Spotify has recently claimed to be “obsessed with figuring out how to bring music into every part of your life, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever your mood.” This intense desire to soundtrack the everyday could partly be understood as an outcome of a business structure where scale is everything. Spotify’s promise to artists and other collaborators is entirely dependent upon delivering more streams, more users, and more listening. Hence, clever and timely content deliveries are nowadays frequently framed as the main method to attract new users, and thus increase revenue.
But from a larger perspective, preoccupations with timely content provision is also a major feature of digital media in general. “Real-time” updates that accommodates to “real-life” situations are both the promise and peril of digital media, or, as Geert Lovink has put it, its “new crack.” Tied to idealized notions of freshness and flexibility, the desire for instantaneous deliveries–and claims to provide it–is something which permeates the digital environments of today.
In one of our ongoing experiments, we are curious to explore how notions of time (and notions of time well spent) are embedded into services such as Spotify. We are also interested in tracing the tides and ebbs of musical deliveries, thus tapping into another rhythm than the one which descends from the music itself; that of data traffic highways.
For this reason, we’ve for example been working on extracting some of the music recommendations and greeting messages that Spotify delivers to its users (see one rough example of this below). Updated on a continuous basis and designed to carefully cater to the expected lives of its listeners, such greetings speak of the ways in which temporal imaginations are built into digital platforms.
Based on this material, and other additional data, we are currently asking ourselves how ideas of immediacy and ‘real-time’ are constructed and embedded into the Spotify platform.
How does technological features (such as Spotify’s user greetings and musical deliveries for ‘every moment’) help to organize time? What is the pace of digital music streams? And what are the political implications of the ways in which time is addressed by online platforms and its curators?