How to Bust Your Spotify Feedback Loop and Find New Music


If you’re listening to music proper now, chances are high you didn’t select what to placed on—you outsourced it to an algorithm. Such is the recognition of advice techniques that we’ve come to depend on them to serve us what we wish with out us even having to ask, with music streaming companies resembling Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer all utilizing personalised techniques to counsel playlists or tracks tailor-made to the consumer.

Generally, these techniques are excellent. The drawback, for some, is that they’re maybe actually too good. They’ve found out your style, know precisely what you take heed to, and advocate extra of the identical till you’re caught in an countless pit of ABBA recordings (simply me?). But what if you wish to escape of your ordinary routine and take a look at one thing new? Can you practice or trick the algorithm into suggesting a extra numerous vary?

“That is tricky,” says Peter Knees, assistant professor at TU Wien. “Probably you have to steer it very directly into the direction that you already know you might be interested in.”

The drawback solely will get worse the extra you depend on automated suggestions. “When you keep listening to the recommendations that are being made, you end up in that feedback loop, because you provide further evidence that this is the music you want to listen to, because you’re listening to it,” Knees says. This supplies constructive reinforcement to the system, incentivizing it to maintain making related recommendations. To escape of that bubble, you’re going to want to fairly explicitly take heed to one thing completely different.

Companies resembling Spotify are secretive about how their advice techniques work (and Spotify declined to touch upon the specifics of its algorithm for this text), however Knees says we are able to assume most are closely based mostly on collaborative filtering, which makes predictions of what you would possibly like based mostly on the likes of different individuals who have related listening habits to you. You might imagine that your music style is one thing very private, but it surely’s seemingly not distinctive. A collaborative filtering system can construct an image of style clusters—artists or tracks that enchantment to the identical group of individuals. Really, Knees says, this isn’t all that completely different to what we did earlier than streaming companies, if you would possibly ask somebody who appreciated among the similar bands as you for extra suggestions. “This is just an algorithmically supported continuation of this idea,” he says.

The drawback happens if you need to get away out of your ordinary style, period, or normal style and discover one thing new. The system shouldn’t be designed for this, so that you’re going to must put in some effort. “Frankly, the best solution would be to create a new account and really train it on something very dissimilar,” says Markus Schedl, a professor at Johannes Kepler University Linz.

Failing that, it’s essential to actively search out one thing new. You may search out a brand new style or use a device exterior of your essential streaming service to seek out recommendations of artists or tracks after which seek for them. Schedl suggests discovering one thing you don’t take heed to as a lot and beginning a “radio” playlist—a function in Spotify that creates a playlist based mostly on a particular music. (These might, nevertheless, even be influenced by your broader listening habits.)

Knees suggests ready for brand spanking new releases or repeatedly listening to the most well-liked tracks. “There’s a chance that the next thing that comes up is going to be your thing,” he says. But getting away from the mainstream is more durable. You’ll discover that even should you actively seek for a brand new style, you’ll seemingly be nudged towards extra common artists and tracks. This is sensible—if a number of folks like one thing, it’s extra seemingly you’ll too—however could make it exhausting to unearth hidden gems.

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