You might think yourself a unique soul, but thrown into a data pool of the tens of millions of users of an online service, your behaviour is going to sync up with somebody else’s at least some of the time. (Sorry, Quixote!) On Spotify, this means you’re going to be listening to songs in sync with someone else.
As Spotify’s first ever media artist-in-residence, Kyle McDonald got privileged access to Spotify’s real-time stream of user data, and his final work from the residency explores the divine moments of luck that are linking unknowing Spotify users every instant of every day.
Called “Serendipity“, McDonald’s map visualisation shows the location of two users who start listening to a song within a one-tenth of a second of each other. The visualisation isn’t in real time because in fact, these pairings happen at least 10 times a second. McDonald told me that sometimes 10 to 20 people at a time are listening to the most popular songs on Spotify. The visualisation plays the song for a few seconds before rotating the map to show another pair and playing that song. The whole thing feels weirdly dehumanising, while at the same time highlighting the musical connections that link people across borders and boundaries.
If you haven’t heard of Spotify’s artist in residence project, that’s because Spotify is just announcing it. It’s not a formal program that will happen every semester or anything, but if you’re interested, go ahead get in touch. [Spotify]