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    The joy of Spotify’s Discover Weekly

    Thomas Bristow talks through the beauty of Spotify's Discover Weekly interface, and how it has changed his music tastes.

    For the first year of university, I had almost completely ignored Spotify’s other features. For me, it was always more of a place to collect and catalogue music, and I had never really thought it to be a great tool of discovery. Other than the infamous annual Wrapped, there was never much of a relationship with the platform, and I felt that this was something Spotify was lacking. That was until I found Discover Weekly.

    I can’t exactly remember why, but I began browsing Spotify’s Mix playlists and was disappointed to find that it was essentially just music I already knew, I couldn’t see the point of it. But when I listened to Discover Weekly for the first time, I quickly became hooked on it. Here, every Monday, were 30 new songs by all manner of weird and obscure artists whom I’d never heard of, and short enough to listen to in one morning of uni work. I created a new playlist and began adding most of it immediately, almost overwhelmed by the amount of new content. Soon, it became very habitual to spend Monday morning listening to Discover Weekly. 

    Sometimes Discover Weekly is underwhelming, and I won’t add any music from it to my library, instead using it more as background music. But other weeks it coughs up a hidden gem; artists whose music I never would have found otherwise or songs that quickly become some of the best I have heard. Indeed, many of my favourite songs of all time have been first experienced on Discover Weekly. To me it is an invaluable resource and one in which all the hard work of finding the music is seemingly done for you. But this begs the question; how exactly does it work? How can Spotify deliver a playlist curated to your taste every single week? And is it really as it seems?

    The answer to most of this is actually very straightforward and perhaps obvious: algorithms. Spotify uses the data of its users’ playlists to work out where possible gaps in your listening are. By comparing your playlists with those of thousands (if not millions) of other users who have similar taste, it can find music which should logically suit you. The platform also creates a highly specific music profile for each user, with which it can filter suggestions and thus recommend music that you have never heard before. As to its legitimacy and fairness, it seems quite sound. While there are YouTube videos trying to explain how to get your own music on Discover Weekly, it all amounts to data for the algorithm again. For example, 100 streams from people who have repeated the song or added it to their playlist indicates ‘Listener Intent’, and so the song is more likely to be recommended to a specific group of people on their Discover Weekly. This is opposed to 1000 streams where the song is mostly skipped or the artist’s profile doesn’t receive much attention. Essentially, the algorithm tries to distinguish between the quality of the music and what people are more likely to enjoy.

    Ultimately, Discover Weekly is a nifty feature which Spotify possesses to differ itself from competitors. By doing the hard work of actually finding the music for its customers, their loyalty is more likely, and so then is their money. But aside from this more cynical view, I believe that Discover Weekly can serve a far greater purpose, if you only let it do so. It is an extremely effective and simple tool to expand one’s musical horizons. As mentioned, some of the best music I’ve ever heard has come from this short playlist. It is constantly changing, evolving and updating itself to suit you, and whilst most of the music won’t make it onto your playlists, it’s worth it for the few songs that do. Discover Weekly gives access to a truly endless, undiscovered and changing world of music. All you have to do is listen.

    Image Credit: Maeve Hagerty

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