Finals Ruined My Discover Weekly Playlist

Every semester before midterms and finals, I find myself spending hours upon hours re-reading course materials, studying, and writing papers.  To keep myself focused, I listen to my Spotify “Reading” playlist.  My “Reading” playlist is the third playlist that I created on Spotify (The first being “EDM” and the second being “Oldies Ballads”, don’t judge).  Since 2010, I have compiled over 100 various classical, jazz, and relaxing songs to create this playlist.  The music allows me to concentrate and keeps me engaged in my current task.  spotify-has-a-new-way-to-compete-with-apple-musics-best-featureHowever, by binging on classical and jazz music for weeks leading up to a test or project, my Discover Weekly playlist becomes heavily influenced by these two genres of music.  This would be great if I wanted to find new classical and jazz artists.  However, I do not.  I prefer my Discover Weekly to include a mix of alternative rock, classic rock, and punk.  This reoccurrence has made me interested in learning more about Spotify’s algorithm and if I could find out how to turn off their algorithm.  By the way, currently, I am writing this blogpost to Joey Alexander’s “Sunday Waltz”.  A brilliant song written and performed by a 13-year-old Grammy award winning Jazz artist.  I anticipate that my Discover Weekly” will be influence by the music I listen to writing this post.

Spotify describes Discover Weekly as a “weekly roundup of songs we think you’ll love. Based on your listening history and that of other Spotify fans with similar tastes, Discover Weekly gets even better the more you use Spotify”.  The playlist is refreshed every Monday.   It is available to both free and premium customers.  Discover Weekly will appear after a Spotify user has been listening to music for two weeks.  Spotify has a unique algorithm that considers multiple factors for music recommendations.  You may be surprised that the main factor in Discover Weekly is other people’s playlist.  Spotify will analyze grouping of songs and music tastes from millions of user playlists.   If another user’s playlist contains songs that you listen to frequently, Spotify will take other songs from that user’s playlist and recommend them to you.  Playlists with a large amount of followers have more weight in recommendations than those with lower numbers.  I have no followers, so I do not think my music taste influences many people.

The next component of Spotify’s Discover Weekly is a taste profile.  Spotify will analyze your music taste based off your playlists and what you are listening to.  The taste profiles are very complex.  A user is not just listening to rock or rap, but finite sub genres like southern soul or g-funk.  In 2014, Spotify acquired Echo Nest to help in creation of these sub groups.  Echo Nest is a music intelligence platform that uses machine learning to categorize and discover new music genres.  Click here to see a map of music genresand how they connect created by Echo Nest.

cluster-genres-qz

Sample taste profile

The algorithm combines the groupings from millions of playlists with your taste profile to create your Discover Weekly playlist every Monday.  The algorithm filters through the data using collaborative filtering and natural language processing.  Collaborative filtering  is what amazon uses to recommend products (“Customers who bought this product also bought”) and natural language processing is how Echo Nest can translates and understands playlist titles and descriptions.  The algorithm does filters out specific music genres.  For example, if you use you are mother and use Spotify to play nursery rhymes, Spotify will not include children’s songs in your Discover Weekly.

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So, how do you turn off Spotify’s algorithm? Simple answer. Private mode.  I do not know why I thought this was going to be more complicated.  I was thinking it would be as difficult as turning off Facebook’s algorithm.  Private mode has existed since 2011.  It was developed to ensure privacy for users who did not want their friends to know that they are listening to Kenny G or in my case Emo music.  To activate private mode simply go to your Menu Bar, click on Spotify, and select Private Listening.   As, I did my research for this blog post I switched to private mode so my Discover Weekly did not get influenced by the classical music I was listening to.

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This is Kenny G.

Spotify has tips to improve the accuracy of Discover Weekly.

  1. Add songs that you like to your library or playlists. Songs that are added to your playlist will help Spotify determine your music taste.
  2. Skip songs that you do not like. If you skip a song before 30 seconds, Spotify will reads this action as if you dislike the song.   The only case where skipping songs does not influence your music taste is when you are listening to Discover Weekly.  Spotify encourages users to listen to their entire Discover Weekly playlist and will not make recommendations based off listening behavior.
  3. Take time to explore the biographies or discographies of artists that you like. Spotify will see that you are exploring these artists and recommend similar artists.
  4. Do you have a friend that has good music taste? Listen to your friends Discover Weekly.  The playlist is private but can be shared by the user.
  5. Discover Weekly does not have to end after 30 songs. Use Spotify Radio to create a radio playlist based off your Discover Weekly.

I hope that this post will lead you to places of musical bliss.  Is your Discover Weekly accurate?  Do you find other music streaming service better?  Let me know your thoughts.

11 comments

  1. Really interesting blog post! I’ve had similar issues using Discover Weekly and never understood the reason to why it was happening prior to reading this. I often get frustrated that I do not like the songs Spotify is recommending to me since Discover Weekly is a great resource for finding new music. Will definitely be using the tips you provided to try to improve the accuracy of my playlist.

