Do music algorithms change the way we listen to music? [SPOILER: Yes. Here’s how.]

The recommendation algorithms that lurk beneath every streaming site are mysterious things. At their most basic, they look at what we listen to or watch and then recommend more of the same thing. But is there more to it? Music Ally investigated. I quote:

Shall we start with a gripe? It’s time to stop talking so distrustfully about ‘the algorithms of the streaming services’. Algorithms are just the instructions used in programming, and indeed in life. Cooking a meal, tying your shoelaces and finding your way to the office are all just algorithms – albeit running on the squidgy pink computer inside your skull rather than an electronic device.

Getting back to streaming, these are digital services driven by all kinds of algorithms. There’s a value to tightening up our language and specifying ‘recommendation algorithms’ (because that’s what we’re usually worrying about with streaming). Otherwise we risk just ending up like a politician demanding tech giants ‘get rid of algorithms’ and that’s a bad scene.

Gripe over, why are we banging on about algorithms this morning? Because the UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has published its report on what impact the streaming services’ recommendation algorithms might be having on music consumption.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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