Spotify is revamping its app with TikTok-style discovery feeds, Smart Shuffle for playlists, and more

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At Spotify’s Stream On event in LA today, the company introduced a significant redesign of its app, which capitalizes on its investments in personalization technology while using a similar short video feed to the one popularized by TikTok. In the updated Spotify mobile app, users and subscribers will gain access to a handful of new features, including the vertically scrolling “discovery” feeds, a new “Smart Shuffle” mode for playlist recommendations, a new autoplay podcast feature and more.

Some features, such as Smart Shuffle, will only be available to subscribers, while others, such as the new TikTok-inspired feeds, will be available to everyone. However, feature availability will reach some markets sooner than others and will arrive at different intervals.

Image Credits: AapkaDost

Spotify says the changes are intended to make the user interface more vibrant and interactive. However, the move can also serve other purposes. Most notably, it introduces a new surface in the app where the company could later introduce ads, much like Instagram has done with the addition of Reels. Officially, Spotify has nothing to announce on this front today, but in an email with AapkaDost it said it is “excited” about how its offerings could evolve over time.

Another benefit of a revamp is that it could be a way to address some customer complaints about how the app has become too cluttered and difficult to use, limiting discovery.

The new design builds on the updates that shipped in August 2022, which separated music and podcasts into their own feeds. It will immediately catch your eye on the first launch of the updated app, as the main page – the Home tab of the app – has been revamped with the new features.

Fortunately, you won’t be dropped right into the new TikTok-like experience without warning.

Instead, you’ll still find shortcuts to your personalized playlists and mixes at the top of the music feed screen. 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 later years, it expanded its collection of personalized playlists to include catering to users with a wide variety of music tastes and interests, in addition to playlists around activities, such as commuting or sports, and more.

Image Credits: Spotify

After first highlighting these playlists and mixes, the app showcases the recently launched AI DJ feature, which is currently only available to Premium subscribers in the US and Canada. The DJ uses generative AI and a natural-sounding AI voice to present his music selections and provide background information about the artist, song or album, among other things. (You can read more about the DJ function here.)

Image Credits: Spotify

As you scroll down, you have the option to browse the music previews. These are presented as full-screen videos that take advantage of the artist’s existing Canvas video – the short, looping video clips that are already playing when their music is streamed in the app today. The format is already successful, generating more streams, shares, saves and adds, Spotify claims.

Canvas also offered Spotify the opportunity to experiment with a TikTok-like feed – something it’s been testing for some time. (AapkaDost has reported on several tests of a vertical feed in its app in 2021 and again in 2022. At the time, Spotify would dismiss these tests as just one of its ongoing experiments. More recently, a TikTok-esque video feed was spotted testing in the mobile app from Spotify, distributed to its TestFlight testers – as seen here on YouTube.)

Image Credits: Spotify

The design Spotify has now opted for after its previous testing presents a snippet of the song’s audio in combination with video. The feature allows users to preview an album, playlist or a single, the company says. For playlists and albums, you can tap through the preview card to view up to five tracks. In some cases, users also get contextual clues as to why they are recommended these items.

What’s interesting about this format is that Spotify lets you listen to your music while scrolling through the recommendation feed on mute. If and when you find something you like, you can tap the card to go to the full album or playlist, or you can stop your own music and listen to the suggestion instead. You can also add recommendations to your favorite songs or other playlists to listen to later.

Like the music feed, the podcasts feed has also been updated with a vertically scrolling user interface. Except in this case, users won’t preview a looping video – unless it’s from a video podcast, of course. Instead, they are shown audio clips of podcast episodes of up to 60 seconds with real-time transcripts of what is being said.

Image Credits: Spotify

Like the music feed, users can scroll vertically through the podcast recommendations with the audio muted, if they prefer. If they see something they like, they can unmute it and start listening, picking up where the preview left off by tapping “continue listening.” They can also tap the plus (+) button — a button that Spotify recently updated to combine the “Like” heart icon and “Add to” functionality into one. With a tap, users can now add the episode to a playlist of saved episodes to listen to later, Spotify says.

The company also notes that the audiobook feed will be structured similarly to these new music and podcast feeds. Audiobooks are a newer offering and there were over 300,000 books available at last count.

The discovery feeds won’t just be accessible from the music and podcast pages, Spotify says. They are also integrated into the Search tab of the app. From here, users can jump to personalized feeds for things like genres and moods.

The company says the algorithm behind these feeds will rank its suggestions based on individual user tastes and preferences, not overall popularity.

Outside of the new feeds, another change also focuses on discovery, but it’s a smaller tweak.

The company had launched a feature called “Enhance” in 2021 that would make recommendations of songs to add to a playlist you’ve created. Now Spotify’s Premium subscribers can automate this type of discovery without having to manually review the suggestions. This is done by enabling a new “Smart Shuffle” option that adds Spotify’s suggestions to the queue as your playlist streams. (A glitter icon indicates 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.

Image Credits: Spotify

“Smart Shuffle breathes new life into listeners’ playlists by recommending and visualizing additional songs that perfectly complement the playlist,” Spotify co-president and CTO Gustav Söderström said at the event. “It is already being rolled out worldwide. So next time you’re ready to refresh your playlists, you can tap the shuffle icon and we’ll throw the right new songs into the mix.

Plus, podcast listeners also get a new feature that automatically starts playing a featured episode when you finish streaming an episode from another show. Spotify claims that such feature is very popular with users and will boost the discovery of new shows. However, those who don’t like an autoplay experience can turn it off in Settings (Settings -> Playback -> Enable Autoplay).

The new features, combined with the recently launched AI DJ, are aimed at addressing one of the bigger complaints from fans, artists and creators alike: discovering new content. With the radio model dying out, artists now rely more on services like Spotify to put their songs on editorial playlists or insert their songs into users’ Discover Weekly. In theory, these updates could open a new window for finding fans.

But probably this update can be quite controversial. There are those who are tired of the TikTok verification of all their apps, from Netflix to Reddit to Amazon to more direct competitors from the likes of Snap, Instagram and YouTube.

However, Spotify says recommendations are key to its experience.

“Spotify recommendations power nearly half of all users’ streams. Plus, every time your music plays on a program playlist like Release Radar, you’ll receive an average of three times more streams from that listener over the next six months,” said Gustav Söderström, Spotify co-president and chief product & technology officer, speaking at the event.

At launch, the Spotify redesign will be mobile-only, but it will appear on more devices in the future. It’s rolling out in waves to the company’s more than 500 million monthly active users, meaning you might not see it right away, but you will soon.

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