Thursday, September 29, 2016

Spotify's new "Daily Mix" feature is a nightmare for music radio and the music business

Spotify have just launched a new "Daily Mix" feature. This provides me with six playlists of tunes based on the kind of things I've been playing in the recent past. Although each of these lists reflects what you could call an area of music I like, they've wisely not given them names. I can't abide those buttons that demand I choose between "country" and "hard rock".

Instead the buttons are a montage of the artists featured within, which works out roughly as follows:
Playlist 1: the bands and songwriters I've listened to for a lot of the last forty years: Steely Dan, Paul McCartney, Boz Scaggs etc.
Playlist 2: the more tuneful side of jazz: Basie, Ellington, Bix, Coleman Hawkins etc.
Playlist 3: Classical: Scarlatti, Liszt, Handel, Vaughan William etc.
Playlist 4: the ambient music I never know the name of: Nils Frahm, Luke Howard, Max Richter etc.
Playlist 5: edgy hip-hop, dance-type stuff: Blood Orange, James Blake, Tame Impala etc.
Playlist 6: some rather twee French pop of the kind that gets used on the soundtracks of comedy films.

On one hand no algorithm will be able to make the intuitive leap that guarantees you'll love what's been chosen for you. On the other hand it's a sight more likely to satisfy you than whatever radio comes up with because all music radio is a product of compromise. The more successful it is the more compromised.

The Daily Mix will get better. You can educate it by promoting or demoting songs you feel strongly about one way or another.

Funny how things change. Music radio used to draw its strength from the fact that it had all the tunes. and we didn't. Nowadays we all have just as many tunes as they do and we're free to listen to whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it.

For music radio and the music business it's a nightmare.