Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Generative spam is coming for writers, and is already here for musicians

Spotify has unveiled a new feature to help curate your music that is fueled by artificial intelligence. The company’s new AI DJ, aptly named “DJ,” helps guide you through your listening experience by feeding you music it thinks you’ll love along with computer-generated commentary on what makes those songs great.

DJ serves as a music curation tool from Spotify that feeds you songs you like and songs it thinks you’ll like, wrapped up in a realistic voice modelled after Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships. DJ generates charming and cheeky quips after every few songs that were generated via machine learning, and these comments describe your listening habits and fun facts about the album or song you’re listening to.
And from Brooks's newsletter, after stumbling on a suspicious track:
The case of "Jaime Brooks" perfectly illustrates how these scams will manifest in the world of music. By generating audio that is harmonically similar to classical music, "Jaime" was able to trick Spotify into recommending it to classical listeners. By deploying familiar sounds in a randomized, nonsensical fashion, the resulting compositions were able to bypass copyright filters designed to block infringement of existing works. By targeting a style of music that often appears in sleep-oriented playlists, "Jaime" gained access to the least discerning users on the entire platform. Unconscious adults are very unlikely to notice they're not listening to Mozart anymore and get up to hit fast forward, especially if the interruptions are brief and unpredictable. Babies don’t even have the option! This is how generators are going to change the internet in the coming years: by infesting the darkest, most neglected corners of our collective online experience with the digital equivalent of roaches, bed bugs, fruit flies, and mold.
The reality is that Spotify is unprofitable. It always has been. Their single biggest operating expense is the cost of licensing music from the major labels, which continues to be the platform's biggest draw. Spotify is the market leader in streaming with about one hundred and ninety-five million paying subscribers globally, and they lose money every time one of their users hits play on a Taylor Swift album. They can't make money giving you what you want, because what you want is too expensive. Serving up music to customers is a tedious, money-losing business that Spotify only ever bothered with in the hope that it would teach them how to get us all hooked on something cheaper. The trajectory of the platform's shift from user-created playlists to in-house editorial playlists to personalized, algorithmic "Discover" playlists makes this clear. The business model only works if Spotify's users can be persuaded to see listening as a passive, solitary activity rather than an active, social one.

Podcasts were supposed to help them do this.

Speaking of music, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories (10th Anniversary) edition vinyl and CD for preorder at Amazon