Ode to Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlists


Ode to Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlists

by Jess Swarner


It all started with Pandora Radio.

In 2007, nothing was more exciting than creating a new station on Pandora and hearing a long line of songs you had never heard of before but usually liked.

This exciting discovery lasted maybe an hour or so until the songs started all sounding the same and the same artists were repeated over and over, and you got bored and chose a new station.

Back in 8th grade, it was hard to discover new music. We had the expanse of iTunes in front of us, but without knowing who or what to look up, we were stuck with whatever we heard on the radio or whatever our parents played in the car.

Pandora at least helped us middle schoolers to branch out to new genres. I found some of my favorite alt rock bands there, including Anberlin, as well as some introductions to pop punk like Anarbor and Cartel. But even through all the thumbs-upping and thumbs-downing, I felt like I was only scratching the surface.

A year or two later, my family got XM satellite radio (before it merged with Sirius) and the Alt Nation channel blew open the door to all things alternative. Even though the station only played one or two songs by each upcoming artist, I at least had names to search in iTunes or on Pandora that would lead me to more.

Finally, after eventually downloading Spotify freshman year of college, I felt like an entire new world of music had opened up to me. With the option of streaming full albums for free, my cheapskate self no longer had to spend hours pondering the pros and cons of buying a new $9.99 album on iTunes.

Spotify allowed me to really delve into the genres I was interested in at the time by giving me full access to all the bands listed on the Vans Warped Tour Compilation CDs I had collected from 2007 on. I found some of my favorite bands by choosing an artist I liked and exploring the catalogs of the bands they toured with. Going through bands’ and record labels’ public playlists also helped me make new discoveries, like finding Baltimore-based indie rock band Have Mercy though one of Hopeless Records’ playlists. Since that serendipitous find, Have Mercy has become the only band I have seen live four times, about to be five.

And, as if Spotify wasn’t great enough, this semester it started handing us personalized playlists every Monday, called “Discover Weekly.” The idea of these playlists didn’t interest me at all. I thought they would sound the same every week like Pandora, or would only play the most popular bands of a genre like satellite radio.

Luckily, though, I was happily surprised. Walking to Monday classes has become a significantly more enjoyable experience since these playlists began arriving on my mobile app, and I have quickly been turned on to new bands and artists that I never would have thought to check out.

The playlists are better tailored to your interests the more you use Spotify, so my ridiculous amount of music-streaming probably helps. Spotify creates the playlists based off of related artists and artists they find in other users’ playlists who have similar tastes. Although I was extremely skeptical at first, so far I have found at least a handful of amazing, new songs out of the 30 that Spotify gives you each week.

So far, my favorites have included:

  • “Chinese New Year” – Sales
  • “History Eraser” – Courtney Barnett
  • “Baby Blue” – King Krule
  • “Bridge Burn” – Little Comets
  • “Cancel on Me” – Bombay Bicycle Club (already a band I knew and loved, but I had never noticed how good this song was)
  • “Fail!” – Rainbow Kitten Surprise
  • “Cat Fantastic” – This Town Needs Guns

Spotify is a great tool for music lovers, even when just using the free version, and the Discover Weekly playlists are a huge step in the right direction for services that aim to help users find and love new music.