The power of playlists and how they are affecting your listening habits

Image credit: Bruce Mars

Playlists are one of the top ways for music fans to discover new music on streaming platforms and they’re reshaping how listeners digest their music.

I am sure like myself you discover a lot of your music through playlists, particularly if you use Spotify. Artists are finding huge success through editorial playlists that range through genres, moods, and vibes. The crown jewel of playlists being the Spotify Discovery playlist, a weekly playlist that is based on your listening habits during the week. Spotify searches the user’s data and figures out what the user would want to listen to, so for example, if you listened to lots of IDLES, you’ll likely have bands such as Shame, Fontaines D.C, etc in your weekly Discovery playlist. 

In fact, Spotify’s playlist curation is so impressive that through your data the AI and editors can see if two artists pair well together. An example would be if loads of listeners listen to The Beatles and David Bowie a lot, then they know that those two artists will pair well in playlists, whether that be curated ones or song playlists. 

It’s an incredibly complex and impressive tool that Spotify utilizes and is constantly updating and refining. It has forced other streaming services to match Spotify in playlist curation, although none are yet to match Spotify’s impact. However, Apple Music and Amazon Music are biting at Spotify’s heels when it comes to playlists. 

The reason this has been so effective for streaming services and has become a staple for listeners to discover new music is because it is truly tailored around them. It filters out music you may not want to listen to or show any interest in. Creating a funnel of discovery for the user that is built around their listening habits. 

It’s a massive win for artists too as they reach users who may have been unaware of their music, bringing in more streams and this revenue to them. Outside of revenue, it allows for artists to be sat shoulder to shoulder in playlists with artists a lot larger than themselves, thus creating a legitimacy around them as an artist. This legitimacy will in turn make them more alluring and gives them the unique position of being in the same space as an established artist. As a growing artist, established or emerging this is an incredible opportunity that didn’t exist before streaming.

As Spotify comments: “We found that, after discovering a song through a personalized editorial playlist, the number of listeners who then seek out the track on their own for repeat listens is up by 80%. In fact, the average number of times a listener saves a track is up 66% – all of which is good news for artists.”

However, all this aside the most impressive element to playlists, particularly Spotify’s is that they’re passively recommending you new music and molding its service around you. As the listener you’re not even aware new music is being funneled into your ears on a daily basis. That’s the power of streaming, it has taken the power out of the hands of music gatekeepers, publications, and tastemakers and shoved it right into the listener’s hands without having to tell them. 

There has never been a more important and impactful way to discover new music, and most of us are blissfully unaware. There’s a kind of beauty to that in a lot of ways. 

Music journalist and photojournalist based in Cornwall.

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