Since the very early says of Spotify, one of its key features has been the ability to create and share playlists. More recently, the focus has moved towards being able to browse curated playlists, and nowadays, when you first open the Spotify app, you’re greeted with several different playlists to choose from (as well as being able to access your own). The playlists displayed vary depending on the day of the week or even the time of day, and the weather outside. Expect hot summer dance tunes on an August weekend, or somet gloomy music for a dull, wet Tuesday in January, for example.
One of these playlists is called ‘Discover Weekly’, which is a two hour playlist that is unique to each user and updated weekly. The music on it is usually a mixture of songs that you’ve listened to in the past, and others that Spotify thinks that you’ll like, based on your previous listening history.
Spotify's Discover Weekly is just the right combo of stuff I haven't listened to in years, and stuff I don't know. Really well done— Chris Applegate (@chrisapplegate) August 18, 2015
And it’s pretty good. I’ve only been aware of it for a couple of weeks, but it’s managed to find some really good songs that I’d never heard of before. Some of these were good enough for me to then buy on iTunes to listen to whilst out and about. Which, considering that my music library was getting a bit stale of late with few new additions, was most welcome.
I just got my first Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and tbh it justifies the fee alone. Kudos, @flaneur et al— Alex Hern (@alexhern) September 1, 2015
I’m not the only one who has been impressed though, hence the inclusion of tweets from people that I follow on Twitter who have also been pleasantly surprised by the quality of it. I’ve been underwhelmed by alternatives such as last.fm‘s Recommendations or the various suggestions on iTunes.
The Tech Insider piece linked in the tweet above is well worth reading actually, as it explains why this, and Spotify’s other playlists, are as good as they are. Last year, Spotify bought The Echo Nest, a company spun out of MIT that takes a big data approach to music, and it is their technology that powers these playlists. What is interesting is that the use of algorithms is extensive, but not exclusive – there is some human curation going on as well. Indeed, this was something that Apple were keen to promote on their new rival music streaming service, albeit with teething problems.
I would definitely recommend spending a couple of hours each week with your personalised Discover Weekly playlist. Not only will it be two hours of good music, but you’ll likely discover artists and bands that you’ve never heard of before that you’ll like.
As an aside, I decided not to pay for Apple Music following the three month trial. Spotify’s ‘unlimited’ tier is half the price, and seems to work better. Maybe if Apple can improve its service further I’ll reconsider, but it doesn’t appeal to me much right now.