In October, San Francisco-based art director and music aficionado Lane Jordan read that four million songs on Spotify have never been played. Put another way, one-fifth of its on-demand music catalog of over 20 million songs haven’t once been heard by Spotify’s active global user base of 24 million, according to the service’s 2013 year-end report. When Jordan heard this fact, the seeds for the instantly popular Forgotify app — which was released just two weeks ago — were placed.
“We were shocked that there were four million unheard songs and we were curious about what those songs were… and if they were worth listening to,” said Jordan, a classic rock lover new to the music tech realm.
Forgotify, a slick web app that uncovers these previously never played songs to a user randomly, emphasizes simplicity. After being prompted on the main page to “start listening,” the interface features an embedded Spotify player with just one song, along with album art, song name, artist name and two buttons: “Next,” and “Share” (via a Facebook plug-in). Beyond that, your playlist is left entirely to chance.
“A lot of people asked if we wanted to [narrow song choice] by genre, or by year,” explained Jordan. “But, to give them that opportunity denies the discovery part of it. We want to allow people to listen to genres that they wouldn’t typically.”
Jordan relates using Forgotify to the pleasure of flipping through records in a record store and deciding what to listen to based solely on album art and an artist’s name. “We wanted to take a bottom-up approach to music discovery. There’s lots of songs [on Spotify] not found for historical reasons: music from the 1940s, classical music. Yesterday, I found an old classic rock band that maybe hadn’t been relevant today. With technology, it’s a little harder [to discover music] than going into record stores.”
The app came to fruition with the assistance of fellow San Franciscans, developer J. Hausman and copywriter Nate Gagnon. Using Spotify’s API, the group figured out a way to create a database of all the songs that had a popularity rating of ‘0,’ which means that a song has no plays. Every day, the program is run again to remove songs that have been played.
Although songs that get played via Forgotify are removed from its database by design, the founders don’t have to worry about running out of songs. 20,000 new songs are added to Spotify every day, according to the service.
Within a day of launch, tech-savvy users of the social news site Reddit up-voted Forgotify to its front page, leading to coverage on TIME.com, BBC News and The Atlantic. In its first three days, a half-million people visited the site, according to Jordan. He thinks that its popularity is simply because people ‘enjoy discovering new things.’
“I hope that [it sticks]. I think that people are tired and listening to the same thing over and over again,” said Jordan. If Forgotify’s amassed 30,000 Facebook likes within two weeks are any indication, they’re well on their way. It’s certainly the only way we would have uncovered obscure renditions of classical standards, innumerable foreign songs, cuts from previously unheard soundtracks — and a track that may be a German sex tape.
Representatives from Spotify declined comment on Forgotify. Graham James, head of US Communications for Spotify, emphasized that the service itself is built on music discovery, citing the ‘Discover’ algorithm, its social sharing tools, editorial curation apps and playlists as key elements of the platform.