Yes, the word around the pitstop on the race to The Singularity is that the Epsilons are getting tired. The dominance of artificial intelligence playlist algorithms on artists’ careers is beyond chafing at a surface level–it’s wearing away muscle and bone.
Stuart Dredge has an insightful post on the subject with a couple choice quotes:
“We’re asking artists to do a lot. They’re not just recording and touring. Now they’re expected to understand crypto and NFTs, and expected to be using TikTok on a regular basis, and be on their Twitter feed, and on Instagram, and creating content and engaging with fans,” said Matthew Maysonet, head of sales and marketing at Empire.
“It’s a huge task! They’re holding multiple jobs in addition to creating art, and I think a lot of times, people forget that music is art, and it takes a certain mindset and level of focus to create that itself, let alone commercialise and monetise it.”
“We do risk burnout for some artists who are using all these socials, including having to worry about the algorithms on different DSPs. ‘If I don’t release a single every five to six weeks I’m not pinging that algorithm and my monthly listeners are going to decrease…’”
“Those are things that artists never had to really worry about before, at least on this score. I’m excited to see how we as an industry accommodate and approach that over the next few years to even things out a little bit… I think it’s something we should be addressing.”
It is something we should be addressing, but it’s at the core of the streaming juggernaut that has made a number of powerful people very, very rich. We don’t have to renew Daniel Ek’s role as Simon Legree, but firing him will not be easy since he essentially is the streaming hegemon based on his supervoting shares of Spotify’s stock alone.
What is artificial intelligence that is at the core of playlist algorithms? it’s kind of like having a continual seat belt warning with an automated driving system that keeps you from moving over 5 mph but forces you to drive forward and then backward over endless speed bumps combined with always-on parental controls all rolled into one and implanted in your brain, but operated by droids who speak in sentences they claim to be declarative but end with a question inflection who keep warning you that you’re choosing not to work hard enough for a reward (so it’s your fault you’re broke) while Daniel Ek and the swamp children float through a miasma of misery asking “how many fingers, Winston?” as though that made sense. And you do it all for free so a Prime Mover can scrape your data, your fans’ data, and the data of your unborn children and sell it to the other members of the data timocracy, all for the hope of hitting a jackpot when the odds are all on the house. Because Justin Bieber.
Cool, huh? Let’s have more of that. And somewhere Russ Solomon is saying, “Miss me yet?” This is why I say “data is the new exposure.”
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that artists have had about enough of this whole thing, but having boarded Kafka’s Merry Go Round with hope, they are having a hard time getting off with their sanity.
Which is to say that changing this predictable Hunter S. Thompson universe we’ve allowed to fester is not going to be easy, but if we don’t…we may find that “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”