  2. Loved this post! I always wanted to know why my Discover Weekly playlist looks the way it does, but never took the time to research it, so this has been very helpful! I have to admit, Discover Weekly rarely “wows” me with suggestions and doesn’t seem to always “get” me. I always attributed it to the fact that I am not very consistent in my tastes week over week (I go in waves of listening to one sub genre to another), so I am actually a bit surprised that it is not more accurate now that I know that they consider more than one week of listening behavior as the basis for the playlist. I have also been using Spotify for little over a year, and although I haven’t listened to some of the songs in Discover Weekly on Spotify, I have heard them before. On the other hand, I love the other curated Spotify playlists, personalized daily mixes, and artist/song radios – all of these make me a big fan due to being very accurate and overall just great, and making sure that I will keep using Spotify for years to come.

  3. I always wondered what Spotify used to create the Discover Weekly playlist– really interesting! Sometimes when I’m going through random music and I’m not liking any of it I get angry and think “why isn’t Spotify learning what I like and don’t like!!” but now I know it is (I guess I am just picky). A lot of people probably don’t know how the algorithm affects Spotify’s data on their “profile” and it’s definitely good to know about!

  4. Really great post! I always wondered how Spotify determined what songs to include in Discover Weekly playlists, and I’m glad you had the information (& time) to figure it out! I’ve always noticed that my Discover Weekly is very similar to two of my friends’ Discover Weekly playlists, which makes so much more sense now because the three of us listen to each others’ personal playlists all the time. I also found it super interesting that Spotify actually weeds certain genres (like nursery rhymes) of music out of the discover weekly playlist–it seems like it’d take a lot of work to determine what genres those should be in order to create that algorithm, but I’m sure people really appreciate it. I also really appreciated the tips at the end of the post– I’ve always really liked my Discover Weekly playlist but sometimes I’ll get some songs that just don’t make any sense (I guess based on some random song/playlist I’d been listening to) so it’s definitely helpful to know how to curate that myself a bit more. Have you been able to get your study songs off your Discover Weekly?

    1. Yes, it seems that private mode will eliminate studying songs appearing on my playlist. I expect that I will get some studying music suggestions do to my one playlist though.

  5. What a great post. I’ve been a Spotify users since it came available in the US. Nice to have the behind the scenes view!

  6. This post has really saved me from future Discover Weekly disappointment, so thank you! I agree with @itsulker that up until this point, Discover Weekly has rarely wow’ed me. In fact, I find that Pandora playlists have much better results for curated playlists. This must explain why Daily Mix on Spotify seems to be more effective because users opt into a genre that matches their mood whereas Discover Weekly often offers up covers of my most played songs in my library ~ not exactly a discovery. Similar to the finals playlist conundrum, ever since my friend started using my Spotify premium account to DJ parties, my Daily Mixes have taken on a drastically different tone.

  7. Really great post! I always wondered how they compiled those songs into a playlist. Sometimes Spotify gets me so well, but then other times they are way off pace. But I noticed the more I used it the more it started to get to know me. I do love the Discover Weekly page so I can get new music, but I am glad that it is not the dame for everyone because it wouldn’t cater to each persons’ preferences. I am excited to see their algorithm get smarter and even be able to predict what we want to hear next.

  8. Awesome post! I’m someone who actually enjoys my Discover Weekly playlists each week because I enjoy finding new music and am often tired of songs if I hear the same ones over and over. For me, Discover Weekly is just an added bonus to playlists I try and create myself. Thanks for the detailed insight on the algorithms of how it works. It reminds me of YouTube videos in the sense that they account for which viewers don’t skip and watch all the way through, and I wonder if this alogrithm also affects the types of ads you hear on Spotify. I had no idea about private mode–it seems to simple! I’ll definitely use it in the future when I find myself in one of my show tune modes. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I’ve been a huge fan and an avid user of Spotify for about 6 or 7 years now and I was a bit skeptical when they first released the Discover Weekly playlist. I figured it was just going to be another generic playlist filled with pre-loaded songs that loosely fit with the kinds of music I had been listening to lately. But I was very pleasantly surprised! Now I listen to my whole Discover Weekly playlist almost every week (some weeks are better than others) but it was great to find out how the playlist is actually constructed and how I can help Spotify put together an even more personalized playlist.

    As an aside, I have run into the same problem as you when listening to my “Study” playlist heavily around midterms and finals. I listen to it so much that Spotify even creates a Daily Mix now exclusively of songs that fit on my “Study” playlist (of which I’ve used to add to the playlist). I wonder if the same algorithm is used to create the Daily Mix playlists as the Discover Weekly playlist.

  10. Great post! I have been using Spotify since its early beginnings, and I don’t think I will abandon the platform anytime in the near future. I am pleased with the number of songs, albums, and specially playlists that it offers. Throughout time, they have been successful to help users find new music that they will enjoy. Initially, I used Spotify to find old songs that I already liked, or maybe listen to some new recommendations from my friends. However, now I use it as a source of new music so I spend more time in weekly discovery playlist or the radio stations than in my old playlists. Honestly it’s never been easier to stay up to date with new music and at the same time share new discoveries with friends. In my personal opinion, these algorithms still represent a significant competitive advantage over Apple Music, Pandora, and other similar music services.

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