Spotify, like Netflix, wants you to stream. That’s the point of a streaming service. To achieve that both platforms do two things: they make sure that the system nudges us into endless streaming (e.g. by auto-playing episodes) and they produce content which streams well.
The Baffler argues that there is now a new type of music, part of a new kind of genre (they call it streambait pop), which basically satisfies the demands of this kind of consumption and produces songs which flow, songs that work well in the background, lyrics which you can always be listening to without really noticing them.
The Spotify sound has a few different variations, but essentially it’s a formula. “It has this soft, emo-y, cutesy thing to it,” Matt says. “These days it’s often really minimal and based around just a few simple elements in verses. Often a snap in the verses. And then the choruses sometimes employ vocal samples. It’s usually kind of emo in lyrical nature.” Then there’s also a more electronic, DJ-oriented variation, which is “based around a drop . . . It’s usually a chilled-out verse with a kind of coo-y vocal. And then it builds up and there’s a drop built around a melody that’s played with a vocal sample.”
The formula wants the content to be atomic, to work well on its own. Its context is the playlist:
“It’s disposable AF. It’s too disposable. New Music Friday has seventy-plus songs every week. Who is actually supposed to hang on to any of those songs? There’s too much!” This is a symptom of the attention-driven platform economy as well: the churning stomach of the content machine constantly demands new stuff. In such an economy, music that doesn’t take off is dropped once it has outlived its usefulness—either as a brand prop or as playlist-filler.