Spotify Pushes Popular Playlists With A New Tastemaker Tab

Spotify, now with 40 million users, looks like it’s adding another new feature that it hopes will help get the long tail of those registered music listeners more active on its platform. A tab has appeared called “Tastemakers” — a list of people whose names may not at all be familiar to you, but who have achieved some kind of popularity already on Spotify for their music playlists.

Asked about the new tab, Spotify described the feature to us as a test. “In order to keep improving Spotify, we are always testing new things to our different platforms and to various user groups,” a spokesperson said. “We don’t have any more information to share right now – but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know!”

A source told us a bit more. The feature has not been officially announced, but is starting to roll out slowly, both in Spotify apps and also on its web player. It is “part of a program to surface user playlists that hit certain engagement criteria,” which suggests also that Spotify may be experimenting with engagement and usage algorithms and looking to add more tweaks in the future. Spotify chooses the Tastemakers — you don’t nominate them (or yourself) — and users “will be informed” when they make the list, the source adds.

At the same time, Spotify today *is* revealing something more official that also points to more ways of socialising its service — a little app called Serendipity, created by its artist in residence, Kyle McDonald, which shows when two users happen to be listening to a particular song at the same time. (You have to look in the app, and it’s not particular to your own music selections.)

It doesn’t look, for now, like Tastemakers will  have a commercial element — although it seems that Spotify has considered how it can help brands become more like tastemakers on the platform, so that may be something to watch for. Other music streaming platforms like Soundcloud, meanwhile, are also ramping up how they are commercialising their platforms with advertising.

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Tastemakers sits alongside other social features Spotify has already turned on as part of its “music graph”-style social music strategy — first announced at the end of 2012 with the idea to mimic online some of the patterns of how we discover music in the offline world.

Within “Follow,” Spotify already gives you the option of following your friends from Facebook or Google+ who are on Spotify, and, with “Who to follow”, Spotify surfaces more high-profile users and accounts. These sit alongside “Discover”, which focuses less on individual Spotify users and accounts, and more on artists and genres.

Adding yet another category of potential follows could become a little confusing and might be seen as gilding the lily a bit. Why create yet another distinctive category of of users?

The challenge for Spotify (and other music streaming platforms) is that, while there are millions of songs to listen to, most people don’t have a specific idea of what they want to hear.

That has a direct impact on engagement on Spotify — that is, actual, regular use from those 40 million users. But Spotify needs to keep those engagement numbers up, and growing, to fuel its advertising-based business model (and, if you believe reports, to tell the right growth story to Wall Street). That’s where adding new features like Tastemakers fits in. It gives those who are not Spotify power-users a way of going to the site and finding things to listen to without looking very hard for them.

(And when you think about it, Spotify’s engagement challenge/solution echoes what other open-ended social sites, like Twitter, are doing with their own “who to follow” suggestions.)

Suggesting people based on popular playlists is an interesting twist on the basic idea of following users because it gives potentially more bang for your following buck, and promotes a feature that Spotify is already pushing. Back when Spotify announced its most recent user numbers in May, it also said that since 2008 there have been more than 1.5 billion playlists created, with 5 million getting made or edited daily.

H/T Dr Sounds: thanks for flagging.