The fabulous value of Recommended For You

My son was asking what I’ve been doing in quarantine, and I told him I’ve been listening to a lot of great new music. So then I thought, how come?

Of course it’s partially because I have time on my hands.

But it is also because of the wondrous synergy between Roon’s Recommended For You suggestion and the Long Tail effect of the internet. These come together to create recommendations that perfectly suit my unique interests.

Roon’s recommendations are driven by the Vālence engine, as @Mike described in the 1.7 Release Notes:

Vālence is based on machine learning, and like all such systems it gets smarter the more data it has to work with and the more learning it can do. This is one of the counterintuitive lessons of recent years: it is easier to find something on the vast internet than on your own hard drive (or in your own desk drawer).

Provided, of course, that the system is well designed. Everybody with a service wants to do recommendations, good business value in that, but some recommendation systems are pretty dumb. I don’t need a recommendation system to point me to Taylor Swift’s latest, that’s ubiquitous mainstream, no personalized appeal at all. And on the other side, YouTube personalizes in the most simplistic way: somebody sends me a link to a story about some interesting engineering choices in WW II German aircraft (upside-down V12 engines) and Youtube decides I’m a military historian and floods my feed with stories about old military aircraft and tanks. And don’t even think about watching pets and babies…

I don’t know any details about how Vālence works, but it is apparent that it is able to learn from my experience and place that in a context (derived from the experiences of the entire community) that lets it understand what I would like and make interesting suggestions, related to what I like but just peripheral enough to be valuable. (Plus Roon knows what I have so it can suggest new things: Amazon’s recommendation engine is quite smart, but it doesn’t know what I have so I already have over half of the recommendations.)

But the recommendations would be of limited value without the Long Tail effect of the internet: the streaming services have 68 gazillion albums, and they go quite far into the niche underbrush. Compare this with the days of going into Tower Records: there is a lot of romanticism of flipping through the drawers of vinyl in a record store, but if your interest went beyond the 2,000 mainstream albums they had in stock there was little opportunity for discovery.

So Roon can learn from a vast amount of information, but can also make recommendations from a vast catalog. And it costs me nothing, on the margin, to try the recommendations out, and to keep the albums I like (the majority).

There has been a lot written by starry-eyed technology evangelists (like me, I admit it) about the power of the internet to expand cultural diversity, because of the zero marginal cost which enables long-tail supply and discovery. But we also see the opposite effect, with the big names of mass appeal leading to a compression of diversity. This is profoundly depressing: Taylor Swift and Beyoncé dominate even more today than they could in the old world. This tension between expansion and compression of diversity, in culture and ideas and insights, is one of the most interesting aspects of our tech-powered world, simultaneously exciting and depressing.

But it remains possible to revel in the expansion of diversity while shunning the compression, to enjoy and learn from the long tail, with the help of an intelligent guide.

This is Roon’s main contribution in my current life. It isn’t just about finding albums I have, or searching for albums I know. It is about being taken on a journey into a world of music, and I know it is expanding faster than I can explore, the horizon is forever receding.


Yes! I am a very recent Roon user, but got my timing right to maintain my sanity during these long weeks and months of splendid isolation. Roon should be medically prescribed to those loonies who cannot wait to get their asses out of their houses, protesting against the sanest measures of distancing.

The discovery of new to me artists and music gives great joy and excitement. I only would add to your sentiment that in addition to Roon’s suggestion there is great value in this community and the suggestions of fellow Roonies. This is why for me the most important thread in this forum is the ‘What are we listening now’, where I have discovered quite some gems.



Thank you for this post; I have been on the fence about deciding whether or not to subscribe to Roon and your description of the Valence engine may have tipped the scales in favor of taking the plunge. If I can have a music service that doesn’t toss Taylor Swift my way because I enjoy Richard Swift compositions, then it is worth it.

1 Like


I often think about how this changes the social dynamic of music quite a bit. When all kids grow up knowing different long tails, their talk about music, discovery, and shows, will have far less overlap caused by the current marketing machine with a promotional agenda. It sounds fun, but a bit scary for my aging ways.

Long tail listening may be more widespread, but it always existed: I listened to John Mayall and Miles Davis when the school was dominated by The Beatles and Bob Dylan. So if there are oddballs like me, I don’t see that as scary.

And I never saw Bonnie and Clyde, just because everybody did — finally saw it last year, good movie!

I’m finding the recommendations really good now. The system is definitely improving as the months go on.

And @danny, you’ll never be cool unless you investigate the long tail. It’s the old classic of “Whatever band you like, I know something better that you’ve never heard of - but when they become popular I won’t like them any more…” :smile:

1 Like

Btw, the recommendations dovetail with my advice not to delete anything but just to Hide it. Some recommendations don’t appeal to me immediately, but neither did Bitches Brew or Born To Run.

The recommendations work really well for me in the jazz section for instance, and in the rock and blues region. Really spot on based on what i listen often.
But not in electronic…
I always feel electronic is way too broad… I would love an electronic sub menu.
For instance i love D&B and i know whats coming out when, but regardless of my vast amount of D&B in my collection and history, the number of d&b releases under electronic are a minority.

Recommended for you section for me is very hit and miss why oh why does classical always there I very rarely listen to any. The recommendations around a specific album you might be choosing are much better and Roon radio generally rocks although over the last week it’s had some horrible curve balls. But I am afraid the recommendations for me section is rubbish for my tastes it seems to have me confused with somebody else.