Algorithmic Balancing of Familiarity, Similarity, & Discovery in Music Recommendations


Algorithmic recommendations shape music consumption at scale, and understanding the role different behavioral aspects play in how content is consumed, is a central question for music streaming platforms. Focusing on the notions of familiarity, similarity and discovery, we identify the need for explicit consideration and optimization of such objectives, and establish the need to efficiently balance them when generating algorithmic recommendations for users. We posit that while familiarity helps drive short term engagement, jointly optimizing for discovery enables the platform to influence and shape consumption across suppliers. We propose a multi-level ordered-weighted averaging based objective balancer to help maintain a healthy balance with respect to familiarity and discovery objectives, and conduct a series of offline evaluations and online AB tests, to demonstrate that despite the presence of strict trade-offs, we can achieve wins on both satisfaction and discover centric objectives. Our proposed methods and insights have implications for the design and deployment of practical approaches for music recommendations, and our findings demonstrate that they can lead to substantial improvements on recommendation quality on one of the world’s largest music streaming platforms.


November 2021 | ISMIR - International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference

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