The debates about humans versus machines in music recommendations have thankfully died away in recent times: the consensus now is that a combination of the two is what works: including humans curating playlists that are then recommended to listeners by algorithms. The Future of Music Coalition’s Taylor Lambert and Kevin Erickson have raised a sensible question about how all this works on streaming music services though, asking whether there should be more transparency around why a song or artist is being recommended. “Consumers have no way of knowing whether recommendations and curated playlists are based on curatorial choices, or whether big money tips the scales,” they write in an op-ed for Hypebot, which (for example) questions whether Universal Music has more artists featured in Spotify’s ‘Spotlight’ emerging artists program than its market share should deserve. Hinting at “digital payola” is a big accusation to make: but it’s a sensitive area because, unlike radio, major labels pressing for their music to be recommended are both direct licensors and shareholders for Spotify.

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