The word "metadata" requires the presence of another entity to which the data at hand refers, and increasingly, it now points toward the listener instead of toward whatever they're listening to.
This brings us back to the Echo Nest, which finally popped up again in early March with a new Spotify feature. "Fresh Finds" complements the personalized recommendations of "Discover Weekly" by adding five new genre-specific playlists. These are built by first selecting rising new acts by crawling the internet outside Spotify, identifying thousands of anonymous "tastemakers" among the Spotify users who are already listening to those artists, and then analyzing the other things they are listening to. It's a novel approach to music discovery that obviously wouldn't be possible without Spotify's proprietary data about listener behavior, but there's also an angle from which this starts to look like a dystopian science-fiction worst-case scenario for art: brains in vats unaware they're being networked to create logic systems which dictate what everyone else should like.Technology is always inherently confusing. This is, in fact, one of the very things that makes us consider it technology, rather than mundane machinery. As such, our ability to comprehend the bleeding edge requires familiar reference points. The years conventionally considered to include the collapse of the record industry have also been accompanied by a huge increase in the breadth of easily-accessible music: indie rock bands, home recordings, a generation of critical favorites who can't afford health insurance. Audio metadata alone won't save the music industry, but it could make this newfound chaos comprehensible again if the music industry would stop studying its customers long enough to empower them.Music with metadata is a fundamentally different product from music without metadata, roughly comparable to the difference between cans of food with and without paper labels. This is about more than audio, though. Increasingly, we are keeping bits of ourselves in artifacts stored on servers—thoughts, messages, plans, art, memories—and our access to our digital metadata will then guide the ways in which we interact with the original entities, whether they're songs, photos, letters, or whatever else gets digitized next. If you lose track of something you love because you can't query your way back to it, did you ever really love it in the first place?That's a tough question currently, but perhaps the data models will one day become sophisticated enough to tell you. If you're really lucky, maybe you'll even be a part of the algorithm yourself.
If you lose track of something you love because you can't query your way back to it, did you ever really love it in the first place?