Music Genre Exploration


Online streaming services are ubiquitous in people's daily life. To reduce the choice overload, various personalized recommendation algorithms to help users find what they like and satisfy their needs for content consumption. Typically, recommender systems work in a way to generate recommendations to match users' current preferences. As a subscriber of Netflix and Spotify myself, I find the services are quite good at finding what at like. If I go to my Netflix homepage, I normally get recommendations on documentaries, such as food-related documentaries. And on my Spotify homepage, my recommendations are usually centered around the genre Pop and especially Mandapops. However, one chanllenge faced by the current approaches is that they focus too much on predicting users' current preferences rather than moving users forward. There are several advantages of moving users forward in the music domain:

  1. Satisfy users' needs for novelty seeking: Users'preferences are often dynamically changing over time and they have needs to seek for and explore new things every now and then.
  2. Support goal-oriented consumption: By supporting the development of new preferences, recommender systems could contribute to users' short/long-term goals that are not reflected in their past behavior. For example, someone with a pop music tastes may want to start to explore and further develop some classical music tastes.
  3. Mitigate the filter bubble issue: Recommender systems with an exploration focus may help to prevent users from getting stuck within their own preferences
  4. Promote long-tail artists: Given the huge amount of music content available, supporting users to develop new musical preferences would also help to promote music from the long-tail artists and bring more variety to current mainstream tastes, allowing niche music genres to get attention more easily

To investigate how to support users' music exploration, I built a music genre exploration tool. The goal of the music genre exploration is to broaden users' musical taste horizon and "break" their filter bubbles and take the first step towards building listening preferences from a new (unfamiliar) music genre. In particular, the music genre exploration system is crafted to guide users in learning about new music genres and establish a starting point for exploration.

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