Have you ever wondered if you have a musical soul mate? If you’re a Rhapsody subscriber, you’ll finally be able to find out. The streaming service on Thursday unveiled a feature called Listener Network, which is designed not just to introduce subscribers to one another based on their musical tastes, but to surface daily personalized playlists of new music based on what they and their friends are listening to.
The Listener Network in theory is designed to accomplish several things at once for the long-established streaming music service, which has gathered more than 3.5 million subscribers since it launched 15 years ago. First, it will give Rhapsody users another way to navigate the service’s 32 million-song catalog every day. Second, it will give people the means and motivation to develop attachments to other people using the service, making it the first streaming music service to do that.
“We find it curious that these two phenomena” — people using apps to discover content and to connect with people who like similar things — “have never been linked,” Rhapsody Chief Financial Officer Ethan Rudin told International Business Times.
While the idea of matchmaking based on musical tastes is not new, Rhapsody has done more with it than anybody else. Every day, Rhapsody users receive a personalized playlist of songs they’ve never played before on the service. Each of those songs, which the service identifies using a song recommendation engine, is also connected or attributed to a fellow Rhapsody user who shares a lot of your musical tastes. Just how alike your tastes are is represented by a numeric score, not unlike the scores given to prospective partners in a service like OkCupid.
If a user wants to see what else that person is listening to, all they have to do is visit their profile, where they can find out what they’ve been listening to over the past week, month or year. They can also check out who other users follow, and who follows them. Rudin and Rhapsody Product Manager Nathan Rozendaal are hopeful that eventually the Listener Network also will connect regular users with the artists whose music is on the service (imagine finding out you were musical soul mates with Beyoncé), and Rozendaal said the company is exploring the possibility of adding messaging functionality.
Most streaming music services have tried to add some form of social media-flavored components. Thanks to a partnership with Facebook, Spotify users running the desktop version of the music app can see what their Facebook friends are listening to. Apple Music built Connect, a kind of news feed that allows artists to share content with subscribers who follow them. Even Rhapsody struck a partnership with Twitter last year that allows Rhapsody subscribers to post and embed songs from its vast catalog on the service.
Those integrations are all different from one another, but they are alike in one crucial respect: There’s no evidence of common ground between the two parties that connect, and that absence can make it a lot harder for users to care about what’s being shared. “Just because you’re connected to your aunt on Facebook doesn’t mean you share her musical tastes,” Rozendaal told IBT.
Having a solid basis for those connections gives them more weight. It also gives Rhapsody a lot more raw material to generate playlists from, a key area of need in a space where playlists are becoming more and more important: More than two-thirds of streaming music service subscribers say they consume music primarily in playlist form, rather than as stand-alone albums or EPs, according to MIDiA Research. That gave Rhapsody a reason to try to build a feature that could give users something new to listen to every day. “We’re always trying to build a daily habit with our customers,” Rozendaal said. “This isn’t some playlist that gets randomly updated.”