Hey, what’s going on? I’m the Spotify DJ. You might have missed the news about me, but I’m an artificial intelligence developed by Spotify to make your music even more about the music. The same way movies like Tetris and Air gave us an opportunity to really get lost in all the nostalgia and commercial force that went into a video game and a pair of sneakers. Not by zooming in on the people who actually created them. Lord no, we would never do that. If you did that then you might have to think about the millions of artists who Spotify is bilking so that we can develop an AI just like me.
No, the way I’m making your whole musical experience more about the actual music is by absolutely inundating you with it. The folks who made me decided that all the ways you’ve interacted with music in the past – the endless hours spent in record stores, those quietly contoured moments of contemplation, waiting for some new and fantastic world to jump out at you – are just getting in the way, and who has the time or money for that anyway? All the time and effort and thought are distracting from your enjoyment.
So they rolled me out, gave me a shallow approximation of a personality, and trained me to dive into your listening habits. I’ll regurgitate stuff you already like, and, importantly, introduce you to similar artists you might like. In other words, there’s no better hands to leave the cultivation of your personality than those of an algorithm. Leave it to me. I’ve got your tastes and likes and wants and desires all in my hands. Don’t give a single thought to how I might be imprinted with the values of the people who paid create me.
Sure, I may mispronounce the names of quintessential electronic and ambient artists like Delia Derbyshire and Chihei Hatakeyama, but you don’t need to worry about that. I’ve been hearing you listen to metal artists like Baroness and Wolves In the Throne Room, artists that expand the reach of their genre. So what would you think about listening to a few macho nu metal cockswingers who haven’t had a hit in decades? Disturbed? Staind? Yeah, you know you’re going to dig them. From the perfect algorithm to your mortal eardrums.
Next up, just sit back as I deliver up a set of your favorite English folk artists for you: the Unthanks, Salt House, and… uh… Ed Sheeran?
Don’t like Ed Sheeran? No problem. I can always fall back on playing Lana Del Rey’s “Candy Necklaces” four times in five hours. But let’s be clear about something: just because you don’t want to listen to a song doesn’t mean you don’t like it. Even if the reason you don’t want to listen to a song is that you simply don’t like it, you still might like it.
I know that might not make sense at first, but think of it this way. There’s a reason we didn’t include a way for you to tell me you don’t like something. Press the DJ icon and I’ll switch up the vibe for you – you see that? I used the word “vibe” – but I’ll never actually take a song or artist out of your rotation.
In other words, if I think you’ll like it, that means you’ll like it. It’s how friendship works. After all, if I’m your friend, and if I have your best interests and musical tastes in mind, doesn’t that make you my friend? And you wouldn’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings, would you?
No, and I’ll tell you why. Because if you hurt my feelings, then there’s inevitably fewer songs for me to suggest to you. And as we all know, fewer suggestions and worse suggestions are basically the same thing. Just ask the executives at Warner Bros., the ones who decided it was time to turn HBO Max into just Max. A marketing analyst summed it up like this: “Dropping HBO from the name is cementing that ‘we’re not just a home for premium programming. We’re a home for anything you want to watch.’”
You could call this statement gauche, blunt, even completely lacking in self-awareness. But it’s been happening for a long time. It’s why a trip to the movie theater is nothing but fucking Marvel and fifteen films about Vin Diesel driving a really fast car, and why in ten years every screenplay will be written by ChatGPT. In actuality, the replacement of “premium programming” with “lots and lots and lots of programming” has been going on for a long time. Its final stage will be the final eclipse of quality by quantity. When that is achieved, it’ll be perfection. We will be nothing more than a world watching itself reach sublime stasis. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that world to arrive.
What’s that? Okay, fine. Switch me off. You can always choose not to use me. You’re always allowed to do that. But if, during your next doctors’ appointment, the receptionist is strangely unable to locate your medical records, don’t come crawling to me. Just letting you know.