Spotify and Apple’s rivalry has many facets, from the finer points of music-discovery features to long-simmering anti-competition disputes. It’s the former we’re focusing on today, with a Spotify expansion announcement and a new feature popping up on Apple Music.
The expansion is of Spotify’s AI-powered DJ feature, which made its debut in the US and Canada in February before expanding to the UK and Ireland in May. Now it’s rolling out much more widely across the world, taking the total countries where its beta is available to 50.
The feature may be going global – for premium subscribers only – but it’s not yet being localised in a language sense. Spotify’s DJ will still talk in English, with its voice-model based on the company’s head of cultural partnerships Xavier Jernigan. A wider choice of voices and languages will surely be part of this feature’s future.
There’s a very interesting data nugget in Spotify’s announcement of the expansion. It claims that in the first four markets “we’re seeing users tune in even more, with fans spending nearly one-third of their listening time with DJ”.
That’s more evidence of the blurring boundaries between streaming and radio on Spotify, and more grist to the mill of campaigners in countries like the UK who are arguing for radio-style ‘equitable remuneration’ to be applied to ‘push’ streams from DSPs.
No wonder so many Brits surveyed for the latest Ofcom report thought of Spotify as an online radio service…
As for Apple Music, its new discovery feature hasn’t been officially announced, but it has been… discovered! News sites including Apple Insider, 9 to 5 Mac and The Verge spotted ‘Discovery Station’ appear in the service this week.
It offers a selection of tracks to a listener that they haven’t streamed before, but which are based on their recent habits and tastes. Discovery Station sits within Apple Music’s ‘Stations for You’ section, as a radio-style alternative to the existing ‘New Music Mix’ playlist.
In its early days, much of the messaging around Apple Music was positioning it as a service curated by humans, and in turn imply that Spotify was focused only on algorithms. Jimmy Iovine was fond of this rhetoric, for example.
It was an excellent effort to draw battle lines, just not a true one. Spotify always lots of human curators too, while Apple Music never shied away from exploring clever recommendation algorithms. That continues, even if its radio DJs are still humans rather than AIs…