Spotify Is Testing Artist Blocking

From PC Magazine:

Spotify aims to be the only music service you need for $10 a month by offering millions of songs with no adverts and unlimited skips. But one thing you can’t do right now is stop artists you never want to hear from popping up in a playlist or radio stream. That’s finally set to change, though, and your headphones will be free of their noise.

As Thurrott reports, the ability to block an artist is one of the most highly requested features on Spotify. There’s multiple reasons for wanting to do so, from simply not liking that artist’s music, to discovering they are not the type of personyou want to support in any way.

. . . .

The blocking feature will be introduced in an app update, with the result being an almost total block of any artist you wish. Their music will no longer appear in your personal library, but also in playlists, automatically curated playlists, charts, and any radio channels.

. . . .

For now, the blocking feature is limited to a select few on the Spotify beta program, with Thurrott confirming its presence on the iOS beta. To enable the block, simply navigate to an artist’s page, access the “…” menu, and select “Don’t play this artist.”

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

At the moment, PG is unaware of how an individual reader might be able to create such a blocking system for particular authors on Amazon.

When he thought about whether/how a blocking system might work on Amazon, censorship immediately came to mind. Apparently, Spotify doesn’t think blocking an artist’s performances just because of the identity of the artist is a bad idea. The OP doesn’t describe a system of censorship that Spotify is imposing on everybody (although it undoubtedly refuses to accept at least some racist, grossly misogynist, etc., performances as part of its content policy).

Of course, individual listeners/readers make choices to exclude a singer/song/book/author/category of books, etc., all the time as a matter of personal preference. Concerns about censorship only arise when a government or other monopolist or dominant entity makes a decision that access to the writings or speech of some persons or concerning a category of ideas will be banned from any sort of public exposure or availability.

So, would there be any sort of problem if Amazon permitted an individual reader to affirmatively preclude any mention of an author or an author’s works from that reader’s Amazon experience?

What if Amazon permitted an individual reader to upload a list of authors to be removed from the reader’s view? What if an organization or interest group provided a list of authors they found offensive that members of the organization could simply copy and upload to Amazon for blocking purposes?

If The Anti-Defamation League created and distributed a list of banned authors that adherents could use to block exposure to antisemitic authors on Amazon, would that be a problem? The ACLU? NAACP? The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee? The Republican or Democratic Party? Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump?

Or is PG making a mountain out of a molehill?

17 thoughts on “Spotify Is Testing Artist Blocking”

  1. What would it be blocked from? Search engine results? Paid ads?

    I can’t imagine why anyone would go to the trouble. I may dislike, to pull a name at random, Marion Zimmer Bradley, but if I’m looking for fantasy novels, her name would rarely come up now.

    • There are people who get triggered at the mere mention of Orson Scott Card’s name nowadays. Being forced to see his name in written form may be more than they can handle.

  2. I think to argue censorship you would first have to point out how Amazon Spotify et cetera are monopolies.
    Personally, I just see it as the natural Next step in the trend of customisability, you can already filter out erotic content so why not authors you dislike as well.

  3. If this is censorship, so is muting people on Twitter – or throwing away some of your old CDs. I can’t imagine ever needing the feature, but I guess if Spotify kept putting an artist I didn’t like into my playlists, I would get pretty annoyed. If it’s a user-side control, rather than provider-side, it’s not censorship.

    I just wish Google would let me block certain sources in searches.

    • I can’t imagine ever needing the feature,

      Consider all the people who would jump at the opportunity to block, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

    • You can block a source on a particular search – if, for instance, you wanted to exclude Wikipedia from your search results, you’d put in the box with your search term(s). If you wanted to exclude the same 7 sources every time, you could make a txt file of all of them on one continuous line and cut and paste it into your search box, but of course you’d have to do it for every search. It’d be great if Google allowed you to make a permanent exclude list.

      • I know, I have a list like that on my main PC including the most annoying offenders (-pinterest 🙂 but as you say, it has to go in every search, and on every machine, which is a pain. There used to be a plugin for that but I think it’s blocked now – and of course it never worked on mobile.

        • A pity about that plugin; I missed it altogether. I’m always adding -Pinterest to image searches. And I usually scroll past Wikipedia, although lately most of what I search for wouldn’t be there.

    • You can already share block lists on twitter. It’s mostly used by people talking about politics who don’t want anyone arguing with them.

  4. As James said, this isn’t ‘censorship’ by Amazon or Spotify if the controls are in ‘your’ hand. I can’t stand rap, so it harms no one if I could block rap talkers – I wouldn’t listen to them anyway.

    Heck, if this idea is censorship, then so is ‘not’ looking at Fords when thinking about buying a car.

    The same goes for writers and books, if I’ve read/sampled someone and don’t care for their writing style blocking seeing any more of their offerings harms no one – and can reduce my stress of accidentally picking up yet another book by someone I already know I don’t wish to read.

  5. So, would there be any sort of problem if Amazon permitted an individual reader to affirmatively preclude any mention of an author or an author’s works from that reader’s Amazon experience?

    No. The individual is controlling his own search results, incrementally refining the search to meet his preferences.

    I have no obligation to view the offerings of any vendor.

  6. For me, the difference that jumps out between blocking specific performers from playing on your Spotify account vs. blocking certain authors from your Amazon search results is the difference between NOT blocking them.

    If I have Spotify playing in the background, and something I vehemently dislike comes up – or, for instance, if I’m babysitting and suddenly realize the song is heavy on profanities that I don’t want the kids to learn from me – the song goes on playing for however long it takes me to get to the button to skip it.

    On the other hand, if I’m browsing Amazon and an author I dislike pops up in the search results, I don’t have to experience any of their writing in the process of scrolling on by.

    I use Pandora rather than Spotify, and I didn’t read the OP so it’s possible I’m misunderstanding their offering, but it seems sensible rather than offensive to me.

  7. I don’t think Spotify is the same as Kindle recommendations. I’m not a Spotify customer, I still buy music (downloads, anyway). But this brings to mind the R.Kelly blowback and endeavoring to prevent getting negative press from any association.
    OTOH, If I’m Paying for specific content that I’m choosing, then it’s a form of filtering.
    In terms of overall availability, that would be censoring.

  8. Tom Scott has a YouTube video about the idea of blocking people in real life in an age of implants.

    That’s sci-fi but we are easily moving towards a future of echo chambers in a lot of ways. And while interested people can still easily break out of it, it’s hard not to research every ‘fact’ being thrown at you these days.

  9. But one thing you can’t do right now is stop artists you never want to hear from popping up in a playlist

    It’s been a while since I’ve used Spotify so I didn’t know they were forcing music into playlists. For me that defeats the purpose of listening to them, as I can’t stand the terrestrial-radio style where you have to hear anything the station chooses to play unless you “turn the dial.” I just prefer to build my own playlists.

  10. I’m leery of this – it seems to something that is likely to be misused by groups like SPLC, which has defamed groups as “hate” groups, when, in fact, they simply disagreed with them politically.
    I could also see schools/businesses/organizations/libraries stealthily putting a filtered list on their computers, while users had no clue. It seems designed for Leftists with an attitude.
    No. Not needed.

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