Meet Spotify’s new AI DJ
Here’s how it was made—and how it will affect your listening experience.
Spotify, the popular audio streaming app, is on a journey to make music-listening personal for its users. Part of that includes recommending playlists “For You” like “Discover Weekly,” and summing up your year in audio with “Wrapped.” Today, the company announced that they are introducing an AI DJ, that folds much of their past work on audio recommendation algorithms into a new feature. It’s currently rolling out for premium users in the US and Canada.
The artificially intelligent DJ blends recommendations from across different personal and general playlists throughout the app. The goal is to create an experience where it picks the vibe that it thinks you will like, whether that’s new hits, your old favorites, or songs that you’ve had on repeat for weeks. And like a radio DJ, it will actually talk—giving some commentary, and introducing the song, before it queues it up. Users can skip songs, or even ask the DJ to change the vibe by clicking on the icon at the bottom right of the screen. It will refresh the lineup based on your interactions.
The DJ is comprised of three main tech components: Spotify’s personalization technology, a generative AI from OpenAI that scripts up what cultural context the DJ provides (alongside human writers), and an AI text-to-voice platform that was built through their acquisition of Sonantic, and based on the real life model, Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s head of cultural partnerships. To train the AI DJ, Jernigan spent a long time in the studio recording speech samples.
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The text-to-speech system accounts for all the nuances in human speech, such as pitch, pacing, emphasis, and emotions. For example, if a sentence ended in a semicolon instead of a period, the voice inflection would be different.
There’s a weekly writer’s room that curates what they’re going to say about songs in the flagship playlists, such as those grouped by genres. There’s another group of writers and cultural experts that come in to discuss how they want to phrase the commentary around the songs they serve up to users. The generative AI then comes in and scales this base script, and tailors it to all the individual users. AI DJ is technically still in beta, and Spotify engineers are eager to take user feedback to add improvements in future versions.
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Think of the individual “For You” recommendations as Lego pieces, Ziad Sultan, head of personalization at Spotify, tells PopSci. “It’s not that it takes all the playlists and merges them. It’s more, in order to build this playlist in the first place, we have had to build a lot of Lego pieces that understand the music, understand the user, and understand how to create the right combo,” he explains. “A lot of that is from the years of developing machine learning, getting the data, especially the playlist data, for example.”
“Eighty-one percent of people say that the thing they love most about Spotify is the personalization,” says Sultan. “So they’re still going to have the things they know and love. But this is just a new choice, which is also about not choosing.”
Try it for yourself in the “Music” feed of the app homepage, or see it in action below:
Update February 22, 2023: This article has been updated to clarify that “X” is the voice model that was used and not the name for Spotify’s AI DJ.