Spotify revamps its app with TikTok-style discovery feeds, Smart Shuffle for playlists and more
Image credits: Spotify
At Spotify’s Stream On event in LA today, the company unveiled a significant redesign of its app that takes advantage of its investments in personalization technology, while also adopting a similar short-form video feed to that popularized by TikTok . In the updated Spotify mobile app, users and subscribers will have access to a number of new features, including vertically scrolling “discovery” feeds, a new “Smart Shuffle” mode for playlist recommendations, a podcast autoplay clouds and more.
Some features, like Smart Shuffle, will be available only to subscribers, while others — like new TikTok-inspired feeds — will be rolled out to everyone. However, feature availability will arrive in some markets before others and will arrive at different intervals.
Spotify says the changes are meant to make its user interface feel more vibrant and interactive. However, movement can also serve other purposes. More importantly, it introduces a new surface in the app where the company can later introduce ads, just as Instagram has done with the addition of Reels. Officially, Spotify has nothing to announce today on this front, but in an email to TechCrunch it said it is “excited” about how the offerings can evolve over time.
Another benefit of a revamp is that it could be a way to address some customer complaints about how its app has become too cluttered and difficult to use, which limits discovery.
The new design builds on the updates sent in August 2022, which had separated music and podcasts into their feeds. It will be noticed immediately upon the first release of the updated application, as the main page – the “Home” tab of the application – will be refreshed with the new features.
Thankfully, you won’t be dropped straight into the new TikTok-like experience without warning.
Instead, at the top of the music feed screen, you’ll again find shortcuts to your custom playlists and mixes. These aren’t new — Spotify has a long history of using personalization technology to attract and retain users, starting with the launch of its flagship Discover Weekly playlist in 2015. In subsequent years, it expanded its collection of of personalized playlists to cater to users with a wide variety of musical tastes and interests, in addition to playlists centered around activities such as commuting or exercise, etc.
After initially highlighting these playlists and mixes, the app will display the recently released AI DJ feature, currently only available to Premium subscribers in the US and Canada. The DJ uses generative AI and a natural-sounding AI voice to introduce his music selections and provide background information about the artist, song or album, among others. (You can read more about the DJ feature here.)
As you scroll down, you’ll have the option to start scrolling through music previews. These are presented as full-screen videos that take advantage of the artist’s existing Canvas video — the short, punchy clips that already play when their music is streamed on the app today. The format is already successful, delivering growth in streams, shares, savings and add-ons, Spotify claims.
Canvas also presented Spotify with an opportunity to experiment with a TikTok-like feed — something it’s been testing for some time. (TechCrunch reported on various tests of a vertical feed in its app in 2021 and again in 2022. At the time, Spotify would dismiss these tests as just another of its ongoing experiments. Times (Recently, a TikTok-like video was seen in testing on Spotify’s mobile app, distributed to its TestFlight testers – as seen here on YouTube.)
The design that Spotify has now decided to follow its previous tests presents a snippet of the song’s audio combined with the video. The feature lets users preview an album, playlist or song, the company says. With playlists and albums, you can tap the preview card to preview up to five songs. In some cases, users will also receive contextual indications as to why these articles are recommended to them.
What’s cool about this format is that Spotify will let you listen to your music while scrolling through the recommendation feed silently. If and when you find something you like, you can tap the card to go to full album or playlist view, or you can pause your music and start listening to the suggestion. You can also add recommendations for your favorite songs or any other playlist to listen to later.
Similar to the music feed, the podcast feed has also been updated with a vertically scrolling user interface. Except in his case, users won’t preview a looping video — unless it’s from a video podcast, of course. Instead, they’re presented with audio snippets from podcast episodes up to 60 seconds long with real-time transcriptions of what’s being said.
Like the music feed, users can scroll through podcast recommendations vertically with the volume muted if they wish. If they see something they like, they can mute and start listening, picking up where they left off by tapping “continue listening.” They can also tap the Plus (+) button – a Spotify button recently updated to combine its Like heart icon and Add to functionality into one. With a tap, users will now be able to add the episode to a playlist of saved episodes for later listening, Spotify says.
The company also notes that its audiobook feed will be structured in the same way as these new music and podcast resources. Audiobooks are a newer offering and had, at last count, over 300,000 books available.
Discovery feeds won’t just be accessible through music and podcast sites, Spotify says. They will also be integrated into the “Search” tab of the application. From here, users will be able to jump into personalized feeds for things like genres and moods.
The company says the algorithm behind these feeds will rank its suggestions based on individual users’ tastes and preferences, not overall popularity.
Outside of the new resources, another change also focuses on discovery, but it’s a smaller change.
The company in 2021 had launched a feature called “Upgrade” that would make recommendations for songs that could be added to a playlist you had created. Now, Spotify Premium subscribers will be able to automate this type of discovery without having to manually review suggestions. This will be done by enabling a new “Smart Shuffle” option that will add Spotify suggestions to the queue while your playlist is streaming. (A glowing icon will indicate which songs are recommended). If you like a song, you can tap the plus button to add it to the playlist. And if you don’t, you can tap a minus button to remove it.
“Smart Shuffle brings new life to listeners’ playlists by recommending and visualizing additional songs that perfectly match the playlist,” Spotify co-president and CTO Gustav Söderström said during the event. “It is already spreading around the world. So the next time you’re ready to refresh your playlists, you can tap the shuffle icon and we’ll throw the appropriate new songs into the mix.”
In addition, podcast listeners will also benefit from a new feature that will automatically start playing a recommended episode when you finish streaming an episode from another show. Spotify claims that such a feature has been highly requested by users and will boost the discovery of new shows. However, those who do not enjoy an autoplay experience will be able to turn it off in Settings (Settings -> Playback -> toggle Autoplay).
The new features, combined with the recently launched AI DJ, are focused on addressing one of the biggest complaints from fans and artists and creators alike: discovering new content. As the radio model has died, artists are now more dependent on services like Spotify to get their songs featured on editorial playlists or get their songs into users’ Discover Weekly. In theory, these updates could open a new window for finding fans.
But surely, this update can be quite controversial. There are those who are annoyed by the TikTok-ification of all their apps, from Netflix to Reddit to Amazon to more direct competitors from Snap, Instagram and YouTube, among others.
However, Spotify says recommendations are central to its experience.
“Spotify recommendations drive close to half of all users’ streams. What’s more, every time your music is played on a playlist like Release Radar, you get an average of three times more streams from that listener over the next six months,” noted Gustav Söderström, Spotify’s co-president and chief operating officer. of products and technology. speaking at the event.
At first, Spotify’s redesign will be mobile-only, but it will reach more devices in the future. It will be rolling out to the company’s 500+ million monthly active users, which means you might not see it right away, but you will soon.