Are Spotify brainwashing us to discover new music? And do we mind!?

Are Spotify brainwashing us to discover new music? And do we mind!?

neural music understanding

Image credit: Fakurian Design

Spotify are reportedly teaming up with neuromarketing researchers to get inside our heads and learn our tastes, but is that really a bad thing?

So, here’s the scoop: According to a report from Axios, Spotify have teamed up with a neuro-analytics company Neuro-Insight. Together they conducted a study to look at how certain types of music impact the brain’s response as well as looking at how people respond to advertising.

Spotify’s Global Director and Principal Data Scientist, Jon Gibs said that they’re using the technology to “understand more of what is happening inside of the human mind” as their users interact with content. Working with over 600 participants, they studied how their brain activity changed as they listened to audio on Spotify.

The participants listened to a variety of genres so that Spotify could understand how people engage with different kinds of music in their own unique way. They found that different kinds of music could have a noticeably different effect on how the brain measures its response. For example, music with lots of speech like rap was found to be more engaging. Meanwhile, instrumental or acoustic based music was seen to produce a higher emotional response.

If they’re able to take the data of what they’ve discovered to enhance their understanding of their listener’s tastes and build an even more personalised and curated experience, the potential is fantastic. Though Spotify’s algorithms already work incredibly using a range of facets to understand each listener’s taste and present them personalised offerings, to such an accurate degree that it can feel like they’re already in our brain at times.

Are they brainwashing us though? Only in so much as having an understanding of your preferences and curating your experience based on that can count as brainwashing.

Gibs added: “Our goal is to use signals like this to make sure we’re serving music and podcasts to the user that they want before they know they want it.” However, it’s not clear whether they will be using the data from this particular study on the neural response to certain types of music in their understanding of listener’s tastes in music.

From the reports, Spotify seem more interested in understanding how their listeners are engaging with ads at the moment. They found that audio generates more engagement and emotional activation than other media – like TV – presenting an attractive proposition to audio advertisers considering Spotify.

The study revealed that 93% of the engagement with music and podcasts that they measured in participant’s brains transferred over into engagement with the ads that followed. Neuro-Insight’s Head of Client Solutions said: “What we wanted to see was if Spotify was a platform that was great for content, but bad for advertisement, or is it all one experience? We found that it was very successful in bringing that engagement over to the ad experience.”

Spotify’s freemium model means that advertising makes up a large portion of their revenue, although nearly half of their users pay for an ad-free, Premium experience. Finding better ways to optimise the free experience in favour of advertising allows them to pitch a better offer to advertisers, potentially resulting in higher investment from companies looking to advertise.

Of course, if you don’t like the idea of being advertised to based on an understanding of your tastes and how your brain works then you can always upgrade to Premium. *wink-wink*

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