Spotify CEO Says Machines Will Pick Our Music In the Future…

Right now, apps like iTunes and Spotify revolve around searching, selecting, and assembling the music we like.  Sync’ing playlists and creating virtual collections make sense to us.

But what if machines did all of that work for us?


That’s the future being etched by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, who argues that the future of music is a lot more hands-free than the present.  And, active collection-building and playlist management could eventually become a thing of the past.

“When we go to live concerts, our smartphones will pick up the set lists and create playlists of previously recorded versions of the songs we’re hearing live,” a Wall Street Journal profile of Daniel Ek goes.


“Mr. Ek thinks that the delivery of music will soon evolve to the point that we will not even have to decide what to listen to — our technology will simply know, depending on where we are.”


Plenty of this technology already exists, though a lot of it is presently quite clumsy.  Ek pointed to Google Now as an example, with all sorts of predictive features like tourist recommendations, upcoming flight details, and – sorry to say – targeted ads.


“This is what the future of music is,” Ek said.

Digging deeper, Ek painted scenarios that seem to involve a blend of self-created mixes and smart tune-ins.  “When we arrive at the gym or a subway station, our devices will detect the location and play the mix that we like for working out or commuting.”

Sounds positively incredible, though lots of this is premised on a relative lack of privacy.  And, consumers remaining relatively lax on privacy concerns: last year, researchers at UC Berkeley detected an ‘evil cookie‘ being deployed by Spotify, one that remains virtually impossible to delete and shares all sort of usage data.

Soon thereafter, Spotify was found to be deploying at least six different tracking cookies at the same time, though users seemed to care very little.



23 Responses

  1. matthew king kaufman
    matthew king kaufman

    Artificial intelligence isn’t smart enough now to recognize gr8 art. Music is an art form. Since I started in the music biz, the machine picking hit songs has always been a corporate dream. I hope this new tech surge created by the digitizing of music isn’t baseing their future on this nonsense. It’s the herd leading the herd. These subscription modeled “bulk digital music sellers” will consiladate like the record clubs of the past. The artifical intelligence from these merged will be helpful, but it’s a fantansy to believe artifical intelligence can pick gr8 music.

    • Visitor

      “it’s a fantasy to believe artifical intelligence can pick gr8 music”
      Indeed — but it’s great to see how Mr. Ek’s mind works.
      In his world, music is about machinery, numbers, behavioral segmentation and money.
      In our world — the realm of fans and artists — music is about love, power, ecstasy and communication between people.

      • Tune Hunter
        Tune Hunter

        It is time for all top musitians to stand up and say NO to this dope driven “music marketing”.
        They have to loudly scream or this industrial style Holocaust will decimate them.
        Stop streaming with free Shazam and “machine sugested tunes for free”- streaming is OK at 5 cents a stream – every stream! Convert Shazam and other ID services, NOW, to profitable mandatory purchase stores.
        You do not need RIAA and labels, they are clueless and participate in rape on you and the fruits of your work and drift together with you to oblivion!
        Its time for Discovery Moment Monetization.

  2. Visitor

    “This is what the future of music is,” Ek said.
    I’m not a prophet like Mr. Ek, but facts seem to suggest that iTunes is the future of music.
    Spotify just loses money and releases by the hour…

    • matthew king kaufman
      matthew king kaufman

      As long as we’re clear about this, the machinations of the delivery of music to the public and “music” itself are two different subjects. Itunes has a gr8 influence on the current consumption of music, but it doesn’t have anything to do with music creation.

      • Visitor

        “Itunes has a gr8 influence on the current consumption of music, but it doesn’t have anything to do with music creation”
        No, but the future of music in this context refers to the future of music delivery, as that happens to be the subject of Mr. Ek’s prophecy.
        And solid facts do suggest that the vast majority of consumers will choose iTunes, not Spotify, for music delivery in the future.

  3. Dick Cheney A.K.A. the sloppy
    Dick Cheney A.K.A. the sloppy

    This is brilliant! Now we can add your musical habits to PRISM! So much to learn from that. Or at least there might be, if some artist would grow a pair and sing about something that matters.

    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      It’s going to be really interesting to see where the privacy winds blow across different societies. So far, we’ve seen limited pushback against excessive cookie’ing, targeted advertising, etc., at least at a top level and among younger users.
      My sense is that people will care even less about internet-based privacy issues presented by apps like Spotify and sites like Facebook. Though, awareness is finally settling in on blanket awareness (cameras in public, tracking through mobile devices, etc.) and the total lack of anonymity online.
      We know we’re being watched, we increasingly know we’re leaving indelible tracks online.

