The Future Of What: Man Vs. Machine in Music Curation

With the ongoing advances in artificial intelligence, recommendation engines and "big data", are human beings of less value than machines in the curation of content on music streaming services?  

Recently, I was invited by Kill Rock Stars label President Portia Sabin to discuss this very subject on her music business radio show/podcast The Future Of What. Portia had read my blog piece "Music Curation By Intelligent Machine: Why We Need Anarchy In The AI" and had me as a guest on her show to discuss the merits and pitfalls of curation via machine.

To  be clear, I'm no luddite. Done well, I believe recommendation engines can add tremendous value to streaming music services, especially for listeners who don't know exactly what they're looking for. But for passionate music fans, curation by someone with deep knowledge of artists and genres will provide an emotionally connected listening experience that no machine can compete with. And I believe the emotional connection is why music is so important to us.

Google Executive Eric Schmidt apparently disagrees, referring to human curators as "elitist" and not as effective as intelligent machines in picking what listeners will like. In this editorial for the BBC, he promotes machines as being "much more democratic" than "elitist" tastemakers in finding and promoting talent. 

I find this "the machine is more democratic" narrative to be incredibly dystopian and dehumanizing, and question the true agenda behind it, which Sabin and I discuss in this episode of The Future Of What. It's worth a listen I hope! Listen to my interview segment in full above, and to hear the entire episode and subscribe to this superb podcast, click over to The Future Of What on Bandcamp.

Thanks for listening!

Jim McDermott