Explore Rapidly Emerging Music with 3 Data-Crunching Playlists


Note: On August 3, 2019, Spotify Insights will be no more. But all the data stories you’ve come to enjoy will be available in Spotify’s newsroom, For The Record. Head over to the site not just for data insights, but also cultural trends, how-tos, artist interviews, and more. Want to stay on top of all our latest news and stories? Follow us on For The Record’s Twitter feed, @spotifynews.

When he announced the new Spotify in New York last week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek introduced the world to three music experts who are helping to curate music specifically for Spotify users, including the latest emerging tracks from their genres of expertise: Tuma Basa (hip-hop), Austin Kramer (electronic), and Mjeema Picket (R&B), to name a few.

As the largest on-demand music service on the planet, with over 25 billion listening hours and over 60 million monthly active users, Spotify also has plenty of anonymized listening data. Understanding which music is bubbling up from that community requires algorithms. As such, helping music lovers find music requires both experts and machines.

You can find popular music charts in Spotify Browse, among other places. What you probably don’t have is an incredibly easy way to audition cutting-edge, emerging music from around the world — the songs and artists that are juuuuuust starting to get people’s attention. The following data-crunching music discovery tools look like regular playlists, but they actually draw on all of Spotify to update with new songs every weekend, so they always provide a fresh mix of fast-rising music, ranging from obscure, deep tracks to potentially big hits.

If you’re just going to follow one, make it The Needle – Current, which was so named for the realization creator Glenn McDonald had while looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack: “The haystack doesn’t conceal needles, the haystack is made of needles.”

Let’s explore.

The Needle: Current – Potential Hits

These songs could be huge on a global level, or not. McDonald explains, “if three lists sounds like too many to you, then this is probably the one you want.” Here’s where you’ll find fast-rising mega-songs featured in televised music contests, or big box office blockbusters. Current examples: Ester Dean’s “Crazy Youngsters” from Pitch Perfect 2 and Tom Holkenborg’s “Brothers in Arms” from Mad Max.

The Needle: Emerging – Expand Your Ears

Follow this one to keep tabs on niche artists releasing new potential breakout tracks. Artists currently featured there include QT, Veil of Maya, and Blanck Mass:

The Needle: Underground – Deep Exploration

For the more adventurous listener, this playlist shines a light on rarer fare from around the world by taking a more expansive view of the music people are starting to love. You’ll find music that’s relatively “out there” in here. Current examples include brand new artists like Eskimeaux and cult/fringe artists like Prurient or Will Haven.

The Needle – All Three Combined

We recommend following these playlists — not because you will love every track in them, but because you’ll find a bunch of stuff you never would have heard otherwise. A lot of it will be interesting, some worth collecting.


The Needle playlists include songs that have surged in the past week, with a bias towards songs and artists that aren’t already huge. They also leave out songs with extremely low playcounts, to rule out minor variations appearing larger than they truly are, and update every weekend.

(via furialog; image via flickr/Monica Arellano-Ongpin)