From Apple Music’s ‘For You’ to Spotify’s new ‘Discover Weekly’ playlists, the next and perhaps final battleground in the streaming war is playlists, personalisation and the holy grail of ‘music discovery’- But do any out of the plethora of streaming services now on the market get this truly right?
This week, Spotify introduced ‘Discover weekly’- a personalized playlist that yes, each week serves up a mix of old and new tracks tailored to your tastes in addition to what other, similar users have been listening to. Based on the first week, it doesn’t quite hit the mark but has thrown up some interesting tracks. It’s all about the deep cuts, the hidden gems and is better than navigating through the somewhat cringe-worthy waters of its ‘Lounging with a latte’ style themed playlists.
The timing of this is certainly interesting, given Apple Music’s focus on human curators, suggesting playlists and albums in the ‘For You’ section based on what you’ve been listening to and the musical genres you selected at the beginning- an extremely effective tool, apart from assuming that The Gen would ever listen to John Mellencamp or a ‘Coldplay influences’ playlist. For example, The Gen recently dug into a ‘Radiohead influences’ playlist, discovering the Scott Walker album ‘Climate of Hunter’ as a result and triggering a near obsessive dive into Walker’s back catalogue. Yes, we’ve even been listening to the albums that feature people punching bits of meat as percussion. If that is the future of music discovery then it is very exciting, if somewhat scary. There is a fascinating insight into Spotify’s approach to playlists and personalisation over here at Wired.
Alongside this insightful look at the future of playlists over at Pitchfork there is also an excellent round-up here at the Verge of a writer who spent a considerable amount of time with each music streaming service to find the perfect one-but ultimately he reasons they chose for the superior one were subjective, personal and quite difficult to predict- very human in other words.
The truth is that such services are striving for the same aim as Google searches- to know what you want even before you do. Push the button and there it is, your new favourite collection of tracks peppered with old half-forgotten favourites- Lets not even pretend that this is going to be about albums, streaming quality (sorry, Neil Young) or anything else apart from who gets this element just right.
But until there is an algorithm or group of ‘curators’ that can recreate the peaks and troughs of human temperament and whimsy, it will never be quite on the mark. They are working on it now and the winner will truly take it all.
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