Spotify, And The Perils Of Algorithms

Like many music fans, I use Spotify quite a bit. In fact, I have even on occasion had the Premium version of Spotify. That’s particularly good for summer when I listen to music on walks and don’t feel like dealing with ads. These days, unless there is a new album I want to listen to I largely listen to the playlists they give me. You know, Release Radar or the various Daily Mixes. There’s also the end of year lists and the “songs you listen to on repeat” playlists. It’s all algorithm based, and largely the Spotify algorithm works out for me. However, there are those times when the algorithm fails, and it’s the one drawback of Spotify.

I was thinking about this because I was listening to an “on repeat” playlist while doing yardwork. I had my phone in my pocket and I had gloves on and I can’t really easily skip a song. Of course, I figured I was safe. These were songs I had been listening to on repeat, after all. For a while, everything was good. It was the usual. The stuff I had been listening to a lot. Jeff Rosenstock, Lala Lala, Waxahatchee, etc. Then, a live song started. I didn’t know who it was at first, of course. Then, some random prog rock song started playing. I had no clue who it was. I thought maybe it was Rush. I don’t listen to Rush, though. I don’t listen prog rock. It was bizarre, and a bit annoying. I was in the middle of weeding, so I didn’t skip.

I was on a walk the other day listening to the same playlist and it came up again. This time, I looked at who it was (while also skipping it, of course). It turned out to be a Yes song. I do not listen to Yes. I know one Yes song, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Like a month ago I had accidentally started playing a Yes song but didn’t even finish it. That, somehow, got Yes in my algorithm, and got it in my “on repeat” playlist.

It’s the nature of the beast, I suppose. The algorithm isn’t perfect. I still get new Weezer songs in my Release Radar even though I don’t like Weezer. I listened to a couple albums literally like four years ago for work and I haven’t listened to them once since. It’s the plight of the modern music fan. On more than one occasion Spotify’s alghorithms have introduced me to new artists I get into. They also made me listen to Yes.

About Chris Morgan

Internet gadabout

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