4 Road Trip Playlists Data-Crunched from the Crowd


(This post originally appeared here.)

We counted 111,690 Spotify playlists earlier this month with the words “road trip” or “roadtrip” in their titles — oodles of great music that Spotify users have chosen with long-distance driving specifically in mind.

To channel that sea of music into four playlists you can listen to (below), we first identified the 500 most popular songs in Spotify road trip playlists. As interesting as it is to know that folks enjoy driving to these songs, this playlist is all over the place, musically speaking — Steppenwolf, Carrie Underwood, Iggy Pop, Taylor Swift, Nickelback, Steely Dan, Maroon 5, The Grateful Dead, Kid Rock, Incubus, Norah Jones, and other artists that probably don’t belong on the same playlist together.

To make sense of over 33 hours of road trip music, Ajay Kalia, Product Owner of Taste Profiles at Spotify, first normalized these songs against song popularity in general, to filter out the ones that were probably included in road trip playlists just because they’re popular, not because they’re particularly great road trip songs.

That gave us a better playlist of 200 essential road trip songs — still over 12 hours of music, from a messy hodgepodge of genres. We can do better! So we clustered all of that music using the 1255 music genres that The Echo Nest (at Spotify) has identified to date.

“Starting with the full list, we used artist-similarity ‘clusters’ to create playlists capturing a general style of music, like classic rock, indie folk and pop music,” explains Ajay.

You can listen to those below, but first, here’s what that looks like graphically:


“Musically, road trip songs cluster around classic rock, folk music, and mellow gold — think ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ — the sort of music that’s calming to listen to on a long trip,” he says. “We also see softer versions of popular songs, like the Foo Fighters’ acoustic version of ‘Everlong.’ But we also see that some people prefer higher-energy pop music or EDM, to get them amped up for their trip, and we wanted to create a playlist for those listeners too. Each of the resulting playlist has 3-4 hours of music, which is enough to carry you from Portland to Seattle, from Austin to Dallas, or from L.A to Vegas.”

The upshot of all of this human curation, big data music intelligence, and Ajay’s number crunching: four great road trip playlists ready for you to take on your next trip.

Mellow Gold Road Trip reflects the fact that that lots of people like to drive to popular rock from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, plus other music that sounds like that. Hear hear:


Pop Road Trip is where you’ll find popular, familiar music, mostly from the charts, and most of it having been released after the year 2000:


Acoustic Rock Road Trip features singer-songwriter music and rock songs, especially acoustic-influenced songs from harder bands (e.g. Incubus’ “Drive”, Foo Fighters “Everlong” acoustic), which lots of people like to hear on road trips”:


Power Trip has the road trip songs from genres that tend to over-index among our power users:


To bring these jams on your next road trip, or use them as the bases of your own perfectly-customized road trip mix, we suggest making them available offline (premium users, see instructions for Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone), so you can play them in the car without using your data plan. Or, simply stream it at home as you plan your next trip.

Pro Tip: For more road trip fun, be sure to try Road Trip Mixtape, from the legendary Paul Lamere, Director of Developer Platform for The Echo Nest, part of the Spotify family. This amazing web app (explanation) lets you enter any two cities, and it outputs a list of music by artists from the places you’ll be driving through on your trip:

Enter any two cities for a playlist of artists that come from the places you're driving through.
Enter any two cities for a playlist of artists that come from the places you’re driving through.


(Image courtesy of Flickr/worak)