Image: Fath via Unsplash

Spotify’s new AI DJ is trying to change the way we listen to music, but is it working?

Introduced in the United States and Canada in February 2023, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) DJ is a new Spotify feature that has recently entered the United Kingdom and Ireland, with the promise of changing how we listen to music, as an alternative to the era of conventional streaming. Accessed through the search bar by typing “DJ” into Spotify, the new feature starts off by introducing itself to you in a male voice, describing its functions, and then playing you music.

The feature is weird – the DJ plays any varieties of music. If you are a Spotify user and have been for a long time, the new AI feature uses all the data Spotify has gathered on you in your entire usage time to try and comprehensively play music you would only enjoy, introduce you to new songs within genres and artists you already love, and also sometimes play recent and popular music that you might otherwise not listen to.

On their website, Spotify claims that the “DJ knows you and your music taste so well that it will scan the latest releases we know you’ll like, or take you back to that nostalgic playlist you had on repeat last year”. The AI uses the same OpenAI technology used for many new popular artificial intelligence software, such as ChatGPT – the famous writing prompt generator that has been steadily used by many students across the country, and DALL-E 2, a picture-based prompt software which can create images based on things the user types.

The AI also seems to be a big fan of music popularised on TikTok

Together, ChatGPT and the AI DJ are marking a new era of how we use technology to add on to our lives. But, in the case of Spotify’s new product, does it work?

My music taste is an amalgamation of years of rock, alternative metal, indie pop, J-rock, K-pop, Persian alternative, French pop, hip-hop, and old school Frank Sinatra-esque classical pop. Having used Spotify since 2017, the company has gotten more than six years of data on me to try and analyse my interests, as to make this new feature fun and exciting. But I don’t think it is.

The DJ helped me add several hip-hop and Persian alternative songs into my playlists

On one listen through, the AI told me that because of how much I listen to Kanye West, it’d put on some Kanye classics, starting my listening experience with ‘Jail’, one of the less listened to songs of the 2021 Donda album. What the AI couldn’t analyse was that I have only listened to said album once in my life – at the initial release (and I highly disliked said album). For the AI, it appears to not be able to distinguish different eras of musicians, and when it recommends music by specific artists, it seems to shuffle their albums at random and give back anything.

The AI also seems to be a big fan of music popularised on TikTok – recommending me ‘Huit Octobre 1971’ by Cortex, followed by ‘If God Didn’t Want Us to Snort Worms He Wouldn’t Have Made Them Cylindrical!’ by MIMIDEATH. Now forgive me for saying this – as I do love these songs when they’re played in TikTok video edits – to describe these songs as popular, or a ‘vibe’ by the AI comes off as weird, especially given that I have never listened to these songs outside of TikTok. Given my own music taste that Spotify is familiar with, these recommendations tell me that the algorithm is highly influenced by contemporary trends in online media.

Is the new Spotify feature all bad? No, far from it. It is just way too young to be described as a good feature to use. Listening to a variety of music by the DJ helped me add several hip-hop and Persian alternative songs into my playlists. I’m confident that given increased optimisation and improvements in Artificial Intelligence, this feature will become a part of my day-to-day music listening – especially when listening to the same albums or playlists get boring. However, for now, if I want to listen to varied random music, I’d rather put on my playlists, or even use the actual radio where I get to have awful (great) ads, real commentators, and occasionally listen to people win awards and etcetera.


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