As you'll no doubt be aware, ChatGPT has seen AI technology rise to new-found prominence in recent times, with users harnessing its AI power for myriad uses, from creating schedules and exercise plans to making up endings to canceled Netflix shows and even passing exams. It's genuinely impressive, but I’m not trying to pass the bar, I just want good music to listen to.
With that in mind, I wondered whether ChatGPT is up to the task of helping curate my music playlists. Will it recommend music I enjoy? Can it show me some great new music? Does it even know its Acid House from its Techno? If not, I'm not interested.
I spent some time with ChatGPT to see how well it serves as a tool for recommending music. Here’s what happened.
ChatGPT clearly has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. From today's biggest stars like Taylor Swift, to old school British bands and golden oldies, it can provide suggestions based on asking for similar artists to all of them. Its recommendations seem pretty solid. It listed Swift’s contemporaries (if there even are any) as Lorde, HAIM, Selena Gomez, Carly Rae Jepsen and Kasey Musgraves — all artists I also like listening to. I also asked for more genre-specific music like “Guitar-based indie music from the 90s” and received a few good suggestions and a few that were new to me too (although I wasn’t alive for half of the 90s).
These aren’t just names plucked from thin air either. The AI can consider an extensive variety of factors when coming up with recommendations. How do I know? Because I asked it “What factors help you recommend music.” and it replied with the following:
When asked to stick to a specific artist, ChatGPT proved it could handle a deep dive. I requested the “best Taylor Swift album tracks” and (as a dedicated Swifty) I was impressed with the results. It provided a solid list of songs (with justification) that weren’t released as singles but proved popular with fans, such as All too well and Getaway Car.
ChatGPT can also put together playlists for you. I tried to get it to base songs off of my mood by saying “I feel sad, make me a playslist” and it listed ten songs to try and cheer me up including I Will Survive, Don’t Worry be Happy and Walking on Sunshine. I also asked it to make a playlist from a complex feeling: I opted for ‘Melancholy’ and it seemed to understand the assignment, including Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah and Bon Iver’s Skinny Love.
It sounds horrible to say but ChatGPT’s taste is a bit too boring to use for discovering new or underground music. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream, but ChatGPT tends primarily to suggest the most obvious choices. It's worse than iHeartRadio. With the whole internet to choose from, I would prefer it created a playlist featuring a hefty amount of lesser-known gems. Music streaming apps like Spotify (which now has an AI DJ) are great for this, with both curated playlists and the algorithm's recommendations. Currently, if you are into your music, ChatGPT mainly just serves as a reminder that certain popular songs exist, rather than a tool to recommend lesser-known artists.
In contrast, don’t expect to find anything in today’s charts from ChatGPT either. Its September 2021 cut-off is frustrating and excludes many of the biggest songs from today’s most popular artists. Being on the cutting edge is one of the best feelings about discovering new music, and then bragging about it of course.
Can ChatGPT be your DJ?
As you would expect from an Artificial Intelligence using the entire internet before 2022, ChatGPT draws upon a wide range of music and is able to compile similar songs. This makes it pretty good for recommending popular music that you ask for, and so it assumes you like.
However, while it provides some decent suggestions, it doesn’t seem to have much success in recommending music I’ve never heard before, at least not en-masse in the way that the best music streaming services like Spotify can. In fairness to ChatGPT, those platforms spend millions honing the secret sauce of their music recommendation algorithms, and only focusing on that, which unfortunately means that the AI chatbot can’t compete. However, with the recent news that Spotify is bringing OpenAI technology to the platform with its new DJ function, that could all be about to change.