This week Spotify bought Echo Nest, a company that uses sophisticated algorithms to determine what kind of music people might enjoy. Here's the story from The New York Times, The Sweet, Streaming Sound of Data.
The acquisition seems to be serving several purposes. Echo Nest has contracts with Spotify competitors that, once expired, will leave them scrambling for another music data-mining company. The merger will put Echo Nest, already a client of Spotify, in a position to create even more accurate data for the streaming music service. Finally, it will make Spotify more enticing to investors when the rumored IPO takes place.
Spotify's new competitor, Beats Music, employs data mining services to be sure, but the company also uses real humans to help its users discover new music. The question is which model do people want.
Being that my life's mission statement is to enrich people's lives through the sharing of music and my background as a DJ and musicologist I'm all for the humans as gatekeepers. But a combination of the two seems best.
Echo Nest and other streaming services that use these crazy algorithms, like Pandora who pioneered the technology, can tap into millions of listeners tastes to find common ground. A celebrity DJ or musician can only store so much music in his or her brain to share with others. Yet there's something about man's ability to recommend things to other people that goes beyond data.
The beauty of Spotify is how it has tapped into social media. Beats Music has a long way to go. For instance, with Beats Music I can share a playlist I created on Facebook and Twitter. What I can't do is share it with an individual person. Missing out on the mix tape concept is detrimental to Beats Music.
Spotify's user profile pages makes it the best of both worlds. Echo Nest can turn people on to music through their data while someone like me can turn people onto music by creating numerous playlists which I most certainly have been doing as you can see, John "Radio" Hannibal Spotify profile. It also allows a user to type in any search terms and find user created playlists to match.
Any way you look (or should I say listen) to it, the polishing of these music streaming services is good for lovers of music. And as Nietzsche said, "without music, life would be a mistake".
Monday I'll address the musician complainers who still fight streaming music.