Spotify DJ: Useful Feature or AI Fad?

On February 22, 2023, Spotify unveiled the DJ feature as a way to expand Spotify’s personalization features, which have been a key selling point of the music streaming platform.

According to a Spotify press release on the DJ feature, the DJ feature uses a combination of Spotify’s existing personalization features, OpenAI generative AI technology for facts about the music, artists, and genres, and a dynamic AI voice based on the voice of Xavier “X” Jernigan. X was one of the hosts for Spotify’s first morning show; The Get Up.

The DJ uses all of those technologies to provide a fully voiced, personalized AI DJ that knows your music taste and listening history of curating songs that it thinks you’ll like, along with a bit of brief commentary sometimes.

The DJ is currently only available on the Spotify app for mobile. All it takes to access the DJ is to search “DJ” in the search bar and tap the result with a cover image of a blue background with a green circle in the middle. When launching the DJ, X will greet you and start playing familiar music. After some more familiar songs, the DJ will begin pulling from Spotify playlists filled with new music or “editor’s choice” songs from genres they know you often listen to.

Spotify DJ starting screen / PJ Crary (screenshot)

Not only does the DJ learn from your Spotify history, but it can also learn what you want to hear less of. The more you skip songs or entire sets, the less likely it is to play similar songs or sets. When you first start using the DJ, you’ll probably skip sets and songs a lot as it’s still learning your tastes; Data from years previous may not be accurate to your music taste today. The DJ button in the bottom left corner will skip entire sets.

The Spotify player while using the DJ with the DJ button in the bottom left corner. / PJ Crary (screenshot)

My experience with the DJ so far has been mixed. Sometimes, it produces great recommendations and sets that fit the vibe perfectly, while other times, it becomes frustrating to constantly skip through sets and songs to find the right one. However, when it does hit the sweet spot, it shines. I’ve discovered a lot of songs from artists big and small through the DJ that I would’ve never heard before. From my experience, the DJ isn’t intended to be the primary listening experience of Spotify but a next-generation personalization feature for Spotify that adds more character and personality to the service. In conclusion, the usefulness of the DJ feature depends on whether it catches the right mood and how much listening data Spotify has collected to personalize it. It is a welcome and unique feature that sets it apart from the other music streaming services, but it definitely needs some work.

The timing of the DJ was very on the nose in the context of the ChatGPT/Generative AI hype rush. Investors are now pumping cash into anything generative AI in hopes of an OpenAI-level of success. So it’s natural that a giant like Spotify would rush to implement generative AI in their service. Spotify acquired Sonantic in June 2022, a service that created dynamic, emotional AI voices that sounded very close to a human. The DJ feature allowed Spotify to cash in on the AI gold rush while using their newly acquired AI speech synthesis technology and OpenAI technology for its text output quality (and, of course, mentioning OpenAI in a sentence automatically makes investors interested.)