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Spotify’s 'daylist': Enhancing vs. diminishing the art of the playlist

ASU students discuss the use of AI in playlisting with Spotify’s newest feature

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The use of Artificial Intelligence to create playlists may take away the art of curating mixes of music.

The latest step in music curation technology, Spotify's "daylist," offers a fun and unique style of playlists, but there's still a way to go in crafting the ideal listening experience. 

Like most social media apps, Spotify is notorious for releasing constant updates that continually rock the status quo of the app. But based on public reception, it seems that Spotify has made waves with its new "daylist" feature, an adapting playlist that changes throughout the day to match hyper-specific moods and genres. 

The daylist is marked primarily by its constant drastic changes and silly names.

"It splits it up by the day and also the time of day. I find it pretty accurate at certain times or also just weirdly niche," Jordan Payne, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, said.

Luke Foster, a sophomore studying counseling and applied psychological science, said that, though he doesn't use it often, "it's an interesting way to see what I usually listen to at a specific time throughout the day or night."

Artificial intelligence allows the daylist to have constant updates, and complete vibe switches, which can bring more variety and exposure to new tracks. Still, some fans think that its apparent depth is more surface-level.

"I'm not usually finding any deep cuts or anything on the daylist, but if I just want some easy listening, it might be something I listen to," Payne said. "If I'm just on a ten, 15 minutes between classes and don’t want to think about what I’m trying to play, I might throw on the daylist." 

Payne said the daylist could also appeal to more casual listeners because it's convenient yet personalized.

"They're trying to hit those niches that you can get with your own playlists, but there’s only so much (they) can do when they’re cranking out three or four playlists for you in a day," she said.

Playlisting is a hobby for many, especially listeners who utilize the social media aspect of streaming apps. Though curating a playlist isn't generally seen as an artistic expression, some students believe otherwise.

"I definitely think there's an art there in being able to cultivate a specific feeling, time period, or emotion,” Payne said.

The use of artificial intelligence in creative mediums has been generally frowned upon by creators and consumers, so the daylist's use of AI to select its tracklist could very easily dip into questionable territory and compromise the artistic integrity of playlist curation. Students don’t think that's the case here, though. 

READ MORE: Uncanny brushstrokes: AI art bots are reshaping and disrupting the art world

"I've always been someone who's kind of against AI, especially when it comes to creativity and art, but for curation, in this certain context, I think it’s great," Jackson Smith-Kutyla, a junior studying global politics said. 

Though there is absolutely an art to playlisting, the daylist isn’t directly conflicting with what human curators can do outside of jobs like DJing but offers an alternative of convenience that still has depth.

"There are very few people making a living off of their playlist making, so I don’t know if there’s a huge threat to jobs there," Payne said. "For the people that are there, they have a certain knowledge and a savvy that, at least at this point, I don't think that AI would be a threat." 

However, AI might not be the only underlying problem with how the Spotify (and services like it) algorithm works. Some fans suspect that there’s a possibility of questionable ethics and money behind the automated recommendations. 

"The worst thing when it comes to new technologies is how it's used to make money," Smith-Kutyla said. "It could go too far in the sense of how different distribution groups or labels can try and push their music out … and use money to push out their artists instead of letting the algorithm just push out artists in a natural way," 

There's no way of knowing what's happening behind the scenes, so Smith-Kutyla and music fans like him have to hope AI is being used ethically.

Though the daylist is a step forward in automated playlist curation, fans still think it's not the fullest extent of how the technology can be used.

Foster said that he hopes Spotify can implement a feature that can create accurate, on-demand recommendations that are deeper than just giving the listener other songs by the same artist, for instance. 

In its current state, Spotify isn't perfect at its auto-generated curation, but it's setting the stage for more innovation like the daylist. Users of other platforms will have to keep making playlists themselves. 

"Spotify is definitely leading the charge on this. I wish Apple Music had more, better music recommendations," Smith-Kutyla said. 

Edited by Claire van Doren, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

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