In the music streaming arms race, Spotify just added a new AI weapon

19 May 2017

Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

In an effort to stay ahead of its competition, Spotify has snapped up a French AI start-up to make its recommendations a lot smarter.

While Spotify has established itself as the dominant on-demand music streaming service out there, its competitors are now more numerous than ever before, and backed by corporate giants.

This has resulted in a services arms race between Spotify and rivals such as Apple Music, Google Play and Tidal to create the ‘killer app’ that will give it a major advantage.

One such area is artificial intelligence (AI), in order to make recommendations much more accurate, and Spotify hopes its latest acquisition will give it this power.

In a statement, the Swedish outfit said it had acquired French AI start-up Niland, a company focused solely on optimising music search using machine learning.

“Niland has changed the game for how AI technology can optimise music search and recommendation capabilities, and shares Spotify’s passion for surfacing the right content to the right user at the right time,” Spotify said.

“Their innovative approach to AI and machine learning-based recommendation systems is a perfect fit for the Spotify team.”

Not the first acquisition

Niland’s technology allows music streaming services to read acoustic similarity between songs by extracting a signature from each one to find the subtle differences between music moods.

Its AI also analyses the rhythms and beats of the song, tagging each one to help it learn more about the user’s music tastes for future recommendations.

This marks yet another start-up acquisition for Spotify. As recently as March, it announced the purchase of Sonalytic, a music discovery company. Sonalytic’s expertise is in the area of song identification, giving Spotify access to greater copyright control for songs, but also improving its personalised playlists.

Another start-up Spotify acquired was Dublin-based Soundwave, which, in 2016, entered into the company’s ranks offering technology to track what songs people are listening to on their smartphones in real time.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic