The press releases flow like a river of pure white noise. Spotify, the world’s leading music platform, is awarding scholarships, taking stage time to “amplify diverse creators” and doling out playlist features to artists that Spotify’s overcaffeinated reps hope are so grateful for their placement that they forget to ask why Spotify wants them to be poor.
The latest is a doozy: the news is that “Spotify DJ” is going global. Someone at Spotify or in the Spotifyverse thought this was worth our attention. 5 Mag uses the term “DJ” an awful lot, after all. It’s a natural fit, and they’ll “circle back” repeatedly until they get an answer.
It would all be funny if these people weren’t running the single most important music company in the world.
“Spotify DJ” is not DJing as you know it and use the term. Spotify, like every streaming platform other than SoundCloud, still remains completely confused about what to do with the actual human, flesh-and-blood DJs and the sets they create. There’s probably been no innovation in music that has been as hostile to DJing as Spotify. After more than a decade, the best solution they offer for DJs to post mixes on the platform is the terrible alternative of creating a playlist whose songs roughly correspond to the records a DJ played in a mix.
“Spotify DJ” is little more than a recommendation engine, but to Spotify it’s a “brand-new way to listen.” Also, Spotify DJ is driven by AI. That’s important. AI is now a thing that everyone wants to get into, so AI is getting into everything, including Spotify DJ. Spotify calls Spotify DJ “a new AI DJ right in your pocket” which “knows you and your music taste so well that it can choose what to play for you”:
Unlike the surly people you find at the local discotheque, Spotify DJ also takes requests:
You can get mad about these things or you can laugh at them. I’m not sure which is better or healthier. Basically 10 companies control the distribution of mainstream culture now and several of them have decided to appropriate the term “DJ” in pretty much straight-up contempt for the creators on their platform and even the business that they’re in. You can get mad about that. They’re still going to do it (like they did with “house” and “techno”) and they have a good shot at co-opting the meaning of a term that is extraordinarily meaningful.
If you want to laugh, though, you have to admit that there is something funny about Spotify’s use of the word “DJ.” Recall that “Spotify DJ” just plays music you like. You can tap it in punishment and as a corrective any time it deviates from playing exactly what you like. This is indicative of what the highly cultured executives at Spotify believe a DJ is. A curator? Maybe. An educator? Never. To Spotify, a DJ is a obsequious robot jukebox that lives in existential terror of throwing off your vibe.
It would be downright hilarious if these people weren’t running the single most important music company in the world.
Photo by Agê Barros