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SPOTIFY'S NEW DISCOVER WEEKLY PLAYLISTS: THE MACHINES STRIKE BACK

While Apple Music’s pitch is all about human curation in the increasingly important business of creating playlists, Spotify has decided to boldly go in the opposite direction—saying, in effect, they don’t need no stinking humans to zero in on your listening habits.   

Re/code’s Peter Kafka road-tested Discover Weekly, Spotify’s new algorithm-generated “personalized” playlist, even if that meant exposing the limitations of his taste in music.

 “Spotify’s list,” Kafka writes, “seems like music I might listen to if I were programming something I actually wanted to hear: It’s heavy on aging indie acts like The Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven and the Violent Femmes, and sprinkled with lesser-known nuggets from really old acts like Elvis Costello and Paul Simon… I wish it had some hip-hop (old hip-hop, that is). And it makes me a little sad to see evidence that I basically stopped listening to new music in 1995. But I can’t argue with it.”

This weekly “personalized” playlist is automatically generated by the service based on the user’s listening habits. Spotify tells Kafka that it the key to Discover Weekly, which started showing up for all users on Monday, is software that looks at songs you play, then sees what follows or precedes those songs on the playlists other Spotify users create, and builds something based on that data. A handful of engineers created this software in a few months, based on the data generated by its 75m users.

“Spotify’s entire plan is based upon the notion that you can listen to its tunes, forever, for free, before deciding whether to pay,” Kafka concludes. “Apple, which only offers free for three months, says it can make its case by appealing directly to its 800 million iTunes customers. If one of them wins, it’s going to be because it has a better business plan, not a better playlist.” 

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