Support the underground: characteristics of beyond-mainstream music listeners

Dominik Kowald*, Peter Muellner, Eva Zangerle, Christine Bauer, Markus Schedl, Elisabeth Lex*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music recommender systems have become an integral part of music streaming services such as Spotify and to assist users navigating the extensive music collections offered by them. However, while music listeners interested in mainstream music are traditionally served well by music recommender systems, users interested in music beyond the mainstream (i.e., non-popular music) rarely receive relevant recommendations. In this paper, we study the characteristics of beyond-mainstream music and music listeners and analyze to what extent these characteristics impact the quality of music recommendations provided. Therefore, we create a novel dataset consisting of listening histories of several thousand beyond-mainstream music listeners, which we enrich with additional metadata describing music tracks and music listeners. Our analysis of this dataset shows four subgroups within the group of beyond-mainstream music listeners that differ not only with respect to their preferred music but also with their demographic characteristics. Furthermore, we evaluate the quality of music recommendations that these subgroups are provided with four different recommendation algorithms where we find significant differences between the groups. Specifically, our results show a positive correlation between a subgroup’s openness towards music listened to by members of other subgroups and recommendation accuracy. We believe that our findings provide valuable insights for developing improved user models and recommendation approaches to better serve beyond-mainstream music listeners.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalEPJ Data Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Acoustic features
  • Beyond-mainstream users
  • Clustering
  • Fairness
  • Music recommender systems
  • Popularity bias
  • User modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics


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