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Test Drive: Spotify launches Release Radar, an extension of Discover Weekly

Spotify Release Radar

Spotify has launched a new personalized playlist feature, Release Radar, which appears in every user’s Browse section. Release Radar is Spotify’s first expansion of the technology which powers Discover Weekly, an unquestionable hit with users and a triumph of algorithmic music curation.

Release Radar contains new music, and drops into everyone’s account on Fridays. Discover Weekly is a Monday feature. Both products refresh weekly with new content.

The Release Radar format has some inherent challenges, compared to Discover Weekly. Because it contains newly released tracks, there is not much usage data attached to them. In Discover Weekly, the tracks are selected according to many factors, one of which is how much they are liked by people whose listening choices are similar to yours in certain ways. There is a concentric-circle quality to it, which widens the field of successful discovery beyond what any individual could easily do.

Release Radar doesn’t have those concentric data circles built yet, so the question is how well it succeeds in introducing us to new music that we will like and keep in personal playlists. The RAIN News editorial office took the new feature for a spin.

Anna Washenko

My list only had two songs by artists that I cared about. But even though not much grabbed me at first look, my list was certainly not a failure.

The rest of it played out like a second Discover Weekly. A few of my tracks were from artists that I’d been recommended through DW; not all of them had piqued my interest in the Monday format, and some continued to leave me cold in this second playlist. But as with DW, taking the time to at least sample each of the entries in Release Radar did yield a few tracks that I bookmarked for repeat plays.

I’m a fan of Release Radar so far. I’m terrible at keeping up with new music, because I’ll fixate hard on one or two albums for months at a time and miss out on everything that drops in the interim. Having a quick snapshot like this makes keeping up feel manageable. It also seems like less pressure, because even though the Radar songs go away after a week, the odds seem good that if any tracks I’d care about are standouts, then they’ll migrate over to my Discover Weekly at some point.

If you’re in the camp that feels Spotify can’t get a handle on your taste, then this won’t change your mind about the power of algorithmic curation. If you love your Discover Weekly programming, though, then Release Radar will be an exciting development.

Brad Hill

As with Anna’s experience, I notice crossover between artists who earned a place in Discover Weekly, and today’s first edition of Release Radar. Spotify’s data seems to be guessing that if a DW artist has released a new album or track, it probably deserves to be exposed in my Radar list.

Does it work? To some extent, yes. Like Anna, I don’t keep up with new releases promptly. I didn’t know Jeff Beck had a new album. Release Radar gave me a track for it, which I didn’t care for, but I zoomed over to the album and found two keepers there which I saved.

So, it seems that Release Radar scores second-generation wins that inform me of releases I will probably like, and I can take it from there to find the best tracks. Discover Weekly is an astounding first-generation success which hands me the tracks.

I like them both. I can imagine that with today’s release, Spotify has claimed Mondays and Fridays in the lives of millions of music lovers. What day is next?

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