Soundtrack discovery design
- Netflix case study

Aug 12 · 7 min read

The Challenge

I watch movies as a way to kickback and relax. I also enjoy music, I am on constant search of great tunes, gathering or creating playlists.

Movie soundtracks are the great sources of new, fresh and unique music. Movie soundtracks are contextual to the movie scene — a happy soundtrack for a happy scene, sad soundtrack for a sound scene and users are likely to identify with a sound and save it for their happy/sad moments.

From my movie watching experience, identifying these soundtracks disrupts the watching experience. As much as I’m immersed into the movie, I will not pass a chance to add new music to my playlist.

I challenged myself to design a better way to identify and add songs to a playlist without disrupting the watching experience.

The aim of this study was to;

  • Find out how people currently discover soundtracks when watching movies.
  • Re-design the discovery experience with little to no interference to the watching experience.

Note: I don’t work or have an affiliate with Netflix, This is a personal project based on my experience.

How do people discover soundtracks?

In my experience, discovering playlists has been frustrating, often I have to interrupt my watching experience to find my favourite songs while watching a film. I did a short question survey and posted online, I also talked to some people about their experiences.

The survey

Here are the questions in the survey;

  • Are you/Have you subscribed to movie streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, Showmax e.t.c. — . I wanted to know how many people stream their content.
  • Have you ever searched for a song during a movie? To understand if the problem was faced by others
  • If you have searched for a song, What did you use? I wanted to know the technology and techniques people use to search for songs.
  • Where do you save the songs? After finding the song, where do you listen to it afterwards?
  • What are some frustrations you go through when searching for a song in a movie? Understanding users frustrations will help me design a better experience for them.

Survey Results

Here’s the summary from 78 respondents.

Q1. Are you/Have you subscribed to movie streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, Showmax e.t.c.

Majority of the respondents have subscribed to a streaming service

Q2. Have you ever searched for a song during a movie? Have you ever searched for a song during a movie?

Majority of respondents have searched for music during a movie

Q3. If you have searched for a song, What did you use?(It was a free form question)

  • Shazam — Majority of respondents use the app to identify songs.
  • Google part of the lyrics — Some respondents Google part of the lyrics and get the title of the track.
  • Search on YouTube — Similar to those searching on Google but just a different site.
  • Song searching applications (Soundhoud,tubidy,Musiq find)These are Shazam competitors. (I first heard some of these apps from the survey)
  • Post credits at the end of the movie — As a person who doesn’t read post-credits, this was a shocker to me.
  • Tunefind and finding playlists on Spotify — All tracks from the movie are bundled into a playlist and uploaded to either Tunefind or Spotify.

Q4. Where do you save the songs?

  • Offline — Hard drive(Downloaded from YouTube or other music services that allow downloads.)
  • Create a Playlist — Creating a playlist within the online music streaming services (Youtube, Spotify, Apple music e.t.c.)
  • Notepad/Google keep — Take note of the music title and to search or listen to it later
  • Shazam playlist — Majority of participants use shazam to store their soundtracks.
  • Anghami, Soundcloud — Other apps used to save songs.

Q5. What are some frustrations you go through when searching for a song in a movie?

  • Some songs are only in the movie. In some instances, some songs are created exclusively for the movie-making it difficult for users to find certain songs or a similar version of the soundtrack online.
  • Not getting the lyrics right — especially for people who type in lyrics on Google.
  • Pausing a movie to Shazam or searching for a song often disrupts the watching experience especially if you are using your headphones.
  • Voice overs and faint sounds make it difficult for applications like Shazam to identify the song.
  • Recalling specific lyrics in the soundtrack makes it difficult to identify the correct lyrics.
  • Shazam is the easiest app to search a song, but sometimes it might take longer to get the song especially when there are network or internet issues.
  • Rewinding the movie to the part where the song can be heard best so that Shazam picks the song.
  • Hard to pick out a song when they are bundled together in a playlist. Spotify and other music streaming services bundles all songs from a TV show into one playlist. For TV shows with many episodes, It’s hard to pick out a song they would like because the playlist is not organised according to episodes or seasons.
  • Downloading the wrong song because it shares a name.
  • Fast-forwarding to the end of the movie to get the song title.

“Pausing a movie in the middle to open up an app to find a song takes away the watching experience for me.”

— Quote from one of the respondents.

One-on-One Interviews

I did a one on one interview with 3 people who echoed the same sentiments. One of the themes that I discovered is how track discovery interrupts the watching experience, especially if a group of friends and family are watching.

Customer Journey

In order to get to know our users’ behaviour better, we created a Customer Journey Map.From the survey and one-on-one interview, Here’s a simple user journey of how people watch movies;


We looked into the demographics and characteristics of our users and came with one persona who’s representative to people who faced the problem.

Photo by Kim Carpenter on Unsplash


I usually start the design process with low fidelity sketches. This is the way I iterate through many design options quickly. I narrowed down to 3 ideas that were easy to adopt, feasible technologically and design-wise.

Sketch 1 — Playlist

The idea is to have a place where music related to the movie or an episode in one place. The music icon will contain all soundtracks related to what the user is currently watching.

Sketch 2 — Add music on the spot

The moment music starts during a movie, the user gets a prompt where they can add it to their playlist with one click.

The prompt lasts for few seconds, if the user chooses to add the music all they have to do is press the “enter” key or “OK” key on the remote.

Sketch 3- Voice assistant

Definitely, we can’t ignore smart TV’s that have voice smart assistant integration. Without hindering the experience, users can request a track to be added to a playlist via voice.


From the sketches, I started designing the final screens in Sketch.

Final Design 1

Source: Dynasty Netflix

Users will not have to wait for the credits to identify a song, they can now do it by pressing the music icon.

The music icon will display the title of the song, the artist, the minute it played and users can add the song to Spotify playlist

Final Design 2

Dynasty — Netflix


Why do people watch movies? The answer is well articulated and summarised by Academy Award winner actor Jack Nicholsen, in one of his speech during Oscar award ceremony, “… they entertain us; they offer hopes (and) give traumas; they take us places, we never been, just even for few moments; they can take us away, when we want to get away; Movies inspire us; they challenge us and despite our differences, they are (the) common link to humanity, in all of us.”

Based on Jack Nicholsen quote, such experiences movies offer a movie should be a smooth, steady and undisruptive experience. The users will appreciate any glitch removed to perfect the watching experience.

What have you learned from this project?

  • Personal frustrations are a great motivator to start a project but validate first with the users. Some responses gave me a different angle on how people view and navigate through a problem.
  • Asking the right questions will get you the right answers. In the one-on-one interviews, the respondents freely and effortlessly shared their frustrations. Having a question that will lead to a conversation is the best way to gather insights
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash


Written by


UX designer/researcher

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