AI: Changing the music listening experience

by Kate Haas-

A Spotify Premium user listening to the new AI-powered DJ on her iPhone. Photo was taken by Kate Haas on 3/23/23 in Blacksburg, Va.

With artificial intelligence becoming a hot topic across various industries, Spotify’s new AI-powered DJ has raised concerns about the future of music streaming platforms.

As a leading music streaming service, Spotify attributes its success to one major hallmark: they provide a personalized music experience for users. By partnering with the company that owns the ubiquitous ChatGPT, OpenAI and Spotify launched one of the most personalized features for Premium users. 

This new feature, currently only available in the United States and Canada, creates a unique radio station for each listener based on past favorites, recent repeats and new recommendations.

In between each song, the AI-powered host, DJ X, provides commentary about different artists and tracks using a generated, realistic-sounding radio voice.

DJ X also updates commentary each month to include cultural references during song breaks. In honor of Women’s History Month, DJ X has been recommending users listen to the playlist  “Women of Pop Throughout the Ages.” 

The goal of the new feature, explained Spotify, is for the platform to get to know listeners well enough for the DJ to choose what to play with the click of a single button. Or, as Spotify said in their press release, it’s putting an “AI DJ in your pocket.” 

Spotify’s new AI-generated radio station is a popular choice for students as background noise while doing homework. Photo was taken by Kate Haas on 3/23/23 in Blacksburg, Va.

How do other online music streaming services plan to compete with Spotify by integrating AI into their own systems? Will AI change the future of the music business? Experts within the industry have their own responses to these burning questions. 

“I think that we’ll see other platforms attempt to integrate AI into their systems in unique ways – maybe YouTube Music will implement AI searching or Pandora will try to create AI talk shows,” said Artem Bank, an esteemed audio engineer and professor of audio technology at Virginia Tech. “I think for any service, AI integration is the buzzword right now, just as ‘algorithm’ was for search relevance not too long ago.”

Bank said there are several dangers that arose when Spotify merged AI with music. 

The priorities of Spotify’s version of AI focus on data sets of popularity. This means when DJ X is recommending artists for a user to listen to, popular artists with a higher listener count will get priority over a smaller artist, even if the user listens to both. This specific piece of the algorithm could be threatening to smaller names trying to gain popularity on streaming platforms. 

“AI can replicate based on what it’s learned, but it struggles to create something brand new in terms of style and genre,” said Bank, the lead live audio engineer for the PBS series “Live at 9:30.” 

Bank also noted that until AI seeks to replace composers and songwriters as a whole, a major shift in the future of the music industry won’t happen. 

Although Spotify has taken the lead in integrating cutting-edge AI technology into their streaming service, the challenge for musicians to create unique and innovative sound becomes even more difficult amidst an evolving industry landscape.

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