. Discover Weekly creates a 2-hour long playlist every week. It’s curated to your taste thanks to the listening data Spotify collects about you. If you’ve spent a lot of time listening through the service, it knows very well what you like.
To give you an example, here’s mine:
If you take a second and listen to it, you’ll hear that it’s based around light electronic music from mostly underground artists. It’s true — I listen to that a lot.
When the feature first launched I thought it was the coolest thing in the world:
But today I feel like this:
At first the playlist it came up with every week was impressive — it showed a deep knowledge of my musical interest and offered a lot of new material to listen to.
But after having used it for more than a year, I’m getting very tired of the way the system works. As it turns out, the algorithm now knows my taste all too well, and it’s serving me the same kind of songs over and over again.
Every week seems like a rehash of the last one, and it’s happened multiple times that a song re-appeared on the list. It feels like the opposite of ‘discovery’, instead opting for very safe choices closely related to the music it knows I like.
We take a step back and look at tech in general it’s easy to see how algorithms are dominating our life. When you check your Facebook News Feed, it’s been perfectly curated based on the things you’ve liked or spent time on before. This way, the content you get to see will generally appeal to you — but it won’t surprise you. Internet activist Eli Pariser famously called this the ‘filter bubble’.
But especially with music, I like the element of surprise. There’s nothing better than getting to hear songs by artists I don’t know, from genres I haven’t listened to before. But Spotify isn’t going to risk putting a song in my list that’s too different, because I might not like it. And that’s how I’m now stuck in a never-ending playlist of sameness.
Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way. Let me know what you think in the comments.