30 December 2021

Popular Science: “Why Spotify’s music recommendations always seem so spot on”

Spotify has even been testing a neural network called CoSeRNN that weighs certain features such as past listening history and current context to suggest song recommendations that suit the moment.

As for testing whether music mirrors certain human characteristics, they published results from a small survey-based study last December to see how music preference matched up to certain personality traits. In a blog post, the researchers noted that there appeared to be some correlations between personality and music genre preference. Unsurprisingly, people who identified as “open to new experiences” checked out Discover Weekly more; those who identified them as extroverts listened more to playlists that other people had created, while those who identified as introverts preferred to delve into a newly discovered artist’s discography.

To stay ahead of our changing preferences, and keep their recommendations fresh, Spotify also needs to be able to understand how what we like can evolve over time. Earlier this year, researchers there built a model based on a dataset of 100,000 Spotify users who were continuously active from 2016 to 2020. They looked at the entire streaming history of every user, grouped their music into “micro-genres”, and mapped them across time. What they came up with was a connected graph that illustrated the transitions between different genres of music. As an example, their model suggested that to go from liking “EDM” to “nu jazz” or “gospel”, users were likely to pass through a phase of liking “tropical house”, which is chill but upbeat electronic music.

Charlotte Hu

Interesting overview of the various research and data crunching powering Spotify’s recommendations algorithm. I can’t say that I noticed some super-relevant suggestions from the app, but I admit that its autogenerated playlists (artist radio’s and genre mixes) are generally well tuned and enjoyable. The insights into microgenres have been put to good use in the Spotify Wrapped yearly recaps as well. I find these fascinating, and apparently so do a lot of other people (who wouldn’t want to feel unique and special?), as in 2021 we got a second similar event in June, Only You. Before then, I never heard of the music genre ‘Morna’, but apparently I am a regular listener.

Spotify 2021 Wrapped My Audio Aura Spotify 2021 Only You genres Spotify 2021 Wrapped Minutes listened
Some highlights from my 2021 Spotify Only You and Wrapped

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