October Playlist: Wounded Egos

Comparison of playlist features

Every month I create a playlist for my friends and myself – a habit that I have started with mixtapes. This month reflects our team’s journey into one of the world’s most prestigious startup validation lab in the AI field, in a year when the recession is deeper than ever since the World War 2, the music business is devastated by the pandemic, and our team is forced to lockdown, follow this excellent validation lab on Zoom screens, meet our first clients online, and learn to work together in a socially distanced way. The songs I chose are subjectively important to me, a bit maybe even controversial ones, and probably very different from the music that you are listening to.

I would like to use this example as a start of series how we are thinking about connecting musicians and their fans in new ways with the help of AI and big data. How we are planning to bring back life to the small venues after the pandemic? How we try to keep the link between musicians and their audience alive in this very sad year?

In this chart you can see a short analysis of my Wounded Egos playlist. It is a very personal, subjective playlist. Subjectivity is very important to us, because we want to use the insights from big data and machine learning in a very personal way to the music community: fans, artists, technicians, managers, labels, publisher and all the ecosystem. You can play my playlist in Spotify’s embedded player.

Below the music player you find a very short comparison of the current global hits and the current hits in the Netherlands on Spotify. This time I would like to illustrate the difference of my listening habits from the global mainstream, and I won’t go in depth to how we want to make more relevant recommendations. These are the difference that we are trying to capture for local music scenes, cities, countries in our Listen Local initiative.

If you find it interesting why I chose these songs in October 2020, you read about my choices as a personal recommendation at the end of the post.

A Quick Comparison

My playlist is a very subjective and curated playlist… (I curated it myself, after all!) These songs are very different from the songs that people are more likely listening to around me in the Netherlands, or all over the world.

The most streamed songs in the Netherlands overlap with the most streamed songs all over the world, but there is no overlap with my list.

Our aim is to create locally relevant recommendations. If you live in Antwerpen, and you are looking for bands that you can see on a small stage after the pandemic, we will recommend you great music from Northwestern Belgium and the South of Holland. If you want to visit San Diego after the pandemic, we’ll recommend you music from the San Diego scene. If you want to fill up with good music a local content quota, such as a national and city relevant quota in your radio, we will help you.

The next comparison uses some musicology and sound engineering “features” of the songs on the three lists. These characteristics are themselves recognized by algorithms, and they are used for Spotify’s own recommendations.

My songs are independent songs, far less popular than the global hits. My playlist is mainly indie rock, so far less danceable, less loud than the current hits, but it is more energetic! The average tempo is similar to the hits, but I tend to chose slower songs, too.

Spotify’s valence is a quantitative measure that aims to capture the positiveness conveyed by the a sound recording(e.g.happy, cheerful, euphoric on the positive side, and sad, depressed, angry on the negative side). Another striking difference among my list and the two hitlists is the far broader scale of emotions conveyed by the songs that I selected for October 2020.

In the next blogposts we will explain some details.

Wounded Egos: Daniel’s October Playlist

1. Gaz Coombes - Wounded Egos

Starting up a company, building a team in the times of corona, social distancing, zoom calls and narcissistic world leaders is hard.

2. dEUS - Sirens “You gotta pick your fights, you’ve got work to do”

Which makes you think that you have to resist the Sirens call. This record came out the day before I went to my CFA exam, which was the most gruelling test in my life. I just downloaded it, put it on the car hifi, pressed play and did the 8 hour test without error.

The Harmaleighs - Don’t Panic

“But what if that’s all I’m good at?”

Don’t Panic surprised me so much that it found its way to my September and October playlist, too. If something is perfect, it is perfect.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Can’t Stop

“I just can’t stop”

Sometimes I need to go back to the basics. Jon Spencer is as good as Elvis must have been on stage. I never saw Elvis on stage, I am too young for that, but old enough to have seen Jon Spencer on a large and small stage.

Fountains of Wayne - Michael And Heather At The Baggage Claim

“Michael & Heather at the baggage claim tired of playing the waiting game”

The covid pandemic not only froze the entire music industry, and put many artists, venues, managers, technicians on life support, but claimed many lives in the audience and in the music community. I still come to tears when I recall that early March day when I learned that Adam Schlesinger, my favourite lyricist and songwriter died. I was alwayshoping that I will show him what we were doing. We will certainly dedicate something to his memory along the way. For 15 years, when I was sad, I just picked one of the Fountains of Wayne records, and put it on. For this playlist, I chose a bittersweet song, which probably has the best poetry written in independent music ever.

Spotify falls for the typical Schlesinger trick: the melody is very upbeat, the lyrics is bittersweet. Spotify risks to put it into the positive and danceable category, at least, within my list, though I find it just a bit less gloomy than Don’t Panic and the Royal Screw Up.

Japanese Breakfast - Machinist

“How can I fight a kingdom of your demons?”

I can’t complain about the big algorithms of the big company. Spotify’s algorithm brought Japanese Breakfast to me. We just want to take a less individualist approach to making recommendations. Michelle Zauner is on the feminine side of this list, and I just can’t get enough of her music.

Spotify’s analysis finds this song to be less danceable and dark, which is exactly why Japanese Breakfast is such a curious artist project. It is experimental pop music that twists well-known pop clichés into original new songs.

Soccer Mommy - Royal Screw Up

“And I want an answer to all my problems”

When Soccer Mommy’s new record came out in March, I could not resist reaching out to the sound engineering team to convey my congratulations. Soccer Mommy is the youngest artist on this list with a huge talent, and the team that she works with is just world class.

Phoebe Bridgers - Kyoto

“You called me from a payphone / They still got pay phones”

The most popular song on the playlist, a true global independent hit. Phoebe Bridgers is hot, and she may be a killer, too.

David Kitt - It’s Yours

Spotify sees this song as the most danceable and most positive song. And it is so.