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Spotify rolls out Daily Mixes — auto-generated playlists made up of songs you already like

No discovery here, which will probably suit you just fine.

The Clash, 1980
Helge Øverås, via Wikipedia
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Spotify has figured out how to use software to bring you music you haven’t heard that you might like.

Now it’s bringing you music it knows you like.

The streaming music service is rolling out “Daily Mixes,” a feature that provides up to six daily (duh) playlists composed only of music you’ve played before. It’s a riff on “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar” — two Spotify playlists that mix stuff you like with stuff other people like.

All of these auto-generated playlists are trying to solve the same problem — in an on-demand world, where you have 30 million tracks to choose from and a limited amount of time, how do you find things you’d like to hear?

Or, put more crassly: How can Spotify get you to stick around, and/or pay up?

When Spotify launched Discover Weekly a year ago, it seemed like a cool magic trick. The feature looked at music you played and compared it to music played by people with similar tastes, then created a playlist that sounded like a mixtape made by a really smart music nerd.

And since the playlists are created automatically, using software and crowd-sourcing, they were also a rebuke to Spotify rival Apple Music, which has pointed to its handmade playlists as a key differentiator.

Since then, both Spotify and Apple Music have continued to grow, and the distinction seems beside the point. The relevant thing is that Spotify has found a feature people like: It says 40 million of its 100 million users use the auto-generated personalized playlists.

The difference with Daily Mix is that it doesn’t try to help you “discover” new music, but just plays stuff you’ve already heard on a never-ending list. This is comforting and effective for the same reason that listening to your old-timey favorite radio station used to be.

Like that favorite radio station, the Daily Mix can’t surprise you, which is both a feature and a bug. It may be a little embarrassing to admit that you don’t want to hear new music, but I suspect it’s the way many people view music most of the time — as a comfort food, not a journey into the unknown.

I do feel a little uneasy about the way the Daily Mix has cut up my favorites into groupings that are literally segregated: One mix is made up of (really) old (white) guy rock from The Clash, Joe Walsh and The Replacements; another is populated by old hip hop from The Pharcyde and Gang Starr; a third one is old R&B from Stevie Wonder and The Isley Brothers.

On the one hand, separating this (old) stuff makes sense, just like radio stations based on genres make sense. On the other hand, it’s 2016, and it’s flattering to think that I’d like to hear all of this mixed up together.

The nice thing is, I still can, whenever I want to. And if I don’t, Spotify can help me there, too.

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