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Spotify: Understanding People Through Music

Cannes Lions seminars, snack-sized!

created on Tuesday 20 Jun 2017

Dita Von Teese brought possibly unprecedented levels of glamour to Lions Innovation this afternoon – an event more commonly home to data geeks then burlesque icons – as she joined Spotify’s Vice President of Data Adam Bly and a full house at the Inspiration Stage to become the subject of a live “data intervention.” 

Introducing the session, Bly trotted out stats that reveal both the incredible scale of Spotify’s user base and the level of insight this affords the streaming platform. Every day, he explained, “Spotify users are generating more than 100 billion events.” Every event is generated as a response to a user action; listening to a song, clicking on an ad or subscribing to a playlist. That’s a whole lot of streaming.  

Being among these regular Spotify users, Von Teese served as a perfect guinea pig for the streaming platform’s public data experiment. So what could we learn from her listening habits? Kicking things off, Bly shared how Von Teese’s data revealed her to be a fairly consistent listener throughout the week – with the interesting exception of Thursday and Friday nights.

dita von teese

Her top artists include George Michael and Blood Orange – both of whom she counts as friends. Like most people, “She listened to a lot of George Michael when he passed,” along with her friend the late Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson. She discovers more new music than the average listener, and her data showed her to be a classic album listener, as opposed to choosing random playlists, prompting her to concede, “I’ve never been a compilation person.” 

Von Teese described how the blend of nostalgia and modern music found among her listening choices reflect her approach to life, citing her wardrobe as another place that merges the old and the new: “I love vintage clothes, but I don’t wear them exclusively.”

Interestingly, her data (including frequent playbacks of Leonard Cohen’s’ I’m Your Man’) would typically indicate male music preferences. The data analysis can also tell us about her personality, Bly explained: they suggested a sensual, relaxed and easy going person, which, from observing from the audience, seemed an accurate assessment. 

With Von Teese’s listening habits laid bare, Bly was keen to stress the level of privacy employed by Spotify: usually, “anonymous data is used to create more personalised recommendations for our users, and more relevant ads for our free users.” With the session wrapped up, it seemed what Spotify claims is true: “You are what you stream.”

Talks and work from Cannes Lions 2017 will be available on the Cannes Lions Player.