4 Oct 2023 ///

AI DJs – What Does It Mean For The Future of DJing?

My memory may be a little foggy, but there was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when our hearts were dead set on the future. From ministers promising the end of global warming, to the cinematic universe creating alternate universes that have flying cars and automated technology, we flirted with the idea of what 2020 – 2030 would look like. We can’t downplay the fear-mongering that was portrayed with movies such as The Terminator or The Matrix to today’s flirtation with 2050 as violently depicted in Monte Booker’s Black Mirror.

The existing relationship between The Matrix and The Terminator, in contrast with other future fear mongers like i-Robot, wasn’t so far off in terms of some aspects of the future, such as the threat Artificial Intelligence poses on humanity beyond the scope of how technology can enhance human wellbeing. Our lives currently belong to Skynet, do they not? You know, the fictional artificial general superintelligence system in Terminator? Every part of our social interaction depends on the internet in and of itself and while the world wide web might not be a conscious entity just yet, the power it has over us can often feel like there is something orchestrating our complete devotion to it. Agent Smith is working overtime.

As Neo in my own right, I have decided to take advantage of the digital economy, to crack the Matrix that comes with every piece of technological advancement and investigate how I can escape the relative poverty cycle I find myself and my neighbourhood of Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal trapped in. How do I take advantage of chatGPT, Canva, AI logo makers, and in the music space, how do I investigate with my fellow DJs what the latest Silicon Valley development – The Spotify AI DJ means for the art of DJing and its future?

So What Is This AI DJ Thingy? 

Spotify’s AI DJ debuted around February 22 2023, then rolled out on May 16, 2023, in the UK and Ireland, followed by 46 more countries worldwide as of August 8 2023; according to the website, this exciting feature is part of the company ethos that prioritises personalisation, and it is part and parcel of why Spotify arguably has one of the most seamless autosuggestive algorithms of all time. I have made more than 10 playlists based purely on the music Spotify suggested after my Cleo Sol, Erykah Badu, lordkez, Shekinah, Jill Scott & Lo-Fi Mix sessions, so I couldn’t dispute the Spotify algorithm and its effectiveness if I tried. With the AI DJ, Spotify presents a new listening experience on their app to deepen the connection one shares with their favourite artists as understood by the algorithm that knows our each and every sonic need. On the website, Spotify states:

“The DJ is a personalised AI guide that knows you and your music taste so well that it can choose what to play for you. First rolling out in beta, this feature will deliver a curated lineup of music alongside commentary around the tracks and artists we think you’ll like in a stunningly realistic voice.

It will sort through the latest music and look back at some of your old favourites—maybe even resurfacing that song you haven’t listened to for years. It will then review what you might enjoy and deliver a stream of songs picked just for you. And what’s more, it constantly refreshes the lineup based on your feedback. 

If you’re not feeling the vibe, just tap the DJ button, and it will switch it up. The more you listen and tell the DJ what you like (and don’t like!), the better its recommendations get. Think of it as the very best of Spotify’s personalisation—but as an AI DJ in your pocket.”

Of course, we have concerns about being replaced by technology. We are currently amid an international WAG & SAG-AFTRA writer’s strike where scriptwriters, actors, stuntmen, and other humans involved in the creation of these movies are now competing with machines that can produce scripts, CGI special effects and more for streaming superpowers such as Netflix. We even have a case of the contractual advent of Wanda Vision extras being unaware that they gave their digital likeness away to Disney Studios. We have to wonder, in the music space, where are the opportunities to collaborate with AI and make sure we don’t get clubs that are fully automated by Artificial Intelligence?

Spotify by Photomix Company courtesy of Pexels.

AI and Humanity Merging by This Is Engineering courtesy of Pexels.

A Word From The DJ Community

Analytics can be a great tool to assist a DJ in preparing for their set. By having access to charting sounds and personal preferences through algorithmic information, this can be exchanged with Beatport and DJ support platforms, with DJs and event organisers in collaboration coming up with ways to understand their market before they show up to give them a show. These shows, thoughtfully curated and engineered through precise information and collaboration, could be the most memorable experiences where classics are appreciated, new music takes the crowd by surprise and they submit DJ requests that can make the audience feel part of the mix and if you take that mix and make it live on SoundCloud? That’s gorgeous revenue in my eyes.

