Spotify adds human touch to help people find playlists

Spotify adds "browse," a section of playlists vetted by a staff of music overseers, ahead of a coming rival homed in on that approach.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
A screenshot of Spotify's browse on an Android phone
Spotify's Browse on Android Spotify

Spotify is going editorial, launching curated shelves of playlists ahead of a coming rival -- Beats Electronics CEO Jimmy Iovine's revamp of on-demand subscription service MOG, codenamed Daisy -- that is centering its entire service on that strategy.

Spotify, which is the top on-demand streaming music service on the Web, is rolling out a section called browse this week to its mobile apps, with other of its platforms to follow. It has playlists tailored to situations like going for a jog or commuting in the morning and moods like romance, as well as collections of top tracks and new releases.

The playlists are culled from Spotify's universe of more than a billion user-created compilations, and then a staff of 35 musicologist, music editor and writers dug through data to find the lists that were resonating or created some of their own, Charlie Hellman, Spotify's vice president of product development, told CNET in an interview.

It rings familiar to the idea Iovine is pursuing with Daisy, which is supposed to be powered by a mix of humans and algorithms. Iovine has enlisted deans of music -- artists, DJs, and others with deep knowledge and experience in producing music, including Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor as chief creative officer -- to come up with playlists.

Daisy is said to be launching in the coming months, possibly as part of a partnership with AT&T.

Spotify's browse is starting out on iOS and Android. Spotify users must have a paying subscription to use the mobile apps, but the browse feature isn't meant to be a lure for more paying users. Hellman said Browse would be rolling out to web-based and desktop Spotify in the coming weeks, and it was launched on mobile first because the feature -- with the ability to get what you need to your mood or circumstance quickly -- is well-suited for mobile.

In addition to the mobile launch of browse, Spotify is rolling out a private message system to its Web application. The service has long let users send music directly to each other, and its new messages element allows one-to-one written chats alongside that.