February 26th 2019

Today I actually didn’t hate my commute, and it’s all down to my new playlist. Driving home from work on a sunny day is enjoyable if you’ve got good music to keep you going. And for the last week or so I’ve been working on curating the perfect playlist.

I’d basically got bored of finding a Spotify playlist that someone else had made, and skipping through the songs I don’t like to get to the ones that I do, so I did something I’ve somehow never actually done before and made my own playlist. Before I added any songs to it, I gave it a name: Unskippable.

The goal of the playlist is to curate it so finely that I’ll want to listen to any song that comes on shuffle, regardless of what kind of mood I’m in. But there needs to be enough songs so that I’m not listening to the same songs over and over again — as that was happening when I was listening to other people’s playlists.

At the moment, there are 559 songs on the playlist, adding up to a total running time of almost 35 hours. That sounds like a lot, but it means if every song that came on shuffle was a ‘new’ song, it would only actually take me two weeks of commuting to ‘complete’ the playlist.

I’ve added to the playlist basically every song I ‘like’. I went through my favourite artists and added only my favourite songs. I added all the best songs from all the best playlists. I mixed up genres and generations and genericness of song choice. (‘genericness’ doesn’t really make sense there, but I wanted another ‘gen’ word to fit the rule of threes)

I like every single one of those five hundred songs. That’s a guarantee. I’m trying to get to the point where I’ll never skip a song. Hence, ‘unskippable’.

(FYI, I’ve embedded the playlist below, but I don’t know if it’ll work…)

There is, however, the Spotify Shuffle Problem. A lot of people don’t know this, but the shuffle button on Spotify doesn’t actually just play songs in a random order. No one — outside of the company — knows the specifics of it, but there are actually a whole load of factors that go into ordering the shuffled queue on Spotify.

Shuffle tries to predict what kind of song you’re more likely to listen to based on factors like previously skipped songs/recently added artists/listening habits/duration of song previously listened to/time since last play. That’s why even in a playlist of 500 songs, you’re likely to hear certain songs with more frequency than the expected 1/500 chance.

So if a song comes on ‘shuffle’ that I’ve heard recently, I may still skip it. And that’s not the fault of my playlist curation, that’s the fault of the Spotify algorithm.

There are actually off-brand Spotify extensions that you can install to dictate true randomness upon your playlists, but it feels like you shouldn’t have to do that, you know?

Until tomorrow, you can’t order randomness.


2 thoughts on “Unskippable

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