Spotify appears to have the capacity to create “hits” without even realizing it.
“What I find interesting about this story is that, from my research perspective, it really shows the power and influence that these music recommendation systems have,” she says. “But it is also extremely difficult to know how these systems work, and I think the only people who can answer that would be the engineers working at these companies, like Spotify. We’re not even sure if these people could answer why or how a recommendation system works as well, because they’re usually pretty complex things we’re dealing with here.”
Spotify further complicated the Autoplay situation with a bombshell development on Nov. 2: At some point in the near future, they’ll be rolling out a service that allows artists and labels to “identify music that’s a priority for them” within the Autoplay and Radio algorithms, in exchange for a “promotional recording royalty rate” applied to streams acquired through the new program. Spotify views this as an opportunity for creators to have “more opportunities to connect with new listeners.” But some, like Krukowski, view the move as a way for the company to simply pay less money out to songs that are doing well via the algorithms organically, like “Strange” and “Harness Your Hopes.” Even worse, some view it as a new version of streaming payola.
“No doubt, there are sinister aspects to it,” Malkmus says of the cautious reading that Spotify might be promoting more neutral songs in artists’ libraries — to say nothing of the new tiered-royalty Autoplay adjustment, which was announced after the interviews for this story took place. “But it’s nothing that I feel that we’re surprised at anymore.”