The grand question as it relates to every facet of AI remains: what does the AI DJ functionality actually mean for the DJ industry? Is it a Friend or Foe? We got in touch with artists and DJs we interviewed to get their thoughts on this technological advancement and what it means for their respective careers. We have kept their anonymity and here is what they have to say. 


Let’s start with our first DJ:

Q: Have you experimented with the Spotify AI DJ feature? How did you find the experience?
I have made use of it quite a bit over the last two/three weeks. I enjoy it, but I also like testing out AI in general. For me, calling it DJ is a bit misleading. AI radio is more accurate. (I think they were referring to a radio DJ’s role, the original disc-jockey). I enjoyed it when I used it and even recommended it to my mom, who always asks me to send her new music. 

Q: If the Spotify Algorithm is already near-perfect at what it does, why was there a need for Spotify to introduce an AI DJ in your opinion?
For the average user, it is a great feature. In my case, I get tired of my playlists quite fast, and I always want to discover new music / rediscover some of the music I have come across and last listened to a while ago. So I use It if I want to listen to music while I am working or if I want music on and I’m not set on a particular genre, I will pop it on. I like the fact that they mix up the genres after several songs, so it keeps it exciting. 

Q: Can AI assist in how you curate a set/playlist as far as algorithm-influenced research is concerned?
I don’t think Spotify AI DJ will help me with that but AI in general could definitely be very useful. An accurate algorithm assists in a big way. I often find Spotify providing me with an abundance of lovely new music based on similar songs, along with Discover Weekly and radio based on songs and artists. 

When you can prompt AI with genres, BPMs, Key, energy, and even certain artists and labels and ask it to curate music based on the prompts, it will be great.

Q: Are you concerned that the AI DJ might replace your playlist curator/DJ job?
I think it will only be a concern when it can mix songs well. Then, it could replace bar and restaurant DJS. Regarding events, it’s not easy to replace stage presence, interaction with the crowd and the personal connection you get when watching a human DJ. Music and dancing are all about connection, an integral experience component. 

Q: Lastly, do you believe AI is our friend or Foe? Why do you believe so?
It will bring about astronomical change in how we live our lives, and it will affect our society in a big way if not handled and regulated correctly. In saying that, we can’t fight and instead position ourselves to use and benefit from it. 

Live Set photographed by Keegan Checks courtesy of Pexels.

Our Second DJ:

Q: Have you experimented with the Spotify AI DJ feature, how did you find the experience?
Okay, so I went onto my Spotify app and need the DJ option, so I can’t give a proper opinion. My partner showed me the video, which sounds like an AI gimmick. Spotify already has that fade-in option, and why would you want some DJ dude interrupting your music-listening experience every few minutes? Bizarre. 

Q: If the Spotify Algorithm is already near-perfect at what it does, why did Spotify need to introduce an AI DJ?
People’s experience of music is becoming less and less human. An entire catalogue of the world’s music should be enough to sell R60 subscriptions to people. 

Can AI assist in how you curate a set/playlist as far as algorithm-influenced research is concerned? Their algorithm is pretty good as is. As a person who tried to avoid Spotify for years, I’m now using it quite a bit for certain things, and it pains me to admit it, but the algorithm definitely works. 

Q: Are you concerned that the AI DJ might replace your playlist curator/DJ job?
DJs are pretty silly in general. I wouldn’t worry too much right now. DJing is more about the performance than anything else. Until they build real AI robots, the DJs are okay.

Q: Lastly, do you believe AI is our friend or Foe? Why do you believe so?
I use AI every day in my job. Work smarter, not harder. I haven’t thought too deeply about it, not yet at least. ChatGPT helps me write great newsletters! I am currently dealing with a significant love/hate relationship with Spotify. So much good music but such a terrible system!

In a world where teenagers can crash into police cars and shoot gangster music videos from their prison holding cells using AI CGI, we are in a unique position to make the looming AI influence work for us. As the free children of Zion, we can ensure the Matrix doesn’t imprison us into the shackles of the wealth gap. A reminder, friends, at all times, we must strive to be Neo, Trinity and a modicum of Morpheus because it is possible to hack the Matrix for a living and make millions off it; as a first-generation remote worker, I’m living proof of that.

Written by: King Cedric

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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