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Spotify takes the pain out of road trip playlists with Soundtrack Your Ride

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Spotify and playlists go together like chocolate and peanut butter (or whatever awesome combo doesn’t trigger your allergies), but it’s not always easy finding just the right playlist for a particular event. Take the classic Thanksgiving road trip: Depending on where you and your family members live, you could be looking at anywhere from one hour to 48 hours of highway haulin’. Do you really want to painstakingly assemble that much music? Of course you don’t. So Spotify has created a new tool called Soundtrack Your Ride, which will create a custom playlist of virtually any length, based on your road trip parameters.

The tool, which works for both Premium and free Spotify tiers, takes the form of a quiz. First, you enter your location and your destination on a giant map of the U.S. Unfortunately for family living in Canada, you can’t enter Canadian locations even though they’re quite prominently displayed on the map itself. You’ll just have to listen to the CBC until you’re south of the border.

Once you’ve entered your itinerary (multiple destinations will have to be handled as separate rides), the tool generates a predicted amount of time for the trip, which you can manually adjust if you think the estimate is too long or short. Now it’s time to answer a few questions.

  • Who are you be traveling with? (Solo, Kids, Pets, Friends, Partner) Sorry, no combos like Kids+Pets are allowed
  • What’s your favorite genre for the road? (Pop, Hip-Hop/Rap, Country, Rock, Mood, Indie, EDM)
  • What’s your drive vibe? (Mellow, Sing-alongs, High-energy, Classic, Love sick, Pedal to the metal, Slow ride)
  • What’s your ultimate driving song? (A choice of six tracks presumably picked as being relevant examples from your three previous selections)
  • What kind of vehicle are you riding in? (SUV, Convertible, Electric, Sedan, Pickup Truck)

Based on your selections, the tool then cobbles together a playlist, which you can check out inside the Spotify app.

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I decided to see what the tool would choose for me, based on an imaginary road trip from hell that I have zero plans to undertake. The scenario: My kids and I have been invited by Donald Trump to spend Thanksgiving with him and the rest of the First Family at his digs at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Since we’re currently hanging out at the Digital Trends headquarters in Portland, Oregon, it’s going to be a back-breaking, coast-to-coast 46 hours and eight minutes odyssey across 11 states.

We’ll be traveling in an SUV and our favorite genre for the road (or anytime, really) is rock. Our mood? Classic. Our ultimate driving song? C’mon, you already knew this one: Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I almost chose Life Is A Highway, but because Spotify only offered me the cover by Rascal Flatts, and not the original by fellow Canadian Tom Cochrane, I had to go with Queen.

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On the whole, Soundtrack Your Ride did a pretty good job at reflecting my stated tastes. The resulting 676-song playlist included generous helpings of Queen, Van Morrison, Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zeppelin, all of whom sit right in the middle of what I consider to be the “rock with a classic vibe” zone. But there were also some bizarre outliers. Along with the classic rock turkey, our Thanksgiving road trip feast included a zesty cranberry sauce of Godsmack, Metallica, and Rob Zombie, and a sugary dessert of ABBA and Wham!

Why were these artists included? Maybe it was my vehicle choice and traveling companions. Perhaps the tool figured that in order to survive almost 48 hours on the road with my kids in an SUV, I was going to need frequent jolts to my nervous system followed by upbeat family-friendly tunes. I could have opted to keep explicit lyrics out of the playlist, but I figured why should I be the only one hurling expletives. Besides, my kids have heard worse.

Will Soundtrack Your Ride solve your road trip playlist blues? I can’t guarantee that, but given the whole procedure takes less than 60 seconds, you should definitely see what it picks for you. You might just be adding Spotify to the list of things you’re thankful for this holiday season.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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