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Testing, Testing: Spotify Has a “Social Listening” Feature in the Works

Tech

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An upgrade from collaborative playlists, Social Listening will let friends listen together in realtime – the virtual version of sharing a set of headphones.

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When Spotify shuttered its in-app messaging capabilities several years back, instead pushing song and album sharing to third-party sites, the streaming giant seemed to be making a statement on its social capacity. But a recently unearthed feature shows that they’re reintroducing communal approaches to music sharing.

According to app detective Jane Manchun Wong, Spotify is currently testing a “Social Listening” feature that allows groups of friends to create and share a near-synchronous listening experience. TechCrunch describes it: “[Social Listening] lets multiple people add songs to a queue they can all listen to. You just all scan one friend’s QR-style Spotify Social Listening code, and then anyone can add songs to the real-time playlist. Differing from their current collaborative playlists, “the user interface will show how many users are connected to the listening session, their profile image, and a code that will allow users to add music.” The tool has obvious utility for inherently communal experiences; TechRadar notes that the feature has high potential for group activities like parties or road trips. But it could also connect friends at a distance, who can also connect using a dedicated link to the always-under-construction list.

At 100 million paying subscribers and millions more listening free with ad support, Spotify is the natural music site to test out this feature. Prior attempts to facilitate synchronous listening, most notably with Turntable.fm but also through a long-forgotten Facebook feature “Listen With”, have since shuttered, leaving Spotify as the only site to offer this capability…should it be released.

Currently, only Spotify employees have access to the still-experimental capability. And there are still some kinks to work out. For example, the tool will struggle to be fully synchronous if a playlist is shared between paid Spotify users and ones who rely on ad support for their experiences- what happens to paid subscribers while other users get ads?

But even if the experience never reaches that fully synchronous pinnacle, it could grow the company’s bottom line; as TechCrunch points out, “the intimate experience of co-listening might lead to longer sessions with Spotify, boosting ad plays or subscription retention.” And from a more altruistic perspective, the rededication of Spotify to making music a communal experience is promising, encouraging even. Some of the best memories many of us have of music include sharing it with friends—if this feature makes it to market, this process could get even easier.

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