The new Spotify DJ feature launched earlier this week for users in the UK and Ireland. I've been using it daily since then, to get a feel for how it works.
And I'm pleased. Generally speaking, the feature has been really useful and offers a fun way to listen to a mix of music. Sure, the DJ does go on a few tangents – I've never had a burning desire to binge-listen to Katy Perry or Muse, despite what the AI seems to think – but it's mostly good.
It could be better though. The software is currently only a beta model, meaning future updates are always possible. Here are three things I'd like to see implemented to improve the overall functionality.
1. Two-way communication
One thing I'd love to see included is the ability to make requests by communicating back to the AI. This would give users the chance to shape the next passage of audio based on their current mood, and could even feed the AI to make more informed decisions about selections.
Ideally, I'd like to be able to speak to the AI to communicate a genre, artist or track. But even the chance to select from a pre-generated suite of options might help. 'Play this genre' or 'give me artists like this' could allow users to enjoy the music they're in the mood for right now.
2. Different DJ voices
I want to preface this by saying I have no issue with the stock AI DJ voice. Xavier – or X – is perfectly pleasant, and inoffensive to hear crop up every few tracks with some insight about what is coming next.
But I can see a lot of potential here. Not dissimilar to the TomTom satnavs of old – where everyone had R2D2 or Ozzy Osbourne telling them to take the next right – I imagine there would be a whole host users keen to get a novelty or familiar voice giving them the same information.
3. Listening to my surrounding sounds
Normally, the prospect of a tech device listening is seen negatively. But for this, I think I actually want it.
On the latest Google phones – like the Google Pixel 7 – there's a great feature which keeps an ear out for music around you and retains a playlist of all the songs which are played. That's great for those songs you've heard somewhere but can't remember the name of.
In this system, it could be even better. My Spotify DJ has a real obsession with serving me "the sound of my summer 2017", before proceeding to play a few of the same 20 or so songs. I thought about this a bit, and it's likely that the true sound of my summer 2017 wasn't played on my Spotify.
Whether another person took charge of DJ duties that day, or I was listening live, or on vinyl, there's a whole wealth of my musical preferences which haven't been captured in the Spotify data. By listening out for music around you, it could improve recommendations and get a better picture of what you might be looking to hear.