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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Forget Discovery, Spotify Should Focus on Social Curation

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Despite how much I love the platform, I’ve come to terms with the fact that Spotify’s social features really aren’t that good on a basic level. I was interested to read headlines the other day that the Swedish music streaming service is adding chat to the platform, as it’s a sign that they’re still trying to do something with “social”. But I’ve got plenty of ways to talk to friends, and with 20 million + tracks, the only way to make sense of the catalogue is to put together playlists, and share some of them with friends.

And there, what can you do? You can organize your tracks, give it a title, and put it on your public Spotify page, but I’m hungry for the low hanging fruit.

For instance, being able to give your playlist a short text description would be incredibly basic and pretty useful for discovery and sharing, especially for collaborative playlists. And if Spotify wanted to get really crazy, they could let users upload their own cover photos for playlists – something that drives discovery on 8tracks and other platforms.

Those are just two simple additions, and it would provide so much more content and creativity around sharing music with your friends. It seems Spotify used to have this functionality back in the day, as some really old playlists by Spotify staff have custom images and text, and it seems promoted playlists can also get custom. But it’s really not that exotic or “premium” to ask for, and would do so much for the average user.

I’m sure Spotify is cautious of going off into Myspace dredges, but man, user profile pages aren’t that much fun to dig through or curate. There you can dump your playlists and have your most-played tracks displayed, but they’re not engaging unless you see a playlist title or a track you like. Once you visit your friend’s page, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever go back unless you’re creeping hard, or if you really want to hunt down a playlist.

And on the topic of profile curation, what’s the deal with viewing your own profile? Instead of showing only your public playlists, Spotify made a recent update to show all your playlists, even if they’re marked “Secret”. I have a million garbage playlists, and I hate scrolling through to see which playlists people see first (or even at all) if they visit my profile.

On a positive note, the “Following” feature for artists and friends has been a fun addition after they fixed the UI of the feed to the right side of the desktop client. Passive sharing is nice, but I think Spotify would be wise to let users really get more creative with curation.

Instead, they’ve dumped most of their social features on Facebook and Spotify Apps who can’t provide the same “hook” as native features. Their Facebook partnership made a lot of sense to plug in and promote on Facebook’s graph, and I’m happy with a lot of Spotify apps, but the company seems to use it as a crutch. Since the platform launched in 2008, the feed has really been the only major native social feature.

These days, Spotify is pumping a lot of acquisition money and effort into “Discovery” as shown by the new discover tab. Additionally they acquired Stockholm-based Tunigo, which is behind the launch of curated playlists for mobile. As good as I think it is that they’re focusing on human curation for the masses (rather than algorithms), my friends have good taste in music, and I want to see what’s in their ears.

So please! Fix social.

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