24 December 2019

TechCrunch: “Spotify prototypes Tastebuds to revive social music discovery”

Tastebuds is designed to let users explore the music taste profiles of their friends. Tastebuds lives as a navigation option alongside your Library and Home/Browse sections. Anyone can access a non-functioning landing page for the feature at https://open.spotify.com/tastebuds. The feature explains itself, with text noting “What’s Tastebuds? Now you can discover music through friends whose taste you trust.”

The prototype feature was discovered in the web version of Spotify by reverse engineering sorceress and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong, who gave us some more details on how it works. Users tap the pen icon to “search the people you follow”. From there they can view information about what users have been playing most and easily listen along or add songs to their own library.

Josh Constine

The landing page has been taken down since, but the idea is sound. I would love to have playlists based on the music tastes of friends and discover what they’re listening regularly or recently. But there are some questions that could make a good implementation challenging.

Spotify is working on Tastebuds
Spotify is working on Tastebuds, letting users discover music through their friends

First of all, people need to have ways to select the friends whose listening habits are included in the playlists. Currently, Spotify only connects with the Facebook social graph, but that’s a limited way to define friendships. Spotify users currently have a sort of public profile, showing their public playlists and the artists they follow, but that doesn’t seem enough to decide whether you like their tastes or not – also, unclear how you would even discover people if they don’t share their profile URL. Maybe Spotify’s algorithms could help with that, but I think that would make this feature a little too impersonal.

And, speaking of profiles, the other complication would be privacy. I know people with great music tastes who don’t use social media much. Some don’t have Spotify accounts, others were surprised to discover that I can see their listening history through the current ‘Friend Activity’ on Spotify, and have asked me to show them how to deactivate it. Spotify should be more clear and transparent about the data shared with friends and publicly, otherwise many people will lock down their profiles to prevent inadvertent ‘leaking’.

People can always share recommendations by artist or track name, by sharing links to YouTube videos, but this feels slow and can hardly be used on a larger scale. It would be great if Spotify could figure out a good solution for social listening, but I think it may prove tricky to convince the right people to participate.

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