Some people were just not buying ‘Only You,’ Spotify’s attempt at flattery through data-mining
How special of a snowflake are you?
This week Spotify rolled out a feature for mobile users called “Only You,” a collection of data based on your streaming activity over the past six months. In what’s essentially a mid-year remix of Spotify’s popular end-of-year “Wrapped” feature, “Only You” purports to show off the vast range of your musical taste, with splashy personalized graphics and playlists to match.
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Features include “Your Song Year,” which spotlights your favorite artists across different scenes and time periods; “Your Dream Dinner Party,” which whips up a playlist based on the three artists you’d supposedly most like to dine with; and “Your Artist Pair,” in which Spotify reveals the two most disparate artists on your recent plays.
“Who else but you would play Sech after The Dismemberment Plan?” read one of my own personalized cards. Touché, Spotify — while I’m far from the only alt Latina on this planet, I cannot think of anyone I know who’d chase the sounds of cerebral D.C. indie rock with Panamanian reggaetón in one sitting. But on a platform that counts 356 million users, it can’t be completely outside the realm of possibility.
While some users shared their “Only You” results with glee, skeptics abounded. “Spotify is genius at creating shareable bulls— that we all eat up. I respect it and don’t think I’ve seen something else as good at what it is,” wrote comedian Dave McNamee. Members of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, who are campaigning for Spotify to raise its artist royalty rates, used the social media trend as a launchpad for their activism. “#OnlyYou Spotify would reduce artist royalties the same year your stock price tripled,” tweeted Galaxie 500 drummer Damon Krukowski.
The most buzzed-about feature is the “Audio Birth Chart,” which maps your personality through the artists you’ve recently listened to. The concept is loosely inspired by an astrological birth chart, which is a snapshot of where the planets were in the sky at the minute you were born. This map of the stars is said to reflect certain aspects of your character, as well as opportunities and challenges you may face on a daily, weekly or monthly basis until you shuffle off this mortal coil.
Spotify’s “Audio Birth Chart,” however, has nothing to do with the planets, nor the time and date of your birth. It’s really just three artists culled from your listening habits over the past six months: Your “sun” artist is the artist you’ve listened to the most; your “moon” artist is the “most emotive” (as per Spotify) of the batch; and your “rising” artist is a recent discovery or an artist newly introduced to your library. (In astrology, your sun sign relates to your personality, your moon sign to how you experience your emotions, and your rising sign to how you interact with the outside world.)
Spotify has used astrology to market its streaming service before: In 2019, renowned astrologer Chani Nicholas curated official Spotify playlists to describe each of the 12 sun signs through song. Personalized algorithms may be Spotify’s bread and butter, but perhaps they should leave those of the cosmic variety to the astrologers.
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