Spotify is determined to ensure its global playlists aren’t just dominated by a handful of US acts, according to Jordan Gremli, its head of artist insights.

Spotify has made it really easy for an artist to be popular in many different countries and that speaks to the real importance of our local programmers – the playlisters in various countries,” said Gremli at the BIME 2016 conference in Bilbao.

“It is super-important and these are humans who are making awesome playlists. They can use data to inform their decisions, for sure, but can also go out on the street and see what’s popular [in their markets]. That is where I think it’s really important where we can study the data on what is popular but also the art behind it.”

Gremli’s comments follow criticism from some quarters that Spotify’s own playlists have a huge and increasing influence on global music discovery and listening, which risks flipping into a form of cultural imperialism where US acts dominate.

“Playlists are to some extent globally programmed by all of these global platforms. Is there a network effect that, as you see all over the internet, whereby the big countries will win?” BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor told his organisation’s AGM in September.

“The US market has hundreds of millions of consumers. If they’re all streaming on Spotify, they will rate higher in playlists than British artist who have British fans streaming their music. That is something we need to think about for the future.”

However, at BIME Spotify’s Gremli argued that the exact opposite is the case, in response to a question from Music Ally about Taylor’s concerns.

“We have 70 people around the world and we are getting more and more every single day, hiring lots of people,” he said.

“I think there is value to surfacing the stuff that is globally popular – the stuff that is growing organically and the stuff that is crossing borders, and Spotify makes it easier to do that. It’s also important to surface the local stuff as well at the same time. These local curators are super-important in that.”

Gremli also argued that it would be reckless for Spotify’s global expansion to push a US-centric playlisting policy, with Rocio Guerrero (the service’s head of product programming, music curation and editorial for Latin music) pointing out on a later panel that several Latin playlists over-index and are among the most popular on all of Spotify’s playlists globally.

“It’s the best user experience,” said Gremli on the need for internationally eclectic playlists. “Give them the most popular stuff that’s naturally popular and also the stuff that they [the curators] know is locally popular and distinctive [in their markets].”

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