Spotify’s scary mind-reading ways to serve you music

Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist has an uncanny understanding of its users tastes

Spotify: Who’d have thought a string of ones and zeroes could adopt the guise of a cool older sibling

Spotify: Who’d have thought a string of ones and zeroes could adopt the guise of a cool older sibling

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There was no love lost during Valentine’s Day this week, as Apple and Spotify continued something of a 2018 trend; their increasingly bloody quest for dominance within the music streaming duopoly. On Wednesday, both platforms announced different schemes to drive people to their service, with Spotify offering to let users “cozy up” with a free 60-day premium offer, while Apple Music made its platform half-price for all students.

Spotify, the current kingpins of the industry, lever much of its appeal on being free for anyone to use, so long as they don’t mind the world’s loudest ads. As Apple has eschewed a free version of its service, its platform can afford to host 10 million more songs, but with about half the paying customers and a quarter of total users.

It would be remiss to not mention other players in the game, most prominently rapper Jay Z’s platform Tidal, which has first dibs on all music by Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye West and others.

Reported to have as few as four million users, Tidal kind of spoils the pot for everyone else without much benefit to themselves; basically the streaming equivalent of that boy in the park who picks up his ball and goes home when no one passes to him.

Numbers only count for so much, and for Spotify and Apple, the real war is being fought via playlists, with both pushing themed collections for topical events such as Valentine’s Day, the Winter Olympics or the National Ploughing Championships (presumably).

While the curators of Apple’s A-List series of playlists boast impeccable music journo credentials, Spotify has taken pole position, not through a cooler-than-thou stable of chin-stroking musos but a scarily impressive algorithm. The crowning jewel is the mesmeric and mystifying Discover Weekly, a 30-track playlist sent to every Premium account each Monday, presenting songs it guesses you’ll like based solely on the minutiae of your browsing.

Though sometimes hit-and-miss, Spotify has an uncanny understanding of its users tastes that feels more human than – well – humans. Who’d have thought a string of ones and zeroes could adopt the guise of a cool older sibling, pressing battered old tapes into your paw so long as you don’t tell mam you saw them smoking.

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