Opinion: Spotify’s algorithm makes discovering music bland

Argus Staff, Staff Writer

nce upon a time, not too long ago, humans used to have a physical attachment to their favorite music. Imagine yourself in college but two decades in the past. You just cashed out your paycheck and you drive to the mall with your friends. You stop by Urban Outfitters to get a new CD for your car. Deciding what to spend your hard-earned money on is a serious decision. Whatever you pick, you hope you will be listening to it for years to come. This will be your CD, and these will be your songs, so you choose wisely.

Now, the point of this exercise is not to milk some nostalgia for a time we college students never lived through. Nor is it to say that we all were born in the wrong generation or to lament some kind of bygone golden-era of music. That is not true at all. Streaming services like Spotify have been a revelation for music consumption. We have been granted immediate access to an infinite supply of music. The ability to listen to anything any time has opened millions of people up to music they never would have heard otherwise. Though, a byproduct of this phenomenon is that music has become entirely disposable.

The most obvious argument for humans losing physical attachment to music is that with streaming, it is no longer yours. You can hold a vinyl record in your hand and feel its grooves. It rests on your shelf, has wear-and-tear on the sleeve, and has your name written on it. It’s well-loved, and it’s yours. However, when streaming music, you own nothing. At its essence, you ask Spotify to listen to a song. They let you. It’s intangible, and it’s definitely not yours.

Now let’s look at this through the lens of finding new music. Today, you can find new tunes as easy as streaming one of your old favorites on Spotify and turning on the radio feature. Don’t like what you hear? No problem, skip the song and let Spotify take another crack at what you might like. Great. You don’t ever have to hear that song again. If you were stuck with that CD with that dumb song, you’d have to skip it every time. This might sound like a great thing for streaming, and in some ways it is. You don’t have to be saddled with bad music taking up literal, physical space in your life. But the opposite is true as well: finding music you love doesn’t have the same physical connection when you can’t hold it in your hands, when you didn’t make an investment to listen to it or when you didn’t consult your friend or a critic to find it.


Letting Spotify choose your music taste is like sending texts entirely using Siri’s suggested words that pop up on your phone, or enlisting the text generator ChatGPT to write your biography. For a lot of us, our music taste is a major part of our identities. Why would you let a computer determine that for you? This is not to say don’t ever listen to Spotify’s “for you” playlists. They can be very helpful in finding great music well-loved by people with similar tastes. The point is to use streaming technology in more personal ways so our taste can be ours, and not a corporate approximation of what we like.