Spotify is modeling a new feature called “Tastebuds” to see what friends have been listening to. Exploring music has becoming a social trend; however, the mobile app has no features that allow the users to directly interact with friends.
Spotify was avoiding social features forcing users to rely on the company’s own playlists and discovery surfaces. This gave Spotify the power to be the ‘crown-placer’, massively influencing which artists got featured and rose to stardom. This, in turn, gave Spotify the upper hand in its combative negotiations with record labels, which worried that their artists might get left off the playlists if they don’t play nice with Spotify.
For now, that strategy seems to have encouraged Spotify to improve its licensing deals and become a critical promotional partner for the labels. Now, more laid back in its position, Spotify seems ready to let go of some more control of discovery and enable users to be better inspired by what friends are playing.
Tastebuds was made to let users discover the music taste profiles of their friends. It acts as a navigation option with your Library and Home/Browse sections.
The non-functioning landing page for the feature is available at https://open.spotify.com/tastebuds. “What’s Tastebuds? Now you can discover music through friends whose taste you trust”, the feature expresses itself.
Without Tastebuds, there are only a few hidden ways to interact socially on Spotify. You can message friends a piece of music through SMS, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging platforms, or post songs to your Instagram or Snapchat Story.
Spotify used to have an in-app inbox for trading songs but removed it in favor of shuttling users to more popular messaging apps. A Friend Activity ticker allows you to see what view your Facebook friends are currently listening to but only on the desktop, but not mobile app, or web. One can search for specific users and follow them or view playlists they’ve made public.
A few other social features have been experimented on by Spotify but never been launched. These features include a Friends Weekly playlist spotted last year by The Verge’s Dani Deahl. This May, the company launched a shared-queue Social Listening feature that lets you and friends play songs simultaneously while apart.
The result of these features is that you can only see either a ‘shortsighted’ snapshot of friends’ current songs, some outdated playlists they manually made public, or you message them the songs elsewhere. There was no direct way to get a holistic view of what a friend has been jamming to lately or their overall music preferences.
Social influence is huge, but it’s an under-tapped opportunity for Spotify. Social recommendations get users to listen to Spotify for a longer duration, thereby hearing more ads or becoming less likely to cancel their subscription, it also helps Spotify lock in its users with a social graph they can’t find elsewhere. While competitors like Apple Music or YouTube might offer similar music catalogs, users won’t astray from Spotify if they get addicted to social discovery through Tastebuds.
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