“Don’t play this artist”: Spotify gives listeners more control


With R. Kelly, Chris Brown and even the late Michael Jackson continuing to spark debate, members of the public are angered, and some fans are conflicted. Movements like #muteRKelly have called for radio stations, streaming platforms (including Spotify) to stop making the music of the r&b performer available on its site. While Spotify did stop recommending the singer, his work is still available. Kelly is far from being the only performer with questionable activities in past. For listeners who do not want to hear from Kelly, or any of the other performers with which they have issue, Spotify is set to introduce a “don’t play this artist” feature that will essentially allow listeners to mute R. Kelly or anyone else.

The Verge and AltPress.com have both reported on the availability of the upcoming feature. AltPress.com also notes that Spotify is unveiling other features to enhance listeners’ experience with the app.

“Don’t play this artist”: listener control and Spotify

While some might argue that Spotify’s new feature allows the administrators behind the app to refuse to make a stand on controversial artists, others applaud the opportunity for listeners and subscribers to choose for themselves.

Subscribers – – even though Spotify has premium plans available for individuals and families, it seems as though the “don’t play this artist” feature will be available to those who listen for free, as well.

But the stakes might be greater for subscribers. If people are paying for an app’s service, they might feel more strongly about which artists they are exposed to.

One of the attractions of Spotify is the ability of listeners to curate playlists. This is available to those who have premium subscriptions. But even with those playlists, the app still makes suggestions about which songs to add next. Those suggestions appear at the end of the curated list. The titles come with icons to make it easy for listeners to add the songs. That feature of predicting what songs a subscriber will want to add to their lists is one of the interesting facets of Spotify.

In short, Spotify is quite good at using whatever formulas or algorithms at their disposal to figure out what songs listeners like. The app seems less able to predict what users do not like. Thus, the “don’t like this artist” feature allows Spotify listeners to communicate directly with the app about what they don’t want to hear.

Thinking about how Spotify works, being able to predict what listeners like, eliminates the idea that the app’s administrators are side-stepping some moral high ground that a portion of its users might want them to take. Yes, letting users choose which artists to “ban” from their own lists does allow Spotify to avoid making difficult decisions. But, the feature also lets users mute artists that they simply do not like on artistic grounds. In fact, from all accounts, listeners do not need a reason to mute an artist. This is particularly helpful because listening habits rarely include all performers in a genre. With “don’t play this artist,” users aren’t getting rid of an entire genre, just the artist. Giving users more control over their listening experiences simply does not seem like a negative thing.

The “don’t play this artist” feature is already available on updated iOS versions of the app.

Other Spotify features

While “don’t play this artist” has been the most popular of the new aspects of Spotify as of late, there are others, as reported by AltPress.com.

The most useful of the new features of Spotify might be the Car View mode. Car View, AltPress.com reports, is designed to “simplify the app’s screen when connected to Bluetooth.” Newly launched, Car View, AltPress.com states, will be available first for Android systems.

For online daters, Spotify has something for those who have recently met someone on Tinder. Spotify has teamed up with Tinder so that users can send music clips to other users of the dating site (AltPress.com). The pairing actually shows how music connects people and how integral to the dating process sharing a favorite song can be.

And, for those whose interests extend beyond earth-bound concerns, according to AltPress.com, Spotify has also teamed up with “a real astrologist” to craft 12 “zodiac-specific playlists.”  The astrology lists premiered on Jan. 17.

More than likely, people will still only use Spotify to find the new songs they have come to love, and to keep playing the songs they have loved for years. However, the increased control over what artists are even recommended or automatically added to listeners’ playlists are likely to make listeners more satisfied with the app.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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