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'Music makes the people come together' : Spotify as an intimate social media platform

Ben De Smet (UGent) and Frederik Dhaenens (UGent)
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Abstract
Music-streaming platform Spotify occupies a unique position within the realm of digital media. While at first glance merely a platform for music consumption, Spotify also affords (algorithm-driven) playlist and public-profile features for users to engage in curation, social interaction, and self-presentation, similar to ‘traditional’ social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The friending and following affordances and the indirect algorithmic mechanisms that constitute Spotify’s social network correspond to four key elements of social media (programmability, popularity, connectivity, and datafication). This chapter takes a social media lens to examine Spotify’s relations to intimacies and identities. It thereby adopts the popular music studies use of the term ‘intimacy’ as designating all affective, deeply personal, private practices, and posits intimacy as a dynamic, open phenomenon. While both popular music and social media have been hailed as potential utopias of tolerance and democracy, the relations between Spotify, which operates at the intersection of both, and identities have been more complex and less unilaterally positive. First, as user practices and Spotify algorithms are mutually constitutive, Spotify interferes in hidden but meaningful ways with the music discoveries and practices of users. Second, Spotify mediates intimacies when users curate and engage with music to make sense of the self or to navigate moods, emotions, and everyday life. Thirdly and lastly, amidst Spotify’s rather blurry and opaque affordances for social interaction, users negotiate what ought to be shared and what ought to be kept private. Context collapses might lead to unintended disclosure of intimate (aspects of) one’s music taste, personal situation, or social-political identities. When we aim to understand the relations between social media and people’s everyday lives, emotional worlds, intimacies, and identities, the role of Spotify is not to be ignored.
Keywords
Popular Music, Music Streaming, Identities

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MLA
De Smet, Ben, and Frederik Dhaenens. “’Music Makes the People Come Together’ : Spotify as an Intimate Social Media Platform.” Identities and Intimacies on Social Media : Transnational Perspectives, edited by Tonny Krijnen et al., Routledge, 2022, pp. 66–81, doi:10.4324/9781003250982-6.
APA
De Smet, B., & Dhaenens, F. (2022). ’Music makes the people come together’ : Spotify as an intimate social media platform. In T. Krijnen, P. G. Nixon, M. D. Ravenscroft, & C. M. Scarcelli (Eds.), Identities and intimacies on social media : transnational perspectives (pp. 66–81). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003250982-6
Chicago author-date
De Smet, Ben, and Frederik Dhaenens. 2022. “’Music Makes the People Come Together’ : Spotify as an Intimate Social Media Platform.” In Identities and Intimacies on Social Media : Transnational Perspectives, edited by Tonny Krijnen, Paul G. Nixon, Michelle D. Ravenscroft, and Cosimo Marco Scarcelli, 66–81. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003250982-6.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
De Smet, Ben, and Frederik Dhaenens. 2022. “’Music Makes the People Come Together’ : Spotify as an Intimate Social Media Platform.” In Identities and Intimacies on Social Media : Transnational Perspectives, ed by. Tonny Krijnen, Paul G. Nixon, Michelle D. Ravenscroft, and Cosimo Marco Scarcelli, 66–81. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781003250982-6.
Vancouver
1.
De Smet B, Dhaenens F. ’Music makes the people come together’ : Spotify as an intimate social media platform. In: Krijnen T, Nixon PG, Ravenscroft MD, Scarcelli CM, editors. Identities and intimacies on social media : transnational perspectives. London: Routledge; 2022. p. 66–81.
IEEE
[1]
B. De Smet and F. Dhaenens, “’Music makes the people come together’ : Spotify as an intimate social media platform,” in Identities and intimacies on social media : transnational perspectives, T. Krijnen, P. G. Nixon, M. D. Ravenscroft, and C. M. Scarcelli, Eds. London: Routledge, 2022, pp. 66–81.
@incollection{01GJCVKQ2NW2D24JS0JJM4F7G1,
  abstract     = {{Music-streaming platform Spotify occupies a unique position within the realm of digital media. While at first glance merely a platform for music consumption, Spotify also affords (algorithm-driven) playlist and public-profile features for users to engage in curation, social interaction, and self-presentation, similar to ‘traditional’ social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The friending and following affordances and the indirect algorithmic mechanisms that constitute Spotify’s social network correspond to four key elements of social media (programmability, popularity, connectivity, and datafication). This chapter takes a social media lens to examine Spotify’s relations to intimacies and identities. It thereby adopts the popular music studies use of the term ‘intimacy’ as designating all affective, deeply personal, private practices, and posits intimacy as a dynamic, open phenomenon. While both popular music and social media have been hailed as potential utopias of tolerance and democracy, the relations between Spotify, which operates at the intersection of both, and identities have been more complex and less unilaterally positive. First, as user practices and Spotify algorithms are mutually constitutive, Spotify interferes in hidden but meaningful ways with the music discoveries and practices of users. Second, Spotify mediates intimacies when users curate and engage with music to make sense of the self or to navigate moods, emotions, and everyday life. Thirdly and lastly, amidst Spotify’s rather blurry and opaque affordances for social interaction, users negotiate what ought to be shared and what ought to be kept private. Context collapses might lead to unintended disclosure of intimate (aspects of) one’s music taste, personal situation, or social-political identities. When we aim to understand the relations between social media and people’s everyday lives, emotional worlds, intimacies, and identities, the role of Spotify is not to be ignored.}},
  author       = {{De Smet, Ben and Dhaenens, Frederik}},
  booktitle    = {{Identities and intimacies on social media : transnational perspectives}},
  editor       = {{Krijnen, Tonny and Nixon, Paul G. and Ravenscroft, Michelle D. and Scarcelli, Cosimo Marco}},
  isbn         = {{9781032169125}},
  keywords     = {{Popular Music,Music Streaming,Identities}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{66--81}},
  publisher    = {{Routledge}},
  title        = {{'Music makes the people come together' : Spotify as an intimate social media platform}},
  url          = {{http://doi.org/10.4324/9781003250982-6}},
  year         = {{2022}},
}

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