What Do You Do When Your Streaming Music Service Doesn’t Really Understand You?

I subscribe to three different streaming music services, each of which seem to have a different idea of who I am as a music fan. This can be a problem with algorithms that choose music for you. What if such a program doesn’t “get” you? From Inverse:

I listen to a lot of music. In December when Spotify put out its handy tool for measuring how much music you listened to in 2015, I clocked in at 110,000 minutes. By Rent calculations, that’s over a fifth of the year spent listening to music. 76 days. 1,832 hours.

Like anybody else who listens to a lot music, I’m always looking for new stuff to love. And it’s easier than ever to find new stuff that I’ll love, too, thanks to algorithm-driven recommendations. At least theoretically.

But I’m an algorithm’s nightmare. I know this about myself. My taste is so varied that, apparently, the computer just cannot get a read on my humanity.

The problem is that an algorithm can’t understand that I love it when Madi Diaz covers the Bee Gees but that I almost never want to listen to the Bee Gees themselves. It can’t understand why my love of Bonnie Raitt and Carole King’s music runs deep but that listening to Paul Simon makes my skin crawl because Graceland wronged me in college. It can’t understand that my love of folk duos was brief, misguided and, now, over.

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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.

One thought on “What Do You Do When Your Streaming Music Service Doesn’t Really Understand You?

  • June 27, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Interesting article. I had to really work Spotify to get my Discover Weekly playlists on point. But then there will be a rogue week and it’s all shot to hell again. Otherwise, I enjoy those playlists.


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