Spotify wants its users to do free labor for them

Spotify's new "Line-In" tool will ask users to make edits to tags, genre, mood and explicitness

Published March 13, 2018 5:00PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Jonathan Nackstrand)
(Getty/Jonathan Nackstrand)

Spotify wants its users to work to help improve its product — but if you're one of their roughly 160 million users, don't expect to receive any compensation.

The music streaming platform has introduced a new crowdsourcing tool that encourages its users to suggest edits and additions to music data it collects and stores.

The new tool, "Line-In," was announced on Monday, and would allow Spotify "to better understand how Spotify listeners interpret music, so that we can improve experiences for both listeners and artists," a press release stated.

"Some of the data categories listeners are invited to make suggestions for include: explicitness, genre, aliases, languages, mood, tags, artist roles, and external URLs," the press release continued.

"Line-In" is currently only available for desktop Spotify users, but will continue to be modified and will receive additional features.

Aside from encouraging users to correct faulty data, users can also confirm when Spotify's data already being used is correct, TechCrunch noted.

Yet Line-In has also drawn criticism as another example of how platforms exploit small amounts of their users' labor without compensation. Spotify has also had a slew of problems in regards to music data collection in its recent past. Notably, curation was already something done for free by users.

Quartz elaborated on the critique:

It’s a small stroke of genius. Spotify’s users, whether part of the 71 million people on the subscription tier or the other 88 million listening for free, have a vested interest in making sure the data on the platform are accurate and up-to-date, because that makes their listening experience smoother. The company, in return, gets free, crowdsourced labor and the opportunity to draw its customers deeper into its community.


Incomplete or faulty metadata has been a problem plaguing Spotify for years; US courts are currently adjudicating a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by a major music publisher for, in part, copyright infringement due to poor data organization. While users cannot edit the rights-related data of songs, they can help sort out the mess on the front end.

The announcement of the new "Line-In" tool also arrives just as Spotify is set to become a publicly traded company in just a few weeks, on April 2.

The move by Spotify represents a larger, discouraging trend among many online platforms, whereby users play the role of contributors but remain the minority beneficiaries — and as a result, their work is exploited. Spotify joins the ranks of Facebook and Twitter as sites that profit off the labor of their millions of users — a situation that recently prompted some Twitter users to attempt to convert the company to a user-owned co-operative.

By Charlie May

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