TRUST IN THE MUSIC? AUTOMATED MUSIC DISCOVERY, MUSIC RECOMMENDATION SYSTEMS & ALGORITHMIC CULTURE.
In this paper I argue that music recommendation algorithms are a complex element of contemporary digital culture. We trust music streaming and recommender systems like Spotify to ‘set the mood’ for us, to soundtrack our private lives and activities, to recommend & discover for us. These systems purport to ‘know’ us (alongside the millions of other users), and as such we let them into our most intimate listening spaces and moments. We fetishise and share the datafication of our listening habits, reflected to us annually in Spotify’s “Your 2018 Wrapped” and every Monday in ‘Discover Weekly’, even daily in the “playlists made for you”. As the accuracy of these recommendations increases, so too does our trust in these systems. ‘Bad’ or inaccurate recommendations feel like a betrayal, giving us the sense that the algorithms don’t really know us at all. Users speak of ‘their’ algorithm, as if it belonged to them and not a part of a complex machine learning recommendation system. This paper builds on research which critically examined the music recommendation system that powers Spotify and its many discovery features. The research explored the process through which Spotify automates discovery by incorporating established methods of music consumption, and demonstrated that music recommendation systems such as Spotify are emblematic of the politics of algorithmic culture.