I'm a huge fan of Spotify's Discover Weekly, a personalized playlist that refreshes every Monday. And I'm getting into Release Radar, a companion to Discover Weekly that arrives on Friday and focuses on surfacing newly released music I might also like. But there are definitely times in between, when the work week is dragging, that I long for another easy fix of personalized playlist goodness.
Today Spotify is introducing a new feature, Daily Mix, that offers up a platter of playlists tailored for each individual user, and which updates every 24 hours. It uses the same basic approach as Discover Weekly, selecting songs based on your listening habits. "But that’s where the similarities end," said Matt Ogle, who helps lead development of music discovery and personalization at Spotify. "In a lot of ways it's the opposite of Discover Weekly." Instead of trying to take the work out of finding music that's new to you, "Daily Mix is trying to take the work out of hitting a button and always hearing music that you love."
THE OPPOSITE OF DISCOVER WEEKLY
Spotify says users will receive between one and six mixes each day depending on how broad their taste is and what they have been listening to in recent weeks. I've been using the service for about a week now and my Daily Mixes, of which I got between four and six daily, found interesting ways to combine various genres so that songs flowed together without having a strict "theme." My jazz and psychedelic rock mixes were roughly split between songs that I listen to frequently, tracks that were vaguely familiar to me, and old favorites I hadn't heard in a few years. Every once in a while I heard something for the first time.
NOT 'FROZEN' AGAIN
These mixes weren't distinctly labeled as "Jazz" or "Psych Rock." Instead, each one appeared as a mosaic of four album covers with the names of artists below. That snapshot was my guide to what I might find inside, and I thought it worked well as a sign post. "Initially we tried to get more prescriptive with the labels," says Ogle. But users didn't like having a "hip hop" playlist that also had a Prince track, or a "hard rock" mixtape that for some reason featured Steely Dan. "We found that the mixes were much better received when we leaned back and let people describe them themselves," says Ogle.
My Daily Mix did have one major flaw, which was that it didn't make the editorial decision to keep my kid's music out of my recommendations, something Discover Weekly had always been very good about. I often had two Daily Mix playlists devoted to songs similar to tracks from Frozen and Star Wars, and those felt like a big waste of precious real estate.
LIKE A RADIO STATION TAILORED BY YOUR TASTE
That quibble aside, what I enjoyed most about Daily Mix was being able to take a deeper dive into a certain mood or genre, a change from the often exciting but scattershot recommendations served up by Discover Weekly. And I liked that by Wednesday, there was still stuff I hadn't heard a dozen times.
Every day Spotify will shuffle the Daily Mix tracks a bit, or swap out one playlist for another, but it won't be a complete refresh of songs each time, like you get with Discover Weekly and Release Radar. In that sense Ogle likens Daily Mix to radio stations, which usually sound familiar from day to day, week to week. Listeners gravitate to stations that match their own musical metabolism. The big difference is that unlike radio, Daily Mix evolves with you.