The solution(s) for this are so simple that it’s [email protected]!#ing painful.
I blogged a few years ago about how Spotify’s tagging of explicit tracks is hit-and-miss – with some tracks that are explicit not tagged as such, and vice versa – and the situation hasn’t improved much since then. As a parent with young kids who wants to play music around the house but wants to avoid subjecting them to accidental swearing, my options are a) only playing music/playlists/albums that I know from memory are 100% swearing-free, or b) simply don’t use Spotify. I don’t think Spotify would like the latter option much, especially if a lot of people followed suit.
Spotify obviously cares about catering to families – they have a Premium option aimed at families specifically (h/t to Pritesh Patel for this discovery – who’s had similar frustrations to me). So it seems counter-intuitive to me that they consider families a target audience but won’t do all that they can to make it a family-friendly offering.
There’s definitely something already in place, as some tracks are tagged as explicit. A look at The National’s Trouble Will Find Me shows that all the explicit tracks are tagged correctly (3 out of 13), which is great. But look at The National’s more recent offering – Sleep Well Beast – and nothing’s tagged, however track 3 (“Walk It Back”) contains the word “f*ck” at least 4 times. You could argue that it’s not a popular song, but it’s had nearly 4 million plays on Spotify (as I type this), so that’s not really true.
The problem with a half-hearted approach is that you assume it’s right (especially when implemented by a company of Spotify’s size and scale) so you think if something’s marked as explicit then it is, and if it isn’t then it isn’t. If there was no explicit tagging in the first place then you know you’d have to be careful – but with incorrect tagging, you risk assuming everything is tagged correctly (and getting caught out when it isn’t).
Of course that’s just one example of one track from one album by one band… so I asked some Twitter friends for more. Here’s what I got back, plus a few more I’ve found of my own accord in the past:
- “Deep Cover” by Man Man – contains “motherf*cker”, 500k+ plays, not tagged as explicit
- “Matamoros” by The Afghan Whigs – contains “mother*cker”, 600k+ plays, not tagged as explicit
- “The Gunslinger” by Shooter Jennings – contains SIX instances of “motherf*cking”, 1m+ plays, not tagged as explicit
- “Kim” by Ryan Adams – contains “f*cking” twice, 2m+ plays, not tagged as explicit
- “Motorcycle Emptiness” by Manic Street Preachers – contains “sh*t”, 9m+ plays, not tagged as explicit (thanks Bill)
- “Money” by Pink Floyd – contains “bullsh*t”, c. 95m(!) plays, not tagged as explicit (thanks Ben)
I appreciate that it’s unfair of me to suggest that Spotify doesn’t care. On the one hand, it could be something that they’ve completely overlooked. On the other hand, it could be the one thing keeping Spotify’s developers up all night. Who knows.
So what can be done? Here’s a few suggestions that I can think of for starters…
Leverage Spotify’s partnership with Genius further…
Spotify is already partnered with Genius (and SoundHound, I’ve just found out while researching and typing this) to be able to show lyrics while listening to a song. Presumably there is an API in place that Spotify is using, which feeds Genius’ lyrics for a song into Spotify.