Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What's Up with Amazon's Music Recommendations?!

So I'm just diving into Amazon's new MP3 offering and I came across something strange. When I am at their regular CD store I get different music recommendations than I get at their new Amazon MP3 beta. Supposedly, they are both based on "items I own" (or more specifically, have purchased from Amazon). But, if that were the case shouldn't they be recommending the same things?

Amazon Music Recommendations:
* Lots of Fiona Apple and Peter Gabriel - not really representative of what I like

Amazon MP3 Recommendations:
* Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Hold Steady - these are on the money (although I already own all of the things they are recommending)

These are apparently being calculated off of different data? Why the huge discrepancy?

Someone suggested that this may be due to the fact that the MP3 library is a subset of their CD inventory and therefore so are the MP3 Recommendations. That was my only real theory as well. I'm not sure what labels Peter Gabriel and Fiona are on, but I can look.

But, what I'm actually more surprised by are the good MP3 recommendations. I haven't bought a CD from Amazon in ages yet they seemed to have some insight into my current listening behavior - it's almost like they are scraping data from some of my social networks, taste APIs (like MyStrands or, pulling library info off of my machine, or some how getting more current data of my behavior. Amazon shouldn't know that much about my listening habits, and I highly doubt they could gather such information based on my last purchases of computer accessories and baby toys.

Another suggestion was that the MP3 recommendations were being based on my page viewing history on Amazon. The pages I've viewed at Amazon are only for TVs, ink jet cartridges and toys - I don't browse music there. But, I wonder if any of the album artwork fetchers I use (that pull from Amazon) end up inadvertently sharing my library data back with them (does it appear like I have "viewed" those pages?). If that was true and it didn't have any MP3 purchase behavior to base my MP3 recommendations (and only page views), that could explain it....


Unknown said...

Notice that along with the recommendations is the reason. For instance, all of my recommendations include the line " Recommended because you purchased Give Up (Fix this)". I purchased just one CD through Amazon, and they've based 12 recommendations on that purchase.

jherskowitz said...

Paul -

Yeah, I noticed that but before I had purchased any MP3s from them there were no reasons given (at least that I noticed).

But for CD recommendations I had a similar experience. They based about dozens of recommendations off of 2 CD purchases.