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02nd May 2018

Is Spotify the key to determining the country’s spending habits?

Will Lavin

Does what you listen to determine what you’re going to spend your money on?

Apparently the Bank of England thinks so and is now monitoring Spotify playlists and its data.

Coming to light in a speech about new possibilities in data analytics, chief economist Andy Haldane said data on streams from Spotify had been used to gain an insight into people’s mood. He said looking at the musical mood of the nation might help gauge how an interest rate rise could impact on the economy.

Explaining that it’s “devilishly difficult” to work out the mood of consumers through traditional means, it was at this point Haldane flagged Spotify and its data.

“These realities may call for exploring non-traditional means of revealing people’s preferences and sentiments.

“To give one recent example, data on music downloads from Spotify has been used, in tandem with semantic search techniques applied to the words of songs, to provide an indicator of people’s sentiment.”

According to Haldane, “the resulting index of sentiment does at least as well in tracking consumer spending as the Michigan survey of consumer confidence.”

To be perfectly honest I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to look at streaming data. We’ve been capturing data everywhere else so why not from Spotify and other streaming services? Spotify was launched in 2008 – it turns 10 in October this year – and it’s taken them this long to think to look at their data?

We’re in a world where nothing is sacred. It started with CCTV and now look where we are. Information is the world’s most valuable currency, and music and art are the big bills on the top of the stack.

Aside from being a universal language, music is a feeling, it gauges a person’s mood. It’s like an I.D. card that informs others on who you are – think about that.

We make friends based on musical tastes. Sportsmen and women use it to hype themselves up before big games. We use it to soundtrack our run and get us through that last mile. It can sooth a crying child. It can be used as an aphrodisiac.

So it’s no surprise to me that the Bank of England have been monitoring spending habits using data from streaming sites, or that they plan to moving forward. I am intrigued however at how the algorithms work and what music they constitute as inspiring certain, or increased, spending habits.

So how obvious does the music need to be to determine a correlation between a person’s mood and their spending habits, whether good or bad?

ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money”?

B.G.’s “Bling Bling”?

Aloe Blacc’s “I Need A Dollar”?

Dr. Hook’s “Millionaire”?

What music would actually make you spend more and essentially influence the nation’s GDP?

In the mid-late nineties the ‘bling bling’ era of Hip Hop took over not only the airwaves but pop culture as a whole. It was at the forefront of Hip Hop, with the likes of The Hot Boys, Lil Wayne, No Limit Records promoting expensive taste both musically and visually.

There’s no doubt this inspired a generation of consumers to go out and buy the latest cars, the flashiest clothes, and the most expensive jewellery. But is it as prevalent now as it was back then? Not in my experience.

What about music with a romantic subject matter? I’m sure there are plenty of people who have found themselves online buying a gift or two for the one they love after listening to a Barry White, Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder Greatest Hits album – I know I’ve fallen victim to this a few times. But is it something that happens enough to really make a dent in the economy?

And what about those people who have a Spotify membership but don’t hold a premium account? I might be generalising a little bit here but if they’re not willing to part with £10 a month for unlimited music around the clock are you really going to be able to affect their spending habits?

Finally, if this is something the Bank of England are planning on doing regularly moving forward are Spotify going to be financially compensated for the data captured? If so where do the artists stand in all of this?

Surely if Spotify start being paid for the data then the artist(s) should be compensated? Sure, it’ll more than likely be a minuscule percentage, but a tiny cut is better than no cut, right? Artists need all the revenue streams they can get.

Watch this space.