Spotify launches ‘DJ’, a new feature that offers personalized music with AI-powered commentary

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Ahead of Spotify’s upcoming Stream On event, where the company is expected to announce a redesigned home feed and other updates, the company today launched a new AI feature dubbed “DJ” to better enhance the music listening experience for its users. personalize. Similar to a radio DJ, Spotify’s DJ feature delivers a curated selection of music alongside AI-powered spoken commentary about the songs and artists you like, using what Spotify says is a “stunningly realistic voice” is.

The idea, the company explains, is for Spotify to get to know users so well that the DJ can choose what to play for you when you press the button. Or, as Spotify says, it puts an “AI DJ in your pocket”.

More generally, the feature has the potential to make Spotify a laid-back, passive experience for those times when users don’t feel like dictating to Spotify what to stream next or fumbling with the interface to find a playlist that they like.

The OpenAI powered feature is still in beta testing at the time of today’s launch and is only available in English for Spotify Premium subscribers in the US and Canada for now.

Spotify has been leading the market with its personalization technology for years, launching its flagship playlist Discover Weekly in 2015 with immediate success. This was then followed by a number of other playlists designed to meet the unique preferences of the end user, including Release Radar, Daily Mixes, Your Time Capsule, Blend, and playlists focused on specific activities, such as commuting or running, among others. to play sports. In more recent years, Spotify has also become a trendsetter with its personalized yearly overview, Spotify Wrapped, which has since been copied by its rivals.

With the wider technology market turning to new ways to leverage AI advancements, it was only a matter of time before Spotify rolled out its own vision of how modern AI can be used to enhance its personalization experience.

Image Credits: Spotify screenshot

In this case, the company says the new DJ feature is a combination of its existing personalization technology, an AI voice from its 2022 acquisition of Sonantic, and Generative AI through the use of OpenAI technology. (Spotify tells us it has a business relationship with OpenAI, but made no reference to the company as a partner.)

Instead, Spotify says it has given its music editors, experts, screenwriters and data curators access to OpenAI’s Generative AI technology to increase their insights about music, artists and genres. The technology is used to create “culturally relevant, accurate, scaled commentary pieces,” the company says. (Accuracy may be key here, given Bing and Google’s recent AI flaws. Time will tell if Spotify’s use case faces similar issues.)

As listeners engage with the new DJ feature, they will be presented with a personalized stream of songs that will include newer songs as well as old favourites. We understand that this stream is constantly being refreshed. As they listen, they also hear a commentary immediately followed by the song it refers to.

For example, the AI ​​can share comments such as:

“This week, Chicago rapper Polo G teams up with Atlanta’s Future for his first release of the year. This also marks the pair’s first collaboration, but they’re united by the production of Southside, who has worked extensively with both and is said to be responsible for most of the music on Polo’s upcoming project.

If the DJ fires a miss in terms of what someone wants to hear, the user can just tap the DJ button again to switch to a different genre, artist or mood. The more the feature is used, the more accurate the suggestions become – similar to how skip a song or like a song otherwise an algorithm would inform about your interests.

Image Credits: Spotify screenshot

The DJ’s voice, meanwhile, is based on Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships, Xavier “X” Jernigan, who had hosted Spotify’s morning show podcast “The Get Up.” The company notes that his voice is the “first model” for the DJ feature – suggesting it has plans to expand the range of voices in the future.

To access the DJ, go to the music feed on the home page of Spotify’s iOS or Android app and tap Play on the DJ card to get started. The DJ then starts playing a lineup of music and short commentary.

In short tests of the feature prior to launch, we can confirm that the voice sounded authentic, even as it inserted personalized content during launch, such as references to the names of bands you regularly stream. However, it didn’t immediately seem more remarkable than one of Spotify’s personalized playlists in terms of music selection. But in theory, DJ’s improvements would come in time.

After tapping some initial suggestions, the DJ switched to playing songs you streamed in a previous year. We expected these flashbacks to be mixed in with the newer songs, so this separation was a surprise. We then went through the recommendations again and the DJ switched genres. Again, and it switched to summer flashbacks. It felt like switching between playlists in a way.

Initially, the DJ appears as a green circle on a blue background, but as you play the music, it moves to the bottom right corner of the Now Playing interface, which otherwise looks the same – it plays the looping footage, if available, provides player controls and access to the heart button and to the lyrics, as before.

We haven’t had enough time to test the feature long enough to make any recommendations on how to use it or determine how well the DJ improves on his suggestions over time.

Spotify’s marketing of the feature as an AI-powered add-on aims to pique consumer interest in its streaming service as AI developments, such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, raise awareness of both the promise and pitfalls of AI developments.

However, the feature also comes at a time when there’s growing criticism that Spotify’s investments in other audio formats have made the app cluttered and harder to use for streaming music. Those complaints haven’t necessarily hurt the company’s growth, though — the streamer’s shares resurfaced last month in its report of solid fourth-quarter user growth, adding 10 million new subscribers to 205 million, and 22 million more through advertising. supported users to a total of 295 million.

But given that Spotify’s early strides in personalization technology are now seemingly the stakes for every music service, it’s clear it now wanted to raise the bar even further by doing something new with AI that isn’t as easily reproduced.

The company said the DJ feature will be rolling out in supported markets today, meaning you might not see the feature right away, but you will soon.

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