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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

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The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify

Search engine optimized accounts that publish hundreds of nearly identical tracks rake in streams and profits

Photo illustration; Image source: gaiamoments/Getty Images

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

Ever played some white noise on Spotify while you fall asleep? There’s a decent chance a U.K.-based company called Ameritz created it — though you wouldn’t know that from looking at Spotify.

“Truly brainless to produce,” a former in-house sound designer for Ameritz told OneZero via email, requesting anonymity due to potential professional repercussions. …


General Intelligence

‘Spotify wants machine-made music the same way Uber wants self-driving cars’

Photo illustration source: sgcdesignco/Unsplash

OneZero’s General Intelligence is a roundup of the most important artificial intelligence and facial recognition news of the week.

Spotify, the music streaming giant with a reputation for underpaying artists, has staked its claim to a technology that it says could protect musicians from plagiarism allegations, according to a patent recently granted by the European Union.

According to the patent application filed in 2019, before publishing a song, or even when writing it, an artist would share a “lead sheet” with Spotify, a document that outlines a song’s melody, chords, and sometimes lyrics. The A.I. algorithm would translate the sheet…


The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify

The platform is filled with search-optimized spammers, and there’s no end in sight

Photo illustration sources: Kevin Liu; Kilito Chan; Thanapol Kuptanisakorn; EyeEm/Getty Images

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

You’ve probably never heard of them, but Relaxing Music Therapy has had a pretty damn successful music career. At least, on Spotify.

This “artist” has more than 500,000 monthly listeners on the platform, all thanks to One Simple Trick: optimizing their name to show up prominently in Spotify’s search results.

Spotify is full of “artists” like this: Pro Sound Effects Library, On Hold Music, Yoga, Jazz Music Therapy for Cats, and Natural White Noise Best Nature…


🎹🎶

Photo courtesy of the author

Facing weeks or months under lockdown, many of us have turned to hobbies. And while the internet seems to have decided baking bread is the name of the game, I saw being stuck at home as an opportunity to do something I’ve long put off: learning an instrument.

I bought an electric piano — the Casio PX-160 to be precise — and I found an app to help teach me to play it.

Called Flowkey, it moves sheet music across the screen, and waits at every note of the song until you press the right note on the piano. …


The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify

Users like Wali Da Great are growing infamous for tricking streaming listeners with falsified metadata

Photo illustration. Photo source: SIphotography/Getty Images

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

If you’ve just discovered rising Dallas rapper Lil Loaded, and want to hear a bunch of his hits in one convenient spot, Spotify has just the feature for you. Like many popular artists, there’s a “This Is” playlist for the MC, a grouping of his “essential tracks” that the platform’s team creates. However, listen to the playlist for a while, and a few songs sound out of place. In fact, though tracks 12, 14, and 16…


General Intelligence

And other fascinating A.I. research from this week

Photo illustration. Image: Frank Ramspott/Getty Images

Welcome to General Intelligence, OneZero’s weekly dive into the A.I. news and research that matters.

A.I.-generated music is finally good.

This week, a programmer mimicked Jay-Z’s voice and cadence so effectively that his agency, Roc Nation, got SoundCloud to take the track down. Then, yesterday, OpenAI released Jukebox, an algorithmic system able to generate music — complete with lyrics — in the style of famous musicians like Elvis and Frank Sinatra.

Essentially, these algorithms analyze large collections of an artist’s songs, find patterns in the audio data that humans would correlate with hallmarks of music style, and then use those…


The measure of what might have been and inspiration lost as a result of COVID-19 can’t be quantified

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

In March 2008, I sat in the front row for a Mark Zuckerberg interview at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and witnessed one of the weirdest interviews the Facebook CEO ever gave. It was the early days of Twitter, and what happened at the talk became a prescient example of the ugliness and echo chambering that the social media era would bring. That in itself would have been a story for the memoirs, but later that evening, completely by chance, I ran into journalist Sarah Lacy, who conducted that keynote, and shot a quick YouTube video of her that…


Apple may have discontinued the last of the click-wheel iPods years ago, but a large community of iPod modders resurrects them for their sound and nostalgia

Illustration: Simoul Alva

Manuel Mantecon, who goes by Pichi, has several boxes stacked in his bathroom filled with iPod parts. When it’s time to fix one up for a customer, he takes the boxes down, including one shaped like a sewing kit that he refers to as his “iPod toolbox,” and refurbishes used iPods out of his bathroom in North Carolina. He works out of his bathroom because it’s a lot of moving parts, and he tends to leave a bit of a mess. “I know it sounds a little crazy, but it keeps everything out of sight,” Pichi said.

Pichi, 50, is…


The SoundShirt translates sound waves into vibrations on the skin, opening up the experience of music to the Deaf

Photo: CuteCircuit

In a London nightclub, under flashing lights, the twins Hermon and Heroda Berhane dance with a crowd of revelers. They are Deaf, and while they cannot hear the music, their clothing ripples and buzzes along with the sound.

“There are so many ways technology can include Deaf people and make our lives more inclusive and make us feel a part of society,” they tell me later in a cowritten email. They’re describing the experience of using a device called the SoundShirt, which was developed by the London-based fashion and technology company, CuteCircuit. …


It’s just the latest trick in a long history of hacking digital music services to promote your own songs

Photo Illustration; Credit: © Warner Bros.; © Spotify

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

Last week, I couldn’t get the retro song from the Joker’s first teaser trailer out of my head. So I popped “Joker soundtrack” into Spotify’s search box, clicked the top result, and browsed the resulting playlist until I found the track: Jimmy Durante’s version of “Smile,” an absolute banger from 1965.

As I went back to whatever I was doing, I kept the playlist rolling. “Smile” finished, then a cut from Hildur Guðnadóttir’s original Joker soundtrack…

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