INSIDE SPOTIFY’S PLAN TO TAKE ON APPLE MUSIC

WE KEEP HEARING THINGS LIKE “HUMAN-CURATED” AND “MACHINE LISTENING,” BUT WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN FOR YOU?

Brian Whitman landed at Spotify just in time. The MIT Media Lab alum and machine listening expert joined the product team at Spotify early last year when the streaming giant dropped a reported $100 million to acquire The Echo Nest, the music data company he cofounded a decade ago. Since his time at MIT, Whitman, along with cofounder and fellow PhD Tristan Jehan, has focused obsessively on the intersection of big data, artificial intelligence, and music, using that sweet spot to try and redefine music discovery in the age when songs flow freely like water and new artists pop up by the hour. Today, he’s sitting across from me in a conference room in Spotify’s New York headquarters showing me what his team has been building for the last few months.

It’s called Fresh Finds. At first glance, it’s just another playlist—it could easily be one of the collections hand-curated by Spotify’s 32 music editors, or one of its 75 million users for that matter. But Fresh Finds is different: The weekly playlist is generated using a chunk of the predictive big data technology that Whitman and his team at The Echo Nest brought with them to Spotify last March. The mission of Fresh Finds is to identify under-the-radar artists that are generating buzz online and surface the ones most likely to break out.

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