Spotify’s latest feature is an AI-powered DJ that curates and comments on an ever-changing personalized playlist. Spotify describes it as an “AI DJ in your pocket” that “knows you and your music so well that it can choose what to play for you.”
We’ll have to test the feature for ourselves to know how well these claims are made, but with a launch trailer and clips shared on social media, the feature seems to accurately mimic a radio station presenter, who drops little bits of trivia and commentary about the artist or track while seamlessly transitioning between songs.
The playlist is endless, but users can apparently switch genres or artists by hitting the on-screen DJ button. Based on this feedback, the feature should improve which tunes it recommends to you – scanning new releases to suggest new artists you like, or returning you to old tracks that enjoyed you before.
There is only one sound option for the DJ feature at the moment, but more are likely to be added
The DJ’s artificial voice is powered by voice tech from Sonantic AI, a startup Spotify bought last year. Spotify says the actual words spoken by the DJ are created from a combination of sources, including a writer’s room full of “music experts, cultural experts, data curators. [and] scriptwriters” and generative AI technology provided by OpenAI (presumably this means the company’s AI language models, although not specified by Spotify).
When we asked how personal this output is (is it unique to each user or are there specific templates that the DJ uses over and over again?) Spotify did not have a clear answer. Emily Galloway, Head of Product Design for Personalization at Spotify speaks The Verge that while “each artist’s commentary is the same, the order in which users receive the commentary is unique and based on each user’s listening habits.”
Galloway said: “[W]as DJ launches Beta, we have a high element of the human touch to ensure the commentary is accurate, culturally relevant, and fits the DJ’s personality. We are working with some emerging technology so we will definitely change this process as we go.
Reading between the lines, it looks like the model has a few sets of presets that it adjusts to based on the music that comes next, but it can be a little ad lib in some preset safe areas. . (After all, as we’ve seen with ChatGPT and Bing, AI chatterboxes can easily go off the rails.) You can listen to another example of DJ’s cookie cutter chatter in the tweet below, but we’ll wait to test. it’s part of a wider view of how truly custom it is, or whether it’s starting to repeat itself and become boring.
What seems impressive is the quality of the artificial voice. In the clip above the synthetic DJ sounds as smooth as Spotify’s launch trailer (a form of information that’s always best treated with suspicion). Only one voice is currently available, based on the vocals of Xavier “X” Jernigan, who previously worked as a Spotify exec before taking on podcast hosting roles at the company. The Rise. However, Spotify says it’s the “first model for DJs,” suggesting there will be more virtual hosts to choose from in the future. It’s easy to imagine users being able to choose not only different sounds, but different presentation styles — from upbeat to relaxed and more.
The DJ beta is live now, though it’s only available in English for Spotify Premium subscribers in the US and Canada. If you’ve ticked the boxes then you’ll find the new AI-powered feature by going to your Music Feed on the homepage of the Spotify mobile app. From there, you need to tap “Play” on the DJ card to try out the feature for yourself.
Spotify’s DJ is one of the most interesting applications we’ve seen from the recent slew of AI-powered tools. In particular, since the service has returned to radio, which many have jumped to streaming to avoid. If you don’t mind the nice AI voice wrapping, Spotify’s new DJ feature is a halfway house between a radio station you don’t control and a playlist you’ve carefully curated. Would adding a virtual DJ help with that? Who knows. Some say that Spotify’s attempts to diversify the platform have already driven it away. Let’s see if an AI DJ can cut through the noise.