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Google Play Music Curators Need To Pass The Susan Boyle Test

October 16, 2015 - Written By Diego Macias

Music streaming services are all the rage right now, there are a bunch of services that offer similar features, so it’s time that they are not only differentiated with pricing but also some extra features like curated playlists. Spotify and more recently Apple Music have been offering some curated playlists for specific moments like a party or just relaxing on a Sunday afternoon and there are a few radio stations that offer some music selection that is considered very good by most people. Google Play Music is also betting on curated playlists, but Peter Asbill, who is in charge of the people who create these playlists, explains what would make theirs different from their competition.

Asbill has a lot of experience in curated playlists as he was the owner of Songza, which Google bought in 2014. His company specialized in creating playlists for certain moods or time of the day and a feature called Concierge was designed to bring the music that its users expected at the right time. He asks those interested in curating playlists for this service to pass the Susan Boyle test, which consists of including some songs from that artist and some that a fan of hers would appreciate. The reason of choosing that particular artist who emerged from a talent show is that her music is not considered “cool” by everyone, but the curators should be able to understand why people find her appealing and the interests of that kind of people. “It’s about getting people to check their ego at the door”, said Asbill.

This is precisely what would make Play Music’s playlists different, they would be more personal as they want to know more about your context rather than trying to educate people about music. Asbill states “We’re trying to give them the perfect soundtrack for their moment, not trying to force people to discover new things”. That’s why he created that test, he wants his curators to stop thinking about their musical preferences and start thinking about those who have different taste in music. He wants his group of curators to be creative and fun, which is reflected on the descriptions of some of the very specific and weird playlists. Google has some algorithms to recommend some items based on what they search, so they would attempt similar algorithms to work on their music service. Still, humans are considered very important for these playlists. “In the future, you shouldn’t have to search or browse for music: the right music should find you”, said Asbill. For those who would like to try the Susan Boyle test, the playlist should have 50 songs minimum and it should last for at least three and a half hours.