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Backstage Blog June 21st, 2016 Announcements Recommendation System Machine Learning Data Science Can a machine surprise you? We believe so. By Nicola Bortignon

With more than 125 million tracks from over 12 million creators heard each month on our platform, SoundCloud is uniquely positioned to offer listeners a full spectrum of music discovery.

Classic hits, the latest releases, gems from underground talent and the best of what’s up-and-coming – all in one place.

How can you make great content discoverable and available at ease? How can you create a unique experience for every single user?

Beginning today, we’re introducing Suggested Tracks, on web and on mobile, to bring listeners even more ways to discover music on SoundCloud.

Digital Serendipity

Months before Suggested Tracks developed to what it is today, SoundCloud’s recommendation team set out to answer one simple:

Can a machine surprise us?

For quite some time, the SoundCloud Core Data Science team has been working on state of the art machine learning projects to help its users discover new content. The idea of surprise in relation to discovery was a new concept. In order to further explore and develop this idea, it required a very different approach and perspective.

We concluded that music generates emotion, and therefore we would need to view the element of surprise from the perspective of emotion.

We knew if we really wanted to infuse the element of surprise into music discovery, we had to push our systems to understand the emotional element of our users.

It was about taking traditional ways of discovering music to a new level. To a place where feelings were taken into consideration, and the “how” along with the “what,” was addressed in the computational effort.

Overall, we wanted to create a serendipity effect. The moment where you find something new, something engaging that makes you move naturally from a passive listening experience to an active state of mind. The moment where….

The bass kicks in, you’re 30 seconds into the song, it’s a catchy groove. It sounds familiar, but you’ve never heard the track before. At 45 seconds, you have already liked the track by pushing our iconic heart button, and by the time the lead singer gets to the bridge, you have already shared the track on your favorite social network.

It’s a eureka moment. You just found a new, undiscovered track none of your friends know. And you love it. You feel it is the right track at the right moment. And it feels good.

What if that track was recommended by a machine? An extremely sophisticated algorithm that just picked the track for you with the simple goal of surprising you?

This is what we call Digital Serendipity.

It’s all about you

So can it be true? Can a machine know you that well? Not just recommending good tracks but amazing tracks?

We believe the answer is yes. The very same machine has been learning from you all this time. It’s as if you had a skilled musicologist right next to you, carefully listening to what you’ve been playing and interacting with, all this time.

With Suggested Tracks, this musicologist is not only a passive observer but a proactive entity. The more you listen, like, repost and engage with a track, the better our artificial agent gets to know you and your musical taste. The more you interact, the more it learns and perfects itself day after day.

Micro Moments

Suggested Tracks is not a recurrent playlist or a weekly chart. Our new feature updates more frequently than any other service out there so you always have fresh new content for your listening pleasure. Now all of life’s micro moments will have the perfect soundtrack.

Enough about Suggested Tracks, go and try it out!