Music’s hottest word right now is “discover.”
Earlier this week, Apple Music unveiled a major redesign, the centerpiece of which is an expanded music discovery feature that lets users scroll through a personalized list of song recommendations every day. Just 48 hours later, Pandora made its own announcement: It too will offer personalized new music!
“We are pushing the boundaries of discovery and serving up an experience that listeners can’t find anywhere else,” Pandora music programming director Ron Nenni insisted in a press release, adding that the company aims to connect fans with new music in a way that’s “targeted and personal.”
But is music discovery really unavailable anywhere else? Not really. Despite differences in business model—Pandora is mainly an online radio platform, while Apple Music provides on-demand streaming—the two companies essentially announced the same feature this week. And they’re not alone; personalized music curation has seized the streaming industry at large. There’s iHeartRadio’s “discovery tuner,” for example, and Tidal’s “discovery” service for emerging artists. (Apple Music’s new feature is called “Discovery Mix.”)
Ironically, no streaming platform offers truly personalized recommendations: That would take millions of employees sifting through millions of listeners’ preferences one by one. Thus far, Spotify has come closest to perfecting personalized curation. But thanks to the copycats, algorithm-based music discovery has gone from innovative to commonplace.