How music streaming services are tapping into the AI vibe

How music streaming services are tapping into the AI vibe

By Rajasimha Koppula

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the design, implementation and use of programs, machines, and systems that exhibit human intelligence. Furthermore, with its most important activities being knowledge representation, reasoning, and learning, AI encompasses a number of important sub-areas, which include voice recognition, image identification, natural language processing, expert systems, neural networks, planning, robotics, and intelligent agents. According to a McKinsey & Company study, in 2016, companies invested $26 to $39 billion in AI. In addition, since 2013, investments have increased by three times.

An overview of the music streaming industry:

According to the  Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) mid-year report, the net profit of paid music subscriptions in 2017 grew by a remarkable 49.5% to reach $1.49 million, the highest yearly growth rate since 1998. In 1999, the music industry market size was less than half of today. What provoked this growth you ask? The answer is simple: the internet. The technological advancements of the internet grew at a rate of 200% around the globe between 20002018, taking the music industry to new heights.

According to the Financial Times, the internet played a catalyst role in online music streaming industry growth. Major music service providers, such as Spotify, Apple, Pandora, and Amazon are taking music services to the next level by integrating AI with their music streaming platforms. In 2016, for the first time ever, streaming music platforms generated the majority of the U.S. music industry’s revenues.

Today, music streaming services are helping users by utilizing technology to understand customers’ tastes by using AI and recommending more comparable songs on a timely basis. Here is how 4 of the major players in the music streaming industry are using AI and machine learning to enhance their services.

Spotify plays the AI card:

With a little over than 70 million subscribers, Spotify is an undisputed leader in the music streaming industry. In March 2014, it acquired the music intelligence platform The Echo Nest. Spotify offers Discover Weekly, a signature weekly music recommendation service based on users’ previous playlists and personal preferences.

music streaming


How it works: Spotify analyzes its subscribers’ playlists around the globe against songs in your heavy rotation list to make accurate recommendations. This process starts with skimming its 100 million users to find people who are listening to similar playlists. Then, Spotify finds songs to recommend to you based on your own listening tastes and on the music that other users with similar tastes listen to.

This AI-based Discover Weekly service received wide appreciation from its subscribers. Spotify has rolled out one other algorithm-based feature called Release Radar, a weekly customized update on the artists.

Apple Music is not just intelligent – It’s ingenious!

With iPod shuffle and iTunes, Apple redefined the entire music experience for its customers. To strengthen its AI and voice command services, Apple acquired Siri in 2010 and Shazam, more recently, in late 2017. Siri is a voice command virtual assistant. Shazam, on the other hand, is an application that can identify digital audio and video content based on a short sample played by just using the microphone on any given device.

With 36 million monthly subscribers, Apple music occupies the second position in the music streaming industry, after Spotify. But unlike other leading streaming service providers, Apple is a one-stop solution for music, movies, TV series, books, and other related services.

Apple offers a unique service called Genius Playlist in which a user selects one song he/she likes, and Apple will then generate an instant playlist with songs that “go well with it”. Analyzing previous playlists, thumbs up, thumbs down, and skips, Apple generates timely song suggestions and playlists. To play music depending on the mood, the user can start a radio station by selecting one song to discover similar music.

Pandora makes it personal:

Online streaming service Pandora is known for its personalized recommendations for every subscriber from its massive music inventory. Users/subscribers have an opportunity to create a personalized music station based on the song he/she likes. In addition, Pandora refines suggestions even further based on the number of “thumbs up” indications registered.

The customized recommendations are not just random picks; Pandora analyzes hundreds of attributes of the songs using AI technology to match users’ tastes. The recommendations are not just based on artist or genre. For instance, I started playing folk Irish music, but I am also a huge fan of rock. The music player analyzed the attributes and suggested to me a unique mixture of Irish and rock: “An Irish pub song” by Rumjacks, which is an Irish rock song. Simultaneously, Pandora-registered users can use thumbs up and thumbs down indications and skip songs.

Amazon Music’s echoes resonate everywhere!

Amazon is holding the lead in AI and IoT services with Alexa (also known as Amazon Echo) and its use of AI to create personalized purchase recommendations for every customer based on previous purchases. Amazon’s voice recognition software can sift through millions of songs to find a phrase from a song you aren’t able remember the name of, for example. It is enough to say “play me the song that goes I don’t have a cent.” Alexa will pull up the DB Boulevard song ‘Point of View’.

With more than 20 million Alexa sales and 16 million monthly subscribers, Amazon quickly occupied the third position in the music streaming industry.


Traditionally, any business owner utilizes data analytic tools to diagnose, group, predict, and understand customer requirements to make an appropriate business change/service recommendation. For the music industry, due to the rapidly growing number of customers, and the wide variety of choices now available, traditional tools don’t cut it anymore. Incorporating AI and machine learning technologies into music streaming algorithms is quickly becoming the new norm. If a music service provider can’t ‘guess’ what a user wants to hear, the user will most likely switch to one that can. 

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