International Women’s Day: Spotify introduces an “equalizer” algorithm that creates gender balanced playlists

When Spotify took a look at the data for 2017, it realized that there wasn’t a single female lead voice in the ten most-streamed songs of the year. This got someone in the company thinking about doing something about gender balance. The result is a new algorithm that balances male and female voices under certain circumstances.

The Smirnoff Equalizer–yes, the vodka brand is involved–is an API that seeks to promote equality for female musicians.

Everything starts by analyzing your listening habits over the last six months. Once you get your gender percentage breakdown (i.e. how many songs feature male vs. female voices), you’ll be served a playlist representative of your musical tastes but with the genders offered up equally.

If you want to tweak things a little bit, there’s a slider control that can increase the number of female artists in the playlist. Presumably, someone could slide the control all the way to the male side, but I haven’t heard what happens then. I’m also not sure what it does with groups featuring both genders.

This is from Smirnoff’s Global Brand Manager: “The Smirnoff Equalizer not only drives awareness but also allows Spotify users to take direct action by increasing the number of tracks from women artists in their playlists.”

Me? I like it. Anything that increases the opportunity for music discovery is fine by me. Others, though, aren’t so sure.

Noble overdue move? Social engineering? Or something else, like a way to sell more vodka to women?


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.

4 thoughts on “International Women’s Day: Spotify introduces an “equalizer” algorithm that creates gender balanced playlists

  • March 8, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    This is ridiculous. Just SJW politically correct nonsense. This isn’t promoting equality for female musicians, this is promoting special treatment for female musicians. And this isn’t increasing the opportunity for music discovery either. If someone is listening to a song with a female lead voice because of this algorithm, it just means there’s another musician/band which that listener won’t be discovering. It makes no difference in terms of music discovery. It may make a difference in terms of music discovery of women, but shouldn’t listeners be discovering music based on whether the people decide the music is good instead of based on the gender of the singer? There are many great songs and bands with female-lead voices that I’ve discovered and enjoyed in my life, and I didn’t discover them just because the lead voices were of a female. I discovered them because people listened to them and enjoyed them, regardless of the gender of the singer. There is nothing wrong with the fact that there wasn’t a single female lead voice in the ten most-streamed songs of the year, just like there wouldn’t be anything wrong if there wasn’t a male lead voice in the top 10. Those were the most streamed songs because the people, men and women, decided it. If you want to combat sexism in music, this isn’t the right way to do it. This is like requiring there to be an equal balance of men and women in a sports league in the name of gender equality. And that’s all I have to say about that.

    • March 8, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Haha you sound offended and triggered. Sorry, can’t take anyone that uses “sjw” without irony seriously.

      • March 9, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        That’s ok, I don’t take what you say seriously either.

        • March 9, 2018 at 11:47 pm

          Float on, snowflake


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