An anthropologist reveals how Spotify and other platforms decide what songs to recommend

Music streaming platforms, including Spotify, use recommender systems and algorithms to choose songs and artists for users.

Nick Seaver was working on his Ph.D. in anthropology when he began looking for the algorithm underlying music recommender systems. After more than a decade of study and interviews, he says there’s no such thing. 

Instead, there are many algorithms. “This was a big moment for me in realizing that there are a lot of different ways to approach these systems,” he says. “There are different kinds of algorithms going on in these companies and lots of different recommendation products in any given music streaming...

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