‘Unlike Any Other Experience’: A Closer Look At Spotify’s AI DJ

‘Unlike Any Other Experience’: A Closer Look At Spotify’s AI DJ

As you’re likely aware by now, Spotify has launched a new techy offering for its subscribers – an AI DJ.

The service was first announced in February 2023 and slowly rolled out in different markets from that point until it landed on Aussie shores in early August 2023.

Spotify’s AI DJ is now available to Premium members in 50 markets around the world, promising a curated collection of music paired with the narration of an AI voice that has been modelled on the vocals of Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships, Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan.

In short, the AI DJ is designed to bring you a dynamic – and completely ‘smart’ – musical experience based on learnings about your taste. Here’s a quick video that walks you through the general vibe of it all.

Think of it as an expanded take on ‘Radio’ without you needing to put any prompts in. And with the occasional commentary of a robot.

To get a better understanding of what Spotify AI DJ is and what it means for the music aggregator’s future, we chatted with Emily Galloway, Personalisation Design Lead at Spotify. Here’s what she had to say about the latest update.

What is Spotify’s AI DJ?

The way she described Spotify’s AI DJ (which is still rolling out in beta) is as “a personalised AI guide that knows you and your music taste so well that it can choose what to play for you”.

The service is able to do this “thanks to the powerful combination of three things: Spotify’s personalisation technology, Generative AI in the hands of the world’s best music curators, and a dynamic AI voice,” she shared over email.

What can you expect from the experience?

When I first listened to Spotify’s AI DJ, I was a little confused by the mix of tunes thrown at me. There appeared to be no real connective thread between the music, and some tracks were styles I didn’t particularly enjoy.

Galloway explained that “DJ is meant to feel unlike any other experience on Spotify”.

“It will sort through the latest music, look back at some of your old favourites—maybe even resurface that song you haven’t listened to since 2018. It then reviews what you might enjoy and delivers a stream of songs picked just for you,” she said.

And when it comes to the DJ playing songs you don’t enjoy, this should improve as the AI learns what your preferences are.

Galloway expanded:

“…the more you interact with DJ, the more it will learn what you like! So, if you’re not feeling the vibe, we’ve created a way to call back the DJ through the ‘DJ button’, which gives users the opportunity to provide feedback to the DJ. If you press it, you will be taken to a different genre, artist, or mood.”

From personal experience, I can say that the accuracy of the song recommendations made by the AI DJ has improved over time, and it has been able to conjure tunes I had forgotten I loved and bring them back to the front of my mind, which is a pretty cool feature.

Just keep in mind that if you’re after a certain type of listening experience, you won’t have a say in that – it’s just a wild journey through your musical taste.

How does the role of human editors at Spotify play a part here?

If you recall, we did a piece a little while back that looked at the job of human music editors at Spotify. It’s a pretty neat gig where specialised music experts work to discover new talent as well as curate playlists for listeners (nope, it’s not all done by the algorithm).

Obviously, the implementation of an AI DJ has us wondering where the human music editors sit in the equation going forward. The use of AI in any space where human expertise was formerly relied on is always something that raises questions – especially right now. Speaking on this point, Galloway shared the following:

“At Spotify, we have a secret sauce that sets us apart: years of experience mixing human curation and expertise with world-class algorithms.

“We’ve applied this recipe to DJ to create a delightful music listening experience that is deeply personalised to each individual listener, yet at a scale that the world has never really seen.

“We have music experts around the world, and they introduce listeners to new music through some of our most popular playlists. When creating DJ, we wanted to share their musical knowledge with users through context and commentary.  To do this, we created a writers’ room with music experts, culture experts, data curators, scriptwriters — and then we gave them the tools including Generative AI — to create the commentary at scale,” she shared.

How that dynamic will change as the AI advances, we can’t really say. But I suppose watch this space.

Additionally, the voice of the AI DJ has been developed using a text-to-speech system that is based on the voice of Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships.

Galloway explained that “To train the voice model to sound like Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships, Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, he spent time in the studio recording lines of text so our audio engineers could capture his voice style. They looked for subtle details like his inflection, tone, where he would pause, and where he would naturally take a breath.”

The final result – hearing X speak through AI DJ – is brought to you through Spotify’s “fully expressive AI technology”.

“Our main goal with DJ is to deepen both discovery and connections between artists and fans. In fact, we’ve found that by providing commentary alongside a personal music recommendation, a listener is more willing to try something new and listen to a song they may have otherwise skipped,” she added.

If you haven’t tried Spotify’s AI DJ yet, you can find it by opening the Spotify mobile app, then heading to the Music feed on Home and tapping DJ. Alternatively, you can find it in the Made for You hub within the Search tab.

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