Presented by Spotify

Since Shuhei Hosokawa first published the “The Walkman Effect” to talk about the impact of public headphone use back in 1984, music’s mobility has certainly been ramped up a notch or two. Wherever you go, your music can go, too, with unprecedented levels of personalization.

Streaming services like Spotify have maximized that access for listeners. Many listeners use music to cultivate an identity and discern their interests. And data from Spotify’s research shows just how much we can learn about people from what tunes they’re streaming.

“Understanding People Through Music,” Spotify’s ongoing research, reveals what users’ music streaming habits say about them — and with it, what that means for advertisers on the platform.

Based on both qualitative and quantitative data from more than 100 million users, the company zeroed in on three distinct listening habits to investigate: Discovery, Diversity, and Tilt.

Using these three frameworks, the data reveals that our listening habits on Spotify carry much more information than which Rihanna album is your favourite. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

1. Discovery: Whether or not people seek out new, unfamiliar music

Discovery notes whether or not people seek out new, unfamiliar music, and divides listeners into two categories: reliables and explorers.

Reliables are inclined to stick to what they know: favourite artists, tried-and-true songs. This suggests a level of brand loyalty and pride that is easily cross-applicable; these listeners are the ones who tell their friends when they find a product they like.

On the other hand, explorers are often looking for something fresh and foreign. These listeners have a propensity to go to concerts, and value spontaneity; they’re the type to try new restaurants, for example.

Both ends of this spectrum reveal a personality set via music choice, compatible with broader consumption patterns. This knowledge helps advertisers create more engaging content for listeners, leading to a better overall listening experience for users who don’t want to be interrupted by random, impersonal ads.

“We can communicate with the user on a more fundamental emotional level,” Adam Bly, Spotify’s VP of Data, remarks.

2. Diversity: The range of music people listen to

The Diversity metric addresses the range of music people listen to. Broken up into loyalists and eclectics, a similar personality dichotomy can be observed here.

Loyalists tend to be stuck in their favorite genre and don’t venture far beyond it, while eclectics are harder to nail down, preferring to enjoy an array of styles rather than restricting themselves to one genre. There are things to unpack on both sides of the equation. Loyalists seem to know what they like, and they’ll act on it; since they’re sure of their tastes, an ad that targets them is likely to score.

Eclectics are more likely to stream TV and movies on a regular basis, and prefer to use music as a supplementary tool; they’re likely to have music on in the background around the house, or put on a mood-boosting playlist, regardless of artist or genre. If you fall into the eclectic category, you’re probably looking for things that go with whatever task is at hand, be it a night out partying or an afternoon getting groceries.

3. Tilt: How actively a person selects their music

Under the Tilt segment, a listener either tends to actively select their music (falling under the category of “curator”), or prefers to let a playlist take the wheel (making them an “easy-goer”).

Spotify extrapolates this to behavioral tendencies: for example, easy-goers are prone to spend 45 minutes or more at the gym, while curators are more inclined to buy video games. Companies could target an easy-goer in the midst of a Sweat It Out workout playlist, boosting their energy and keeping an upbeat flow going to connect with them. Alternatively, for a listener that finesses their own playlists, brands can associate themselves with a genre or artist, building a link with a listener that cares about their music.

All three habits tell a story about a listener; the music we engage with indicates more about ourselves than just who our favorite artists are. It’s a reflection of our tastes and values, thought patterns and views, and Spotify’s learned to harness these observations and cultivate profiles for targeted advertising and a more seamless listening experience.

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