Spotify's biggest strength is the data it gathers on your music-streaming habits. That powers its excellent recommendation system, but it also aids in a bit of musical navel-gazing courtesy of the semi-regular stories and dynamic new playlists the company creates for you. Today there's a new "Only You" story rolling out via the Spotify app that shows off some of your more curious musical habits. The long-awaited Blend feature for creating a playlist based on the musical tastes of two different people is also rolling out in beta, though it's a little buggy.
Only You story
The new Only You story is a mobile-only affair, accessed via the Spotify app in a brand new "Only You" section that also houses your Genre and Decade mixes, as well as "Your Dinner Party," — more on that later.
I'm not a big fan of the story format, myself, since it's a bit tedious to sit through and you can't always skip easily through sections to get to what you want, but the data presented by this latest story is interesting, showing your recent musical tastes in a slightly different context, focused on what sets you apart. For example, Spotify called me out for listening to Born Days immediately after The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and for mixing Still Corners, Duke Ellington, and Sinkane together in a playlist.
There's also an astrological "birth chart" to the story's analysis, and while I can do without that sort of pseudoscience, myself, it is another way to see what artists your listening to recently.
Lastly, there is an interactive component: you get to choose a musical guest list for dinner, selecting three artists from a list of three for each seat, at the end of which it will give you a set of "mix" playlists for each to add to your library. (They seem no different from the existing artist's mix playlists, but you may not have them in your library.) In the end, you can also share each of the individual stories generated that show off your clearly superior musical tastes with your friends.
As part of today's rollout, Spotify has also announced that Blend — a feature that lets you merge musical tastes with a friend into a single playlist — is now rolling out in beta. It's in the new Made For You hub in the Spotify app, which may not appear for everyone just yet. But once you invite a friend with a generated link and they accept, a playlist is automatically created based on your shared preferences and data.
The resulting playlists are 50 songs long, alternating titles in a roughly 50/50 fashion between your tastes and pulling songs you've both enjoyed whenever possible. Individual songs are attributed with avatars in the app (but not on the web or desktop client), and playlists are simply named according to the two accounts used to generate them. You can save Blend playlist to your library or leave it if and when you get tired of the mix it's created.
Playing with the feature among the AP staff, results have been mixed — pun intended. If you already have something in common with someone, it does a pretty decent job, with more hits than misses in choosing songs you might both like. But if you don't share anything in musical interests, the resulting playlist feels like a hodgepodge of mismatched genres. My playlist generated with AP's Will Sattleberg came out mostly okay, as did another with Matt Scholtz, while Rita El Khoury and I have very little in overlapping tastes, and the results were disjointed. Sadly, I can't share any of the playlists with you as examples. Even when set as "public," links for Blends don't seem to work outside the two participant accounts. Another of us even had a crash when accessing an invitation link, and they don't look quite right across all platforms. As a beta, it's still a little buggy.
Blend will probably prove popular this summer, especially for road trips and other travel plans, though it has a few shortcomings. Outside the various platform issues and inability to share playlists, being able to generate them with more than one person or collaboratively edit the Blend playlists (which are otherwise entirely static) could be nice additions. An endless listening feature would also be nice, as right now, once you hit the end of the playlist, it just pulls songs to continue from your tastes, ignoring your friend's.