Why Spotify Mixes Can't Live up to Mix Tapes

Unless you just want more of the same

Key Takeaways

  • Spotify Mixes automatically creates playlists based on genre, artist, or decade. 
  • Human-created playlists are better at responding to mood and taking you outside your comfort zone.
  • Algorithmic playlists are good for discovering new music.
Someone laid back, relaxing and listening to music, with their foot resting on an old boombox.

Eric Nopanen / Unsplash

Spotify’s new Spotify Mixes are automatically generated playlists that aim to completely replace your friends. 

Spotify Mixes mix your already-liked songs with new tracks the algorithm thinks you’ll like. These are just more targeted versions of Spotify’s Daily Mix and may help folks discover new music. But can algorithms ever even hope to compete with personally picked playlists and human-curated mixtapes?

"Will AI music curation ever be as good as human-made playlists?" musician and recording artist the Rav asked Lifewire via email.

"I honestly think that one will force the other to focus on its core competencies. AI can only suggest new music to you that sounds like something you've already heard, [but] if it's a playlist from someone you know, it's almost like you're getting a look into them, their taste, mood, and state of mind too."

Personalized playlists

Personalized playlists aren’t new. Back in 2008, iTunes introduced Genius, a feature to auto-generate playlists from your own library. Apple in 2014 purchased Beats, which became the Apple Music streaming service.

Closeup on an early 2000s mix tape.

lilzidesigns / Unsplash

One of Beats’ features was human-curated playlists. Apple Music now offers several weekly updated personalized playlists.

Spotify Mixes add an artist mix, genre mix, and decade mix to the existing Daily Mix. They use your existing favorites, based on your listening habits, including most-listened genres, artists, and decades. Then they add songs that the algorithms think you’ll like. The list updates often, keeping things fresh.


One of the best uses of automatic playlists is discovery.

"These automatic playlists are actually very helpful for someone like me who loves discovering new music," Arigbabu Abayomi, business plan consulting company CEO told Lifewire via email. "These Spotify mixes are a great way to listen to similar kinds of music that you listen to in your daily life."

Eye doctor and music fan Rahil Chaudhary agrees. "For those who enjoy exploring and hate putting effort in searching for songs, these playlists are a savior," he told Lifewire via email. 

"Human playlists are what force you to introduce yourself to new artists outside your comfort zone.”

An auto-programming algorithm might not be able to create a mixtape that will make you laugh then cry, but its methodical nature can help you come across tracks and artists you’ve never heard of.

Lacking That Personal Touch

The downside of an auto mix is that it cannot know you.

"A Spotify or Apple Music playlist probably will never match the mixtape given to you by your best friend or your significant other," customer acquisition specialist Shaun Price told Lifewire via email,

"[Algorithms] don’t understand those little idiosyncrasies of nostalgia and memory associations that make some playlists truly great."

Whether on tape, CD, thumb drive, or made on Spotify or Apple Music, Mixtapes are personal to the degree that may never be possible to copy with algorithms. 

Also, what you want to listen to right now is not only down to your tastes or your previous listening habits. It’s down to your mood.

Old mix tapes lined up near a cassette player.

Abderrahmane Meftah / Unspalsh

"[Algorithms] do not know what you're going through at the moment and the emotions you have," Sander Tamm, founder and CEO of E-Student, told Lifewire via email, "both of which have great power to predict what you want to listen to."

Algorithmic mixes are also designed to serve up music they think you will like. On the other hand, human-created playlists are more likely to challenge those tastes or surprise you with something you would never have tried otherwise. 

"Human playlists are what force you to introduce yourself to new artists outside your comfort zone,” says theRave.

Just Like Radio

In the end, we like playlists for different reasons. Sometimes we’re just too lazy to pick something to listen to. Other times we want to find something new.

Today, Spotify Mixes are the comfortable, easy option. But there are alternatives. One is right there on Spotify or Apple Music. Regular folks can create and share playlists, although finding them isn’t always easy.

Another great option is the Bandcamp blog, which puts together new music, and highlights genres, individual artists, and more. It’s one of the best resources on the internet and is full of great music, as well as great info about the artists. 

Spotify Mixes look great, but a little extra effort in looking for music can really pay off. And Bandcamp is well worth a look.

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