Spotify technology strikes again with Daily Mix, a new personalized listening feature

spotify-daily-mixFollowing last year’s Discover Weekly, and this year’s Release Radar, Spotify today injected a new auto-generated playlist feature called Daily Mix into iOS and Android mobile apps.

“Today we’re putting your personal music taste front and center,” Spotify says in a brief release announcement. Daily Mix presents an endless stream of the user’s favorite music (as demonstrated by user behavior in the app) with new tracks mixed in based on Spotify’s music intelligence technology. The result, ideally, is a blend of music you already love and music you will love.

In our test app, Daily Mix is actually six playlists, each of which skillfully groups songs of similar genre (e.g. classical) or atmosphere. Spotify’s description: “Whether you’re in the mood for dancing to upbeat tunes or relaxing with mellow hits, just select your mix and enjoy your most loved familiar tracks with new music peppered in.”

Discovery and Retention

With this clever and, to our ears, effective new product, Spotify is executing on multiple key tactics. Retention and listening time are two of them. Spotify has more monthly users than Pandora, but Pandora is winning the listening hours competition. Daily Mix erases a potential drop-off moment when a playlist ends, by making an endless personalized listening experience.

Daily Mix is also about music discovery, honed differently from Discover Weekly (which is obviously intended as a discovery feature) and Release Radar. The 30-track Discover Weekly is completely new music to the listener, making it adventurous. There’s a thrill in that, but it also requires work to explore and save its gems before the weekly list is replaced. Anecdotally, we have heard that some early adopters have drifted away from Discover Weekly. The 20-track weekly Release Radar is even more adventure-seeking, presenting new tracks that have some relationship with listening taste — in our experience, the selections are more far-flung.

Daily Mix offers a gentle suggestion of music the user hasn’t listened to, closely tied to taste, in a radio-like stream that keeps you hooked with familiar faves. And it’ll keep feeding that blend all day. (Heavy Spotify users get the best experience, as the algorithm has more to work with. New users must build up two weeks of listening before receiving Daily Mix.)

Doubling Down on Data

The data vs. human argument has never been more interesting in music curation. Spotify, which acquired Seed Scientific last year and The Echo Nest before that, is a data champion. A human element is mixed in when Spotify’s algorithm links up users with similar taste. But the “human argument” is exemplified by Apple Music’s emphasis on expert tastemakers creating distinct playlist experiences. Slacker Radio also highlights known personalities creating music programs. Pandora, for its part, was founded as a data company, and its core technology achievement, the Music Genome, powers Pandora Radio.

There’s no right or wrong to data vs. human. With Daily Mix, Spotify drills its data flag deeper into the ground with a product that is constantly refreshed (unlike the weekly refreshes of Discover Weekly and Release Radar), continually refined by recent behavior in the app, and never-ending. The feature is presented prominently, as a stand-alone item in Your Library — not as a playlist lumped in with user-built playlists, as Discover Weekly and Release Radar both are.

Daily Mix is a strong feature, musically and strategically, and is positioned to get attention.

Brad Hill

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