  4. hippydog

    Quote “And, active collection-building and playlist management could eventually become a thing of the past”
    not bloody likely..
    Change playlists based on GPS? sure.. my phone could do that now if someone thought to make an app to do that..
    but auto playlists as the “future”? sorry, NOT a game changer.. Pandora has the Genome project, and are they #1? nope.. cool tech doesnt mean EVERYONE will care or want it..
    “future of music”.. nope.. just a bump in the rode.. an interesting option.. thats all,

  5. wallow-T

    Maybe machines could listen to the music for us, freeing us of the duty and the chore… 🙂
    (See the old science fiction novel “The Space Merchants” by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, where only the truly wealthy were spared the duty of consumption…)
    Might fly for the mass audience, but music heads will never go for it. Too often in my life I have been zinged by some music from left field, from a category I’d previously dismissed.

  6. JG

    This seems pretty hinged on location. Why is that the aspect Ek is focusing on? Yes music has become supplementary to our lives, but simple location is probably not hitting at the core of how to choose music for people.

  7. jw

    Technology will make it easier for us to discover music, but it will never compentently choose music for us. At least not for anyone who actually gives a shit about music.
    I’m super excited about all of the advances technology is going to bring music fans over the next few years, but algorithm-based or crowdsourced playlists is not one of them. Without human beings curating music, the info that feeds these systems is going to become worse & worse & worse over time.
    A computer can’t predict that people are going to go nuts for a band like Nirvana. And it never will.

  8. Patrick McGinn
    Patrick McGinn

    I respect Daniel Ek’s candor more than Tim Westergren, but we should all be very alarmed about his, and other digital music luminaries, idea of our cultural “future.”

    It’s the ultimate commoditization of culture, plain and simple. What Ek really wants is to reduce the amount of human input, i.e. more hands in his perceived cookie jar, so a plutocracy of technocrats and their algorithms can dilute the distribution, and ultimately content, of music to increase their bottom line. Less mess, less uncertainty, less obstruction, less abstraction, less art, less culture…more fucking money for me.

    I’d like to ask Ek if an algorithm ever served up any of Ayn Rand’s novel for his perusal based on his background, hobbies, activities and locations like he surmises an app would so conveniently do for the rest of us. What he overestimates is the power of convenience. What he underestimates, severely, is the inherent human value in serendipity and discovery.

  9. What if?
    What if?

    I don’t want my phone to do that. You see what Spotify people don’t understand is that music people like word of mouth because it comes from the bottom of anothers experience. This program may help users learn new genres of music and who are the artists but will never replace a friend telling you how the scene bagan and who where the main contenders. Music is a social experience that allows individual interpretations and discussion. Can Spotify do that? Clear Channel never put the dj out of a job it created a mass demand for them that we still can’t see. We need someone that loves music that directs us to what we like without forcing us. But the human factor does raise the risk of payola scandals. The music industry is basicly whats left over of a bunch of people that worked hard all day and want to enjoy a good tune. But slowly the musician is becoming just as tired as the people that come to watch. Some CEO will probably make a software that makes music from scratch garaunteed for you to like and then we really don’t need those pesky musicians. Who wants to pay them? Then you will have to pay the AI because they will become smarter and learn that a key to survival is control and so would they over you. Then the human race as we know it is a memory stored on a quantum computer. Copies of all of us having perfectly great times in the eyes of the programmer.

    • Aldous Huxley
      Aldous Huxley

      This is a pretty distant dystopia you’re describing, but if you ascribe to McLuhan’s theory of media (content) being the message (distribution) then it’s hard not to surmise music becoming fully automated and distilled to its basest level for ceaseless consumption.
      I just hope Ray Kurzweil and Daniel Ek don’t get a room and begin the transhumanist evolution they’re so sure we’re all destined for.

  10. Clinton

    The future of music is the pooling from loop libraries and computer generated songs based on your FaceBook likes and dislikes as well as other social media profiling. This side steps intellectual property issue all together. Each song will be custom tailored just for each listener. You will have no way of not loving these artificial songs as the area of the human brain (spindle cells) does not do rational processing. This is why we have no control over the songs we like or the people we fall in love with. This technology exists today.

  11. JTV Digital
    JTV Digital

    He is certainly correct.
    This would be the natural evolution of current marketing techniques, ‘telling’ kids what to listen to / what to buy…
    Music marketing is done by humans, replace them by machines and you’re done 🙂

    JTV Digital


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