The New Yorker: Spotify – Friend or Foe?
Earlier this year, Spotify bought a Boston-based startup called the Echo Nest, which has developed a form of artificial music intelligence—a kind of A.I. hipster that finds cool music for you. The Echo Nest powers Spotify’s automated radio stations and is also behind an in-house programming tool called Truffle Pig, which can be told to sniff out music with combinations of more than fifty parameters, such as “speechiness” and “acoustic-ness.” Now that the Echo Nest is part of Spotify, its team has access to the enormous amount of data generated by Spotify users which show how they consume music. Spotify knows what time of day users listen to certain songs, and in many cases their location, so programmers can infer what they are probably doing—studying, exercising, driving to work. Brian Whitman, an Echo Nest co-founder, told me that programmers also hope to learn more about listeners by factoring in data such as “what the weather is like, what your relationship status is now on Facebook.” (In 2011, Facebook entered into a partnership with Spotify.) He added, “We’ve cracked the nut as far as knowing as much about the music as we possibly can automatically, and we see the next frontier as knowing as much as we possibly can about the listener.” All this, Ek explained, will help Spotify to better program the “moments” of a user’s day.