My Mortal Soul vs. The Spotify Recommendation Algorithm by Tom Stern

My Mortal Soul vs. The Spotify Recommendation Algorithm by Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

I am writing to request that you look more thoughtfully at your “Discover” algorithm. I am a lifelong music fan, so I’m sure you can appreciate the importance of my online persona reflecting my true musical tastes. I appreciate your expeditious attention to this concern.

Sincerely,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

Just circling back as I have yet to hear from you. I persist in not recognizing whomever you take me to be and I fear others will, too. I don’t have the benefit of patience here, the modern world no longer moving at such a cute pace.

Thank you for your immediate reply.

Restlessly,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

Perhaps some context will help…

My Netflix account I readily browse in front of company. Aside from a clear bias toward promoting native content (which is clearly on them, not me), I have no beef with how they do things.

Were I to introduce myself to a stranger via my Amazon Prime Recommendations, I’d seem a bit boring, sure, but not other than myself.

Youtube’s algorithm is obviously the industry gold standard, balancing the nuance of my tastes against a truly delightful unexpectedness to its content suggestions. The homepage is abundantly better than the narrower approach to the “Up Next” recommendations, but I would still allow my own mother to describe me to the CEO of the company at which I work with a click-through of either—and she still calls me Tommy.

Pitching In For A Solution,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

Steely fucking Dan? The Design Team was in my office and “Discover Weekly” serves up Reelin’ in the Years?!?!? I only wish you could have seen the betrayed furrows on their brows. They thought they knew me. And they did! But now God knows what they think…

I swear to God if Pandora wasn’t so convoluted, I would cuckold you six ways to Sunday!

Humiliated and Seething,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

Fine. Different approach. Let’s do this blow-by-blow. This morning one of your “Top Recommendations” was an album called Cold Hot Plumbs with a skull barfing lava on its cover. I’m sure those kids blew the roof off their Aunt Jean’s garage, but derivative is not a genre I follow. You, of all internet algorithms, should know this about me.

Hurt and Ignored,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

I gave you the benefit of the doubt! I listened to skull puke and you recommend something called Pipe-Eye? It’s good to know that someone is getting use out of the Casio keyboards sold in Walgreens in the ‘80s, but who is going to unfuck my ears, Spotify? And, more importantly, I strongly suspect my wife does not believe that I was only listening to that sonic crapheap to differentiate myself from who you take me to be. Do you know what it’s like when your wife looks at you with doubt in her eyes?

We’ve Reached Negligence!

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

Well, my lawyer insists I can’t prove culpability on your part, but my wife is leaving me. She has taken our child and, far worse, has left me with the fucking dogs. I can’t prove it just yet, but I’ve hired a hacker to document that the man she’s moving in with has never streamed a single note of Pipe-eye!

I recommend you listen to me: I will sue you for slander unless you immediately fix my profile so I can prove to my wife that I am, indeed, still precisely the person she fell in love with all those years ago.

DEFCON 1,

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

I’m man enough to admit that I forgot my wife and daughter were going away for the weekend. But the mental and emotional instability created by your fragmenting of my identity is still to blame and is very real. So is the $5,000 I paid to that hacker.

When I demanded my lawyer draft a strongly worded letter requesting compensation and damages from you he looked at me with the type of confusion that could only mean one thing. So I checked and sure enough, through some surreptitious clause in your updated Terms and Conditions no doubt, you’ve been posting my listening activity on my Facebook page, informing the world that this morning I played some song called Two Extra Pumps of Bliss while conveniently neglecting to acknowledge I only did so at your recommendation!

Well, touché, Spotify!

I have deleted all of my social media accounts and online profiles—everything! Except you. Your misrepresentation is now in crystal clear focus. Watch as the damages roll in, you garbage billion-dollar company feasting on the souls of innocent, good-hearted, everyday people who simply want to be defined to others by the bands we like…

Gauntlent Thrown!

Tom Stern

 

Dear Spotify,

My wife kind of freaked out when she discovered I closed all of our online accounts. I’m not quite sure why I included our bank accounts, but honestly it made perfect sense at the time. (Ancillary benefit, she’ll never find out about the money I paid to the hacker and the lawyer.)

My wife has suggested, nay required, I decide for myself who I am and stop worrying what others make of my musical tastes. While you and I both know how adorably naïve that is, I also don’t see another option at the moment. My whole identity is wrapped up in the life we’ve built together. So, for the time being, I will focus on what she has termed “reality.”

But the second she validates that I am my own man again, I’m coming straight for your jugular.

Not Finished By A Longshot,

Tom Stern

P.S. I have no clue what this Two Extra Pumps of Bliss song is supposed to be about, but my daughter and I actually have quite a bit of fun dancing to it, so… Thank you for that, I guess. But I would sincerely appreciate it if we keep this between us.

About the author:
Tom Stern is the author of the novels My Vanishing Twin (Rare Bird Books, 2017) and Sutterfeld, You Are Not A Hero (Rare Bird Books, 2015) and his words have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Monkeybicycle, Memoir Mixtapes, and Hypertext Magazine. He is also the writer/director of the feature films Half-Dragon Sanchez and This Is A Business as well as other films which have been official selections of festivals across the United States and in Europe. Tom lives and writes in Los Angeles.