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Digster playlists expand beyond Spotify

A company that bubbled out of one of the large record companies started out building playlists for Spotify users but is now expanding to other subscription music services.

A screen shot of Lady Gaga's Digster playlist.
Universal Music Group

Digster, a playlist service from Universal Music Group, is betting that even in the age of search algorithms and recommendation engines, humans are still the best music-discovery tools.

Rolled out in the United States in August, Digster started out by providing playlists exclusively to users of Spotify, the European music service that also launched U.S. operations this summer. Digster's initial goal was to help cull the millions of tracks available there.

Digster now wants to do the same for users of Rdio, a Spotify competitor. Mitch Rotter, a vice president of marketing and product development at Universal Music, told CNET that Digster has plans to cover many of the top digital music services with its playlists.

"We want to help people dig into these catalogs," Rotter said.

Discovering new music is still too difficult and is one of the choke points in the music-buying experience. Fans have more access to more songs than ever but wading through available tracks has never been harder. Much has been made of recommendation engines that attempt to quantify a person's musical tastes and automatically suggest songs based on their previous choices. But all too often, these suggestions are off the mark.

Rotter understood that Universal had a wealth of in-house knowledge, with all the artists, DJs and former club promoters who work there. So, he set about trying to harness all those diverse musical tastes.

Some of the acts who have created Digster playlists include Florence + the Machine, Rihanna, and the diva-tastemaker herself, Lady Gaga. Digster has rolling playlists that change daily, playlists for any kind of mood or occassion; hosting cocktail parties or work outs or post break-up pity parties. There are of course playlists for dance, indie and hip hop music.

Rotter, who has been working on Web-distributed music for over 20 years ("I was designing sites for browsers before there was Internet Explorer"), also creates playlists.

One thing he wanted to make clear was that Digster may have began as a Spotify-playlist service but the company is completely "agnostic" about music providers. He predicted that one day in the future, Spotify users will be sharing Digster playlists with Rhapsody and MOG subscribers.

Rotter said this will help answer a fundamental question that users of all these subscription services face: "If I can listen to everything, what do I actually want to hear?"