From Drake To Hanson, Spotify’s New Tool Connects Incompatible Musical Tastes

The music-streaming giant is using its algorithms to bridge musical divides, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

It might not be religion or politics, but different tastes in music can be a serious hurdle in a relationship. So in some ways Spotify’s new Sweet Spot playlist tool is less of a music web app and more of a relationship mediator, helping people see the similarities in different types of artists.

The Sweet Spot app first asks for your favorite artist followed by the other person’s favorite artist. After working its algorithmic magic, the tool displays a playlist of songs from one spectrum to the other, each one connected to the last by a degree. The results are like a musical version of “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” or what you might imagine a Pandora station gone off the rails would look like—starting with a punk band and ending with a pop star.

The Valentine’s Day theme of the app is a little corny, but Sweet Spot can still serve as a powerful playlist tool, and a nifty demonstration of the algorithms and analysis beneath the company’s vast music library. Sweet Spot uses an API from “music intelligence platform” The Echo Nest (the Boston-based startup Spotify acquired last year) to calculate the steps between two artists based on their artist similarity attribute—a data point ranking similar sounding artists.

“The web app only took about a month to develop,” says Spotify data storyteller Eliot Van Buskirk. “This is what’s so great about APIs: Most of the heavy lifting has already been done, so it’s possible to build fairly robust applications rapidly.”

That attribute is possibly derived from an in-house tool called Truffle Pig, which classifies songs based on over 50 parameters—not just genres but attributes like “danceability” and “loudness.” Truffle Pig is already used by Spotify editors to develop the app’s popular playlists, but the company has suggested it may open up the tool to the public this year.

The Sexiest Songs

Beyond Spotify’s Sweet Spot web app, the streaming music company also announced some of its most popular songs relating to love and lust. Spotify took the two and a half million playlists labeled “sex,” and ranked the songs to come up with a top 10 of the most popular ones. Unsurprisingly, men created 56% of those “sex” playlists.

Spotify also ranked the top 10 songs from the 28 million playlists titled “love.” Topping the list was John Legend’s “All Of Me.”

It’s not clear how long the Sweet Spot web app will be around, though it should be up for a while. “While the main focus of the app is to generate a shareable playlist between two people’s favorite artists for Valentine’s Day, we’ve also been having fun trying to come up with artists that have really low or high degrees of separation,” says Van Buskirk.

[Source Photos: Flickr user Emily Tan, digboston, and Cole Lundstrom]