Music and Algorithms

IMPAKT TV with Wilbert Mutsaers and Christine Bauer

7 October 2021
20:00 — 21:00

Location: Online programme
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Data and algorithms have totally transformed the playing field for experiencing music. How do they generate the recommendations? What role do AI and algorithms play? And how important in this process are the pluggers, recording companies and streaming service editors? For this IMPAKT TV broadcast in partnership with Dutch Media Week we’ll be putting these questions to two experts: Wilbert Mutsaers, head of Spotify Benelux, and Christine Bauer, Assistant Professor on Human-Centered Computing at Utrecht University.

Streaming services have a major influence on the success or otherwise of contemporary pop artists, so it’s crucial to get included on the right playlists. The streaming services have created a vast pool of music that we can dip into at our leisure. Some personalized playlists such as Discover Weekly, Release Radar and Daily Mixes are created by algorithms. In other words, AI systems create playlists that match the songs you have previously enjoyed listening to. Other playlists are made by editors and curators. How do these two types of playlist differ? Do algorithms and AI also allow for unique and unexpected musical discoveries?

Some critics are pointing to the danger of algorithms perpetuating patterns of inequality in the music world, such as by recommending male rather than female artists. Others note that contemporary genres such as hip-hop, which used to have a more underground character, are now incredibly popular thanks to streaming services.

The streaming revolution has created new revenue models for the music industry, and there are discussions about the proportion of the income that finds its way to the musicians, the method used to calculate it, and the transparency of the streaming services. For some musicians, direct income from the streams is less important than the extra visibility and gigs they yield. Which platform is the best for musicians – and why? 

In this edition of IMPAKT TV we talk about what’s changed because of algorithms in the music world, and the role streaming services and we the listeners – the consumers – play in all of this. Are we now more free or less free to shape our own taste?

The conversation will be moderated by Friso Wiersum (European Cultural Foundation, Expodium) and Rosa Wevers (Gender Studies PhD candidate at Utrecht University).

This edition of IMPAKT TV is produced in partnership with Dutch Media Week